The race was laps of a service road around the inside of the race course, eight if you were doing the half marathon, 16 for the full, and 19 for the 50k. That meant the usual chaos in terms of never really knowing who you were running against, or where you were in relation to anyone else.
The plan was to run under four hours, which was hugely optimistic given my current fitness. I’ve not run more than 10k at 4:45 pace in months, and sub four would mean running quicker than a 3:20 marathon (and carrying on), something I’ve not done since October. But I figured I’d give it a go and just see what happened.
I got quite excited at the start, running the first partial lap at 4:08/km pace, but quickly settled into 4:30s with the wind and about 4:40 against. I felt pretty good for 35km, and although nobody seemed especially talkative I had a few little chats with people along the way. A handful of people had passed me by this point, but I didn’t know which distance they were racing, so I just keep on trying to hit my splits, stopping now and again to fill my handheld or scoff a gel.
I had a bit of a wobble at 35km, another 15km seemed an awfully long way to go, but I got a bit of a second wind just after that and started to feel pretty good. I was slowing, but not a lot, and my average pace was still on track for sub 4 as I passed the marathon distance in 3:19. Eight km might’ve felt like a long way to go, but three laps somehow didn’t, and although I was having to work a little harder for it, was still managing to keep under my 4:45 goal pace.
All of a sudden I was on the last lap, with that amazing feeling of knowing it was nearly over and I was going to make it without blowing up. I crossed the line, checked my watch, and was so happy to see it say 3:57! I said a few (happy) swear words, caught my breath a bit, and asked the chap on the line where I’d come – I couldn’t believe it when he told me I’d won! The rest is a bit of a blur, I took my chip back, got a printout of my lap times (and then another one as it had miscounted me when I’d stopped for gels and water at one point), and picked up my trophy from Mel, one of the organisers.
I went back over to the finish to clap some more people back in, but quickly got really cold, so I said goodbye to everyone and started the long, slow, crampy and foggy drive home.
I can’t believe I won my first race of the year, and with a massive PB. It was about an hour and twenty minutes faster than my last 50k, although that was London a few years ago so it probably doesn’t count. The NE Marathon club are ace, this was the second race of theirs I’ve done (after Hamsterley Forest a couple of years ago), and it was really good. Cheap, no frills, but everything you need for a good race – apart from being about an hour too far away!