2016 was a year in which (both of!) my long races were compromised, either through injury or illness. I was accompanied through the Stroud Trail marathon by a cold and took on the Seaview 20-mile coastal path race (finishing in Minehead) having ‘rested’ for the three weeks prior with niggle.
I plan to revisit the Stroud Trail, and actually enjoy it, so entering the 20-mile version of the Berkeley Fission race made perfect sense: a March 20-miler incorporated into a (admittedly, loose) training plan for a May marathon.
I might be accused of bleating on about this now, but I succumbed to a virus at the beginning of February. Having completed a 10-mile race in late January, which went rather well, I struggled through February with a 12-mile off-roader (awful), cross-country race (marginally better) and a 10k (not so bad actually).In short, preparation was far from ideal. However, I was in good spirits, having decided that this was simply one to get around in one piece and at least have some mileage in my legs come May.
Being that this is part of the club’s race series, there was a good turn-out of colleagues donned in purple. Many had chosen to voice a similar excuse as mine: not fully prepared, just get to the finish alive, etc. Some had the sense to volunteer to dish out water instead of run – having a water station manned by colleagues would prove to be a boon during the course of the race.
Race briefing completed, we all made our way to the start. By this time I had decided that the race would be much more easily covered as a series of 5-mile reps, as long as I had the discipline to take breathers each time. I stayed at the back of the field, opting for a deliberately slow start (perhaps it wold be even easier if I did a 2-mile warm-up, followed by reps over the remaining 18…).
After the first mile, I established a steady rhythm (yes, I have some… just no so great with Blues) and sought out a track to play I my head…
Does anybody else do this? I’ve never been great with headphones whilst running and, besides, most road races ban the use of them anyway. I tend to find myself, when running, playing a song in my head on constant repeat. I’d argue that it’s easier than using headphones, as I can adjust the tempo to my stride instead of the other way around. Sometimes the song picks itself; I’m not always conscious of how a particular track came to be playing in my head. I don’t always recall which songs I’ve ‘played’ afterwards either. By the way – I am of sound mind.
The second water station was at about 5½ miles so I used this to take a two-minute walk, as part of my ‘reps’ plan to get through the race. Two things out paid to this plan. Firstly, the distance that runners had put on me during that brief time was frustratingly large. Secondly, my legs started to protest once I started running again, and took another three miles or so to settle down. That’s it – continue running to the end.
Once again, I was happily into a rhythm going into the second of two loops. I was OK to just clock the miles off, share some chit chat with other runners and attempt to ignore both a rather tedious long stretch of road I recalled from the previous circuit and the fact that it was actually quite warm.
At 15 miles I decided to up the pace a little. At 15½ miles I abandoned that idea and decided that the race would be completed using one wing, one prayer and a mental shove from our water station team. I did succeed in raising a grin (and an arm, at least partially) for our snap-happy man Rob, and in mumbling some form of thanks to Debs, Lepha, Rachel, Martin and Dom (along with Graham) at what was the final water station.
With just two miles to go, I managed to catch a fellow Almost but only get as far as encouraging her to push on for the final stretch before I ran out of legs. The last mile-and-a-half were completed at a shuffle, garnished with expletives.
I survived it. I put up a reasonable time. In hindsight, I did enjoy it. I’d best place my entry for Stroud.