Essex 20 – 2016 Race Review

For those who don’t know the Essex 20 is the race that most people take part in if they are training for a spring marathon such as London, Brighton or in my case Paris.  It is a low-cost no frills race, which gives a nice alternative to running 20 miles around a runners normally well trodden path.

It takes place in Langham, and runs around quite nice little villages that perhaps you would not normally see.  It is made up of three laps, that take in country roads and a couple of rather irritating hills.  As a well know lover of the flat stuff, I made a promise not to walk any of these – which I am pleased to report – mission accomplished!

The race starts at Langham Village Hall, and upon arriving with Justin, Andy Coombes, a11and designated driver, Lloyd Richardson, we were met by the usual mêlée of runners pinning numbers on, stretching and nervous twitching as we all tend to do.  In the past this race has been well attended by the Flyers, but this year there was only three orange shirts on display, myself and Lloyd and latterly joined by Gareth Davies.  It was not only the Flyers that were somewhat low on numbers this year, LOSS had their blue army, Rochford were there, as were familiar faces from SOS AC, but all seemed somewhat thinned by their numbers,  maybe people had learned from earlier years about the hills.  Familiar faces with Gary Pitman, Elliott Cone, Mati, Martin Hitchcock, Sam Pickett to name but a few.

My personal plan was to treat this a LSR and go out around 8:55 to 9:00 minute per mile, and that would get me close to a sub 4 hour marathon time.  Great plan – cannot fail – or so I thought.    All of our group with suffering with ailments of colds, injuries or another, and much to my surprise said they would run with me – which considering they are very fast marathoners I was happy to be in such company. Also joined by serial marathon runner, Nigel Pointer.  Nigel has run Amsterdam with me and Paris so I was in for a good jaunt around the Essex countryside.  All for about 2 minutes anyway!

As the race started, Justin, and Lloyd soon strode away, and I was with Andy, Gareth and Michelle Jane from LOSS targeting 9m/m.  OK the band had split on artistic differences but still with a good group.  We were in good spirits, laughing and chatting our way around, if anything it was a bit too easy, (a schoolboy error).

We soon hit 10 miles, and I was feeling great.  We were having to slow down as we were hitting 8:30 to 8:45 but the weather was good, spirits were high.  We had a few people joining us along the way,  which I think the others were pleased with, as I was droning on about nothing very interesting for most of the 10 miles or so as I tend to do.

So we hit 13 miles, I still feel great, Gareth had drifted on ahead and out of sight by this stage, and as we climbed “that hill” I said to Andy, I may kick on in minute for the last 6 miles or so.  Why on earth did I do this!  This is the schoolboy error I spoke about earlier.  So I went from 9m/m to 8:10 and felt the wind in my thinning hair,  overtaking people, the sun on my face, –  sub 4?! I am thinking I will be sub 3:30 in Paris at this rate – off I shot. (Metaphorically punching the sky)

The miles went past quite nicely, 13, 14, 15, 16, starting to feel a bit tired now.  Oh here comes that hill again, OK now I am hurting.  My pace stutters, I regret everything!  I hate everyone.  I hate brightly colored running shoes.  I hate happy marshals telling me “Well done” and I hated the people who I overtook, now overtake me.  I know they did not saying, but they were quietly, internally saying “hahahahaha” as they went past me.    I took a couple of Haribo’s and pushed for home.  Mile 17, 18 – then I stopped.  Walking,  felt terrible.  I started to run – thinking “Just get to mile 19”.  19.  Stopped again.  19.5 stopped again!

a12I finally, and painfully crossed the line around 2:56 – so not a terrible time, but I was in bits.  Where was I going to find the extra 6 miles needed for race day.  Lloyd was there and had seen it me do this all before.  He had that look of, “What do you expect”.  Why did I push the last 6 or 7 miles!!!  As I lay there pole-axe on the floor, I was fearing I would not get around Paris. It was not a good run.

However, I have since run another 20 miles at slower pace and was only 11 minutes difference in time, with the huge difference being I could run and run and felt amazing at the end. There was none of my usual silly “lets do this” type bravado.  All to do with lowering my heart rate and slowing down,  but that’s for another article for another time.

Essex 20 has proved a fantastic learning and training experience and hopefully with less than 3 weeks to go, has done exactly what it needed and given me a race plan which perhaps,  would not have happened if I had not “bonked” at mile 18.

For anyone planning a marathon, I would suggest you do a “race” to test you strategy,  I would say it works better than a solo long slow run, and gives you a jolt of what is needed (and realisim) with 4 weeks to go!  If you think at mile 16 “I got this” – let me tell you, you probably don’t!

Most marathon runners would agree! Or just rubbish ones like me!


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