Manchester Marathon 2017 training blog week 13/20
The Liversedge Half is one of my favourite races, and it is always part of my spring training calendar building through to the marathon. It’s relatively local to Leeds, it’s an unrepentant tough, hard, hilly course, and it’s run by a friendly local running club which always puts on a great spread of sandwiches, pasties and cakes after the race. Plus I’ve always done well at the race – in both 2015 and 2016 I’ve finished fifth with increasingly faster times.
Both years I’ve run the event the weather hasn’t been too bad. Obviously for a race that hovers around Valentines Day it’s a cold one, but the forecast during the week was for light rain at best, heavy snow at worst. I’m notoriously brave when it comes to race day kit, so I decided to add gloves to the shorts and club vest.
After taking two buses from Headingley, picking up my number and timing chips (yes, that’s right – one for each shoe!), I got changed into my race kit and tried to leave it as late as possible before heading out to the start line. Jogging over to the start line in short shorts, a vest and gloves, I could hear people around me whispering things like “Is he mad?” and “Who is that guy?”. During my warm up jog I started thinking that they were probably right as it was absolutely freezing, and then when I was waiting at the start line it started to snow.
I was standing on the line with a bit of foolish expectation. My scan of the start list had found that the only runner who had finished ahead of me in last year’s race was the winner, who I’d overheard ‘was not feeling great’. Also as I’d entered super early I had race number 2 on, so I felt I had a bit to live up to. The first mile of the Liversedge Half is downhill and is always fast. After the first couple of hundred metres of the race I felt that it would be a good idea to try and lead out the race as it felt like no-one was pushing the pace. As soon as I did this everyone responded, and to stick with that group I ran a 4:58 first mile – faster than my track mile PB. It seemed as if the field was really strong – I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was trying to lead out Jason Cherriman who has a 2:21 marathon PB and another runner with a 2:30 marathon PB.
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Legs still absolutely shattered – somehow felt like it was a good idea trying to lead out a race including Jason Cherriman (2:21 marathon PB) and another guy with a 2:30 PB. Leads to a sub 5 minute (downhill) first mile and a good time but a tough run! Still running tonight but taking it easy.
As you can imagine, for someone hunting down a sub 2:45 marathon time, this wasn’t going to end well. After a short while a little group of five runners broke off, and then another came past me – it looked like the series of fifth place finishes wasn’t going to last.
During the second mile of the race I had a massive wobble. It was snowing or sleeting pretty persistently, I was really cold and despite running hard I was shivering, the other runners were disappearing up the road ahead of me, and I was feeling pretty glum. I stuck at it, but through the first third of the race my mind wasn’t really in it. I had a few absent minded thoughts wishing to slip – just a little fall, but enough to warrant calling it a day and limping out of the race.
The Liversedge Half is an impossible race to pace. There is at best only a mile and a half stretch after mile five that could be classed as completely flat, and the rest is either up or down at differing gradients. So unless you had a photographic memory of your pace per mile for each mile of the race from your previous performances, it really is just a case of gunning it as hard as you can. With nobody running close by me this year it was even harder than usual, but with the first mile under five minutes in the bag and the rest in under six each before reaching the drop down into Bailiff Bridge, I was going okay.
When I say drop into Bailiff Bridge, I really mean drop. You lose 250 feet in just half a mile, and although I’ve probably said this before it really is a case of turning the mind off and just letting yourself catapult down the hill, not letting yourself be afraid of planting face first. Through and out of Bailiff Bridge comes the only flat section that I mentioned, before the first of the proper killer hills.
The route turns off the main road and crosses a ford over a small footbridge, and then starts climbing up a narrow single track road. The gradient is steep, unremitting, and the path is twisty. Despite having gotten over my early race wobbles and realising that I was running well, this part of the race was pretty grim. The track turns right towards the top on to a different road with some houses running alongside, but still climbing but at a slower pace.
Looking back and remembering the race I can’t recall exactly when it was and when it wasn’t snowing, apart from that the average was a grim cold shower and when the route and the wind were in the wrong direction a harsh spray in your face. The course leads through a climbing switchback through Clifton before approaching the ‘mad mile’, a dead straight uphill alongside a main road at a steady gradient. Before I’ve enjoyed this part of the race trying to push hard to gain time on other runners, instead this year the snow was blowing hard in my face, the next place runner was way ahead of me, and all I could think about was finishing this damned race and stuffing my face with pasties and scones with loads of cream and jam.
The final three miles of the race were net downhill, with a climb over the final half mile back into the start and finish of Roberttown. There was no-one in sight ahead or behind of me, I was just pushing on knowing I was on track for a good time and ticking off the miles. With half a mile to go the course suddenly turned straight into the wind and the snow, climbing all the way to the finish.
The final stretch after passing the thirteen mile marker turns back on to the start and finish straight, with the race clock in sight again. I was going to finish in a 1:17 time, which having run 1:19 in 2015 and 1:18 in 2016 was a good trajectory – later I found my time was an official 1:17:51.
Apart from a brief chat with the finishers ahead of me, I almost kept running at the same pace through to the race HQ to get changed into my dry clothes, and get a hot drink and some food. Although I had to run off to catch a bus and get home before seeing the other Hyde Park Harriers finish, we had a pretty big group of runners finishing in some tough conditions.
- Chris Jones – 1:42:06
- Sarah Farnell – 2:09:17
- Claire Hougham – 2:22:10
- Hilary Lund – 2:31:53
- Michelle Hancocks – 2:31:53
- Roberta Jordan – 2:31:54
- Liz Jones – 2:42:42
A final shout out has to go to Liz, who finished in some truly horrific snow showers!
Personally I’m happy with the result and where my form is at this stage – I know that someone who ran a similar time at Liversedge in 2016 went on to run under 2:40 at the London Marathon that spring, but it isn’t time to get ahead of myself!