As a youngster, I would get home from School, get changed and go out to play with my pals.
Now I'm older, I get home from work, get changed and go out to play with my pals, but now I call it training.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A weekend of two halves

The term 'brass monkey' meaning cold weather, is derived from the phrase - it's so cold it could freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

I opted to steer clear of the Half marathon event of the same name, preferring to run instead the Shell Four villages Half marathon in Helsby, Lancashire. Next year I may give the Yorkshire race a try.

I travelled to Helsby the day before and checked out the start/finish area for a good spot to take some photos from (as I was planning to race, change quickly then get some shots of the later finishers). Speaking to some of the helpers setting up the tents etc at the event HQ I was amazed at how helpful they were. When I explained that on Sunday I needed to park as close to the finish as possible to hasten my quick change and grab my photography gear, one of the chaps offered to let me park in his own driveway across the street from the finish. The next day, whilst racing, another of the local lads I had spoken to introduced himself again and we chatted briefly about our target times.

The race itself was a big one. 2000 pre-entrants and about 1600 finishers (shame 400 didn't turn up as it was oversubscribed I think). I had an idea that I should be able to run 1hr 20mins for this, even though it was a supposed hilly course. Based on the 2010 result this would see me about 50th place - plenty of time to photograph the last 1200 -1500 runners.

As we lined up for the start I made sure I was fairly near the front. It was a right old jostle as the organisers tried to fit the last 20 odd runners behind the start mat when there were already thousands behind unwilling to step back a metre. Next thing we were off and I took it very gingerly around the rough muddy track  that eventually led us to the tarmac and then main road.

Settling into my stride I had no idea what pace I was running, my CV system was well within it's comfort zone as were my leg muscles but I'd eaten too much breakfast (even though it was 3 hrs earlier) which gave me a bit of trouble with a stitch feeling like it wanted to come on properly.

Mile 1 was quite flat and 6:01 on my watch seemed a perfect pace to realise my target time
Mile 2 featured a small rise and fall. 6:07 was again fine by me
Miles 3 and 4 were again more or less flat and I recorded 6:01 and 6:02. So far so good, 4 mile covered and only 10 seconds over 'evens' (6 minute miling)
But then I took 6:15 to run mile 5 even though it didnt seem to be very hilly. This continued and I took 6:10 to 6:20 for the next few miles. I was rather disappointed  to be honest as I knew to expect the bigger hills at miles 9-10 so expected to lose A LOT more time then too.

Up to mile 6 or 7 I had allowed many runners to pass me - I was keen not to push myself too hard in this, my first proper road race in 6 months or more. To be honest I was very conscious of my full belly and was also unsure of my ability to 'race' for such a long distance.

By mile 8 (ish) I was feeling much better and stayed with a small group of lads who seemed to be going well. We were catching odd runners who must have set out a bit too fast. After a little uphill bit there was a sign that said 9 miles and another (road)sign that said beware, 10% downhill. Unfortunately the 10% downhill wasn't on the race route! Instead we ran UPHILL some more. At 10 miles my time was 61.48 and I although I hadn't felt great I certainly hadn't extended myself to any real degree either.

I decided that the last little bits of uphill and the ensuing downhill miles were worth 'going for it'. I was feeling pretty good now and able to push hard. I began to catch people up and drop them easily. Because the hills were nothing like what I expected, I hadn't lost as much time as I imagined doing, so at 12 miles I realised I could still make my 1:20 target as I had just over 7 minutes to run 1.1 miles. There was some more downhill still to do and I actually ran the 1.1 in about 6 mins 15 secs.

My final time was 1:20:08 and 60th position. I really can't complain about hitting my target almost bang on. If I ran the race again next weekend I reckon I could do it 90 seconds faster because a) I would eat a bit less and a bit earlier, and, b) I would have the confidence to run harder sooner.

Helsby Half Marathon race organiser - Steve Riley
After finishing I got my gear together and took nearly 1500 photos, 1300 of which I uploaded to my my website as soon as I arrived home.

I have decided that last years plan for long runs every OTHER weekend is a good one. Running 19 miles at about 7mm pace next weekend then 14 miles very quick the weekend after that will then fall nicely in with a 22 mile race the one after that. This avoids ever having to try to do marathon pace runs in the evening cold/dark after work dodging cars and pavement edges. I need to get some kind of structure into my midweek training now though.


  1. Nice effort, I've done this race a few times and always enjoyed it.

  2. Nice one Steve - shame we didn't get chance to actually meet. Thanks a lot for the pics for too, really helpful. Can't take credit for race organiser - web gimp, general noise and dogsbody more accurate :)