This was the third consecutive year we’d ran this as it now forms part of Jo’s tried & tested London Marathon build up. Having won it two years ago & coming 2nd last year I was keen on putting in a decent showing again this year. In reality the competition looked far tougher with Aaron Scott (last year’s winner in a new course record) & Neil Renault both racing. However this was the first year I’d been properly fit for the race & could therefore aim for a big course best at least.
Although it was a foggy start the forecast was for it to be fairly mild & for there to be little breeze – quite a result after recent races! After my first rest day of the year on Friday my Saturday morning run had felt quite lethargic & heavy legged, however although I didn’t feel ‘fresh’ on my warm up & felt like I was moving quite well & felt good during some fast strides.
Unless somebody randomly traveled some distance it was always going to be a three horse race, with anybody having an off day being chased hard by Rob Keel looking for the V40 course record. Rather than sit in & see how the race unfolded I decided to take it on from the start, pushing the pace early & looking to make the most of the fast first few miles. It was slightly concerning to b told we were on 2:08 marathon pace through 6K! I felt good though & therefore continued to push the pace, by this time it was Aaron & I at the front with Neil having dropped off slightly.
Apart from a brief surge from Neil to rejoin us around 10K it was the two of us all the way to the finish. Still carrying a couple of extra kilos I was routinely dropped by Aaron on each of the steeper climbs, opening a gap of ~200m at one point around 12K. The quality sessions & high volume were paying off though & I was confident of closing the gap each time over the top of the hills.
Having pulled level around the halfway mark we were on course record pace & although tiring I felt as though I was in the race & still able to push the pace. Through the HM point iin around 68 minutes it continued tit-for-tat for another couple of miles & if anything I was pushing the pace from the front between 20 – 25K. Knowing there were a couple more hills to come in the last 5K I was keen to push the pace from a long way out.
Ultimately Aaron just got too big a gap up the final proper hill to the edge of Stamford & although able to close right up entering the estate he opened up another 40-50m gap on the final small steep hill. By this point although I felt strong I was struggling to put in anything much under 5 minute miling & the gap didn’t look to be reducing.
The last ~500m aren’t the best, entering the school car park & onto the playing fields which were fairly muddy/slippy. Cross Country being by far my worst discipline (& one of Aaron’s strongest!) I struggled to make any impression as we circled the field. I did close slightly before a final big effort over the last 100m saw me close to within 4 seconds at the finish, close but I was never able to get within striking distance over the last K.
So all that way (18.7 miles) to lose out by 4 seconds! Very frustrating not to be able to finish off a good run with a win, but a big step forward for me & a real confidence boost for London. I finished in 1:37:56, Aaron matched last year’s course record! Both averaging just outside 2:16 marathon pace on a tough course! Just 7 more miles at that pace…
It was a good day all round, Neil struggled a bit but Rob had a phenomenal run to break the V40 record with 1:41. Despite a couple of ‘down’ weeks, Jo ran well & finished very strongly to finish in 2:18 & ~20 seconds quicker than last year to show she remains on course for another good London. Good friend Geoff Newill showed he does have the stamina to match the speed he’s been showing recently, breaking the previous V55 course record & the 2 hour mark with an excellent run! Notts picked up the men’s team win, which wasn’t entirely surprising with 1st,2nd & 4th whilst Jo & I won the ‘Valentine’s Couple’ prize for the third consecutive year.
So a lot of happy runners. Now I just need to shift the last few winter kilos, take a couple of easy days & get focused on the next race in a few weeks. Progress in 2015 has been good so far. 10 weeks to Showtime!