My Review of the Essex 20

Essex 20 is a 20 mile road race around North Essex, starting and finishing in a village called Langham. It consists of 3 loops of the same course, which includes a few hills, but with a couple of really good downhill bits. It has a cut-off point of 4 hours.

Those who enter it, appeared to be good club/county runners as it is a part of the Essex Road Running Championship, or from the conversations heard around the course was part of a pre-Marathon training programme.

I have now been running for just over a year, having completed my first Parkrun on the 8th March 2014 in 33:15, although I have taken part in 3 competitive events, 2 half marathons, Southend 2014 and Ipswich 2014 and the Benfleet 15 this year. This was quite a big challenge, and I was treating it as a indicator of how I might fair at the Brighton Marathon, as such I was feeling rather apprehensive and wanted a good nights sleep. I was hoping to get around the course in 3 hours, which judging on my training runs I thought was achievable, having run 20 miles in 3hrs 14min.

Unfortunately, I got rudely awoken by my 2 year old at 0300, and then 0600 so my plan of getting a good night’s sleep had been scuppered, but on a plus point, at least it meant that I had time to have my staple pre long distance run breakfast (actually I have it most days) of porridge and two slices of toast, normally with peanut butter and Jam, but today I thought I’d go crazy and have marmite!

I fed The Little Dude his toast and porridge as well, while my wife had a lie in, as it was Mothering Sunday, and knowing that I was already in trouble: a) for running on this day, b) not buying a card or present, thought this was a good plan.

With a ring at the door my lift had arrived in the form of Richard Farr and Justin King, I gave the Dude a kiss on the head, the wife wished me luck and told me “not to over do it,” “Me, would I do that?” I replied. We set off to collect Scotty Brenton. Once all assembled in Richard’s Mini, we deployed up to Langham, with the usual banter in the back of the car. I thought I had been hard done by with my little man waking me up, Justin was suffering from a good dose of sleep deprivation as his boys had kept him awake from around 0300, and Scotty had been out the night before to a Paul Weller gig, so any tiredness was self inflicted.

Upon arrival, it was good to see some friendly Flyer faces, in the form of Elliott Cones, Andrew Coombes, Ian Bernhardt, and Lloyd Richardson. Having collected our numbers, which was a simple process of lining up and giving your name (no ID required), we gathered together for the obligatory pre-race Flyers photograph.

 

essexpre

 

With 10 min to go, we lined up at the start. I lined up with Scotty and Richard, kind of mid-pack. The getting out of the blocks was relatively easy, although a little congested. I’m not a massive fans of crowds, so zipped my way through trying to find some space so I could find my rhythm. The first 3 miles or so was enjoyable, plenty of good down hills, with a couple of pretty step up hills, but as it was a 3 lap course thought I best not push too hard.

My original strategy was to try and run steady 09:30min/miles and to attack the down hills to make up my lost time on the hills, but found myself cruising at 09:13min/mile pace – (apart from uphill which I tried to keep at around 10min/mile). The scenery was pleasant, country lanes, farmers’ fields, pretty cottages, albeit a little cold and blustery in places. I found I was getting quite hot early on, so took my under layer off whilst on the move.

At round Mile 6, we ran pass a War memorial to those who had served and been killed in action during World War II at RAF Boxted.

 

RAF

 

I showed my due respect with a smart salute, obviously without stopping, and on the second lap round a cyclist was sitting on a bench and waived back at me, clearly thinking he must know me! Even though by the third lap, when I was beginning to suffer, I still managed a sharp salute, but felt it was important to acknowledge their sacrifice. I’m clearly nuts!

On mile 10 I assessed how I was feeling, and at this point pretty good, so I thought I would have a little push and see if I could get a cheeky half marathon PB. Job done – 1 hrs 59min – My previous half marathon official time in 2hrs 11min at Ipswich.

By mile 17, I was beginning to feel it, and a few choice words were being uttered out loud to myself. The final mile was pretty painful and according to my Strava dipped into 10:06 min/mile, even though I finished a strongly as I could, with a slightly over dramatic, Platoon style, “Thank …. For That” collapse on to my knees as I crossed the line.

It was really good to see some Flyer faces waiting for me to finish, and to hear Scotty shout “Come on Guy” through the finishing line.

After, a little chat about it what we were going to do next, we recced the local pub. With a short walk, in a John Wayne..esk manner, as my legs were beginning to seize up. We had a quick pint, discussed our war stories, mostly marvelling at the winner of the race, who completed the course in 1hrs 45min, setting a new course record, and becoming the fastest man in the country this year over that distance!, and headed home in our separate cars.

The journey home was full of some old school tunes, and raised spirits. Although, trying to get out the back of a Mini was an interesting experience, with Scotty and I agreeing that next time we should definitely take a 5 door, or even an Estate over any distances beyond a half marathon!

So how did we all do?

Elliott – 2:28:11
Andrew – 2:28:51
Ian – 2:30:10
Justin – 2:30:27
Lloyd – 2:47:51
Scotty – 2:54:16
Rich – 3:07:11
Guy – 3:07:37

FAQ’s
Is it well organised?
Yes – well marshalled, although you do have to share the road with other users, so you have to a bit observant to what’s going on behind you.

Would I do the race again?
Yes – it’s challenging and being a little competitive I want to beat my time next year.

Value for money?
Definitely, it’s cheap – but there are no Bells, Thrills, or whistles. You turn up, race, and get a free brew at the end of it. So, if you are a gong hunter, then it may not be the one for you.

Easy to get to?
Yes – Straight up the A12 – simples!

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