Snow!! In March!!! It has never snowed on my birthday before! This year, the first month of Spring was inundated with Snow storms across the United Kingdom. The beast from the east struck twice. On the weekend of my birthday 17th 🎁 and 18th March, so many races had to be cancelled! I had booked two long run races this year – the Oakley 20 and the inaugural Bedford 20! Oakley was to be on the 18th, so no alcoholic birthday celebrations for me then! The course had managed to stay relatively clear of the impending snow. So much so that the race was not cancelled until 5:30am the morning of it. The forecasted snow had not reached the Oakley 20 course up until Saturday night! A course sweep at around midday found it clear and the all clear was given. But overnight the snow fell! And by the time the course was reinspected, there was no way it would be ready to run. Luckily for me I had also booked myself onto the Bedford 20 race as well! A nice medal to look forward to and a flatter race, more in line to the marathon course profile. It was only happening a week later on 25th March. I was a little worried that the snow may return and cancel that one too. We were lucky and the race went ahead as planned.
The race was to start from Priory Country Park in Bedford. This is the same start location as the Bedford Half I completed last year. From what I recall, getting from the parking area to the start of the race was a fair walk and I didn’t want to miss getting a parking spot or leave it too late that I wouldn’t get to the start in time. I set off that morning, bringing a black coffee along with me, at around 8.20am. It would take around 35 minutes and I wanted to arrive around 9am. The race was due to start at 10am. I got there in ample time. It was only 6°C, which is a little chilly whilst you stand and wait, so I kept my jacket on for a little while. I was prepared with my rucksack and a change of clothes in case it was muddy and cold after the race. I bumped into a couple of guys I know from my local parkrun, it was nice to have someone to chat to whilst waiting.
Side note: My myasics training plan only asked of one 32 km long run on 18th March at a pace of 6:24 min/km. Then it was to be 3 weeks of taper. My original dated race fell through so I really had no choice but to replace the 25th March planned run of 16 km at a 6.16 min/km pace, with the Bedford 20 miler!!! …
At around 9.45am we were called to the start line. After cheering and waving our hands to the drone camera, at 10am we set off. Although I didn’t pass the start line until 10:02. I do prefer to take the longer training runs as part of a race. This way I do not have to worry about carrying anything with me, especially water. I hate having to carry anything while I run. Even having bottles on the running belt annoys me. This was supposed to be a training run, but my head treated like a race.
The first 1 km or so, was run on a narrow path (for the amount of runners) through the park, that had speed bumps. I wanted to keep to a comfortable pace – but in my head my goal finish time was 3h 20m (and not the 3h 24m it should have been) so I still wanted to get a good pace. The narrow path meant that I felt I was being held back. This was probably a good thing, to pace myself, but instead I decided to start overtaking. I did so a couple of times until we cleared the park and started to head up the only real incline of the course. This was running up a flyover bridge, taking us over the A421. At this point I was running at a pace of 6:08 min/km – but as soon as I got a little room my average pace went to 5:30 min/km. Meaning I cleared the first 5K in 28m 27s! I felt fine, and pleased with the time, but thought may be that I was going a little too fast. By the way I am now running fasted, with only a black coffee in me. The lack of fuel did play on my mind, but this was always my intention to run the full marathon on only water. I didn’t let it worry me at all.
The course map showed the water stations to be at approximately every 3 miles. The first station was closer to the 6km mark, which is understandable as the terrain of where it should have been probably was not a good spot to set up. But the water stations throughout were at good locations for me, and I did stop and walk at each station. It gave me time to drink from the cup, and have a helpful walk break. These are crucial for me, and did help me to keep going. At this point we were in the woods, and entering trail territory. If it had rained the night before, or even during, we would have had a very difficult time. There was a suggestion that we wear trail shoes, but mine would not be comfortable for more than 7-8 miles, so I went for my road shoes instead. I’m glad I did. There was only one spot that was muddy and you were able to run round the edge. Admittedly all through the wooded section was a mud trail, but not soggy and wet mud. This 5km section was run around the woods, back along the path to cross the flyover and back into Priory Country Park, ending at the next water station! My average pace was 5:34 min/km, completing the 10 km in 57:05 (5K in 28m 38s)! Still going well, but was I going too fast still, would this bite me in the behind!!!
After a little walk break recovery, I was back running again. This section ran past the Priory lake, beautiful, and past the boats in the marina. We then crossed into, what I know as, the main park in Bedford across from Russell Park where the boating lake is. We ran passed the boat house, crossed over the bridge and ran back towards the start. That is the third 5K section, with the next water station just after that. More people are around now. Not so much cheering us on though! There was not really much crowd support – apart from at the water stations, which was great and the marshals were fab too! A few park users would stop and shout encouragement here and there but that was about it really. My average pace was slowing down now at 5:47 min/km, completing 15 km in 1:25:55 (5K in 28m 50s).
This 15km section formed the first loop and was to be repeated to make 30km. I ran it the same, all be it a little slower. At this point it was also getting warmer, the sun was out. There were more people in the parks, and a few people even braving the boats, on the boating lake. All nice distractions to have. One not so nice distraction, probably only for me though, was all the dogs that were now arriving and not on leashes either! Eeek!!! I’m scared of dogs, so that wasn’t fun for me – but possibly helped me speed up in places. lol! My timings for the next sections were:-
- 20K – average pace was 5:49 min/km, completing 20 km in 1:54:58 (5K in 29m 3s),
- 25K – average pace was 6:06 min/km, completing 25 km in 2:25:35 (5K in 30m 37s)
- 30K – average pace was 6:10 min/km, completing 30 km in 2:56:45 (5K in 31m 10s).
The 30k mark was just after the starting position. Instead of continuing on again towards the flyover, the runners were guided right towards Priory Park and the finish line. The next 2K I ran in 12m 46s. Hoping to only have 200 metres to go after that! That was SO not the case! When I couldn’t even see the finish line, I was a little disappointed and had to slow to a walk. It was if I didn’t know how far it was and I wanted to conserve some energy for it, when it came eventually. That point was the first time I lost my momentum throughout the whole race. I started running again, only to stop and walk again. I ended up doing a little run-walk for the last 750 metres!!! I know my next race, the Marathon, I would have another 10 000 metres to go – but when I have it in my head to run a particular distance – something in me switches off when I have reached it, and it’s hard to get passed that. Even on training runs I have to make sure I do not pass my house before I reach the distance – I would just end up going home … lol! But as you can see that last 750 metres was a struggle for me. It took me 5m 18s with average of 7:07 min/km pace! Wow!
All in all, the race was near perfect for me. I am even happy that I started off the way I did! I pushed myself, and it wasn’t really too fast in the end. Although the very last part was not perfect it was more of a mental issue then anything else. If I could have seen the finish from even that far away! I don’t think I would have stopped. My finish time was 3h 14m 44s – which is a huge 58 min PB for me. I am shocked and amazed at how far I have come in this past year! It’s truly unbelievable. But I did it!
To top it all off I was within the top 50% of finishers overall – that’s never happened before! And that goes for my age and gender category too! This bodes really well for the Marathon on the 8th April! If all goes to plan, and I run the same way, with a moderate final 10K time, I could be on target for achieving 4h 25m! I’m keeping everything crossed!
How did your 20 mile long run or race go? Are you ready for the Marathon?
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