14 days, 18 hours, 5 mins, 21 seconds until the London Marathon.
I boldly said in my Alloa Half race report that it was my last race before London. This was before I remembered about the North-Herts-Road-Runners-First-Saturday-Of-The-Month Norton Common 5K. The order of the day? Beat the 20 minute mark, taking the previous 5K PB, the last Norton Common race, down by at least 33 seconds. Unfortunately, no Tash for a rematch. Something about a cold or something. Pah.
The weather was cold, overcast. I still went for shorts and running vest, which drew a comment of “that’s brave” as I began my warm up. I decided not to use my new bight red shoes on the trails, and kept the old Nike ‘Bs’ that I didn’t mind scuffing up a bit. I had my Garmin all set up for kilometres auto-lapping each K, so all I had to do was keep the pace and each K under 4:00 and we were laughing.
I immediately got off running side-by-side with Steve Williamson, who ran a 1:26 half marathon in Poznan the week after I ran Alloa in 1:27, and we were side-by-side on the fartlek training Thursday evening. The race was really cold. My stomach felt a little odd on the outside, quite tight and cold, but this was to be expected, and at least it wasn’t an internal cramp or stitch. We were running fast K splits, popping the first one in at 3:43.
The race was tough, as the pace for the middle 3K hovered around 3:55 for the entire race. It was tough, but uneventful. Steve and myself kept level for near the entire race. I preferred to push myself hard up the one climb on the lap and then Steve would catch it up on the straight, so we were basically even the entire way round. As a pair we weren’t far behind the first and second runners, they were maybe split by five seconds, and we were ten behind them. I thought we were gaining on the second runner who looked to be gaining a stitch on the climb on the second lap, but it wasn’t to be.
The race really kicked into life after that second hill with maybe 300-400m to go. We went onto the penultimate straight and I tried to kick from home then. That one just didn’t seem to work, it petered away quickly and Steve went past me, presumably for the race, and his lead grew as we turned the tree onto the home straight. I tried to stay tight to Steve, thinking he’d be dragging me to knock a few seconds of the potential time awaiting me at the finish. At least in this race I was just going to see the first and second place runners cross the line.
And then with roughly 100m to go, Steve with maybe 75m or less, I just kicked hard. I just sprinted flat out (Garmin hitting a top speed of 4:00 mile pace at this point) and gained on Steve. Running up to the line it was going to be close- and I just pipped him, literally by leaning my body over the line as I got there, and then collapsing. I got the 3rd place by a nose, 19:08, beating Steve by a second. A PB there by 1:15, and one of the best head-to-head races I’ve run. After that Tash said “you just love racing, don’t you?”. Why yes I do!
The Norton Common 5K series has book-ended this year of preparation for the London Marathon. Its almost coming up for its first birthday, and I’ve participated in June, July, August, September, February and now April. The times progression shows how far I’ve come since kicking off the training, more in earnest over the past three months- 23:19, 22:37, 21:11, 21:42, (21:01 at Giffordtown), 20:23, and 19:08.
Coming up next will be a two part London Marathon preview – a how I’m going to do it, and a why I’m going to do it.
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Cheers for reading,