By rights, I should have been helping at the Grantham "Newton Fraction" Half Marathon yesterday but I needed race miles so I went to Stafford instead. With the Stamford St Valentine Race cancelled and my rejected, late entry for the Ashby 20, I was in need of a long race in preparation for the London Marathon which is now only six weeks away. At mile 13 of the Stafford race I wished I'd stayed in Grantham and taken part!
I never really got going yesterday. I felt lethargic throughout and positively ropey at the finish. It might have been the big effort at Milton Keynes the previous Sunday or perhaps the speed work on the track on Wednesday evening. It might have been the sunny weather and lack of drink other than water or perhaps the six mile steady run which I couldn't resist in the late evening sunshine the night before the race. It was probably a combination of all of those things but either way I struggled. Despite the tough race I was surprised to see that I recorded a pb on the course coming home 65th in a time of 2h 21m 36s. I have run the race twice before, in 2007 I ran a time of 2:27:37, in 2010 I got back in 2:23:19. It was nice to see some friendly faces from Macclesfield Harriers at the start. Martin Platt, (2:16:14) and Dave Tucker,(2:44:10).
The Stafford race runs across an undulating, if not hilly, 20 miles of country lanes and minor 'A' roads. The initial three miles includes a long hill which, true to form, carries on rising each time you think you are approaching the top of it. The race involves three laps, the first lap of eight miles is followed by two six mile circuits. There are various problems with a race of multiple laps. First of all, at the end of the first lap, because you come back to the start, its tempting to get in your car and go home. The feeling intensifies on the second lap. By the third lap you finish anyway but by that point you are lucky if your stiff legs will allow you to get into the car and go home. Secondly you have to negotiate that nightmare hill three times, by the third time runners are about 15 miles into the race, I adopted the feet out waddle technique to drive to the summit on the third lap.
I ran through 13 miles in 1 hour 31 minutes and felt tired and demoralised. I hung on for the last seven miles, swallowing my only gel at around 15 miles when the worst of the gradient was slowing me down. Drinks stations at Stafford are approximately every 6 miles. Although the stations only provide water, I did notice sweets at around the 18 mile point.I avoided the sweets, i was in need of glucose but more in need of the finish. I didn't have any kick over the last two miles, the next runner was just in front but I couldn't pull him in.
The Stafford race is a difficult race but excellent training for the London Marathon. Post race I talked to other London marathon trainees and we exchanged stories about goals which we hope to achieve on the streets of London next month.
The Stafford race is good value. For a bargain £9 entry fee you can look forward to a well organised race and a commemorative mug to mark the achievement. Bryan Dale runs an excellent website. A keen runner and talented photographer he combines his passions by photographing races and making the images available without charge...you can't say fairer than that, thanks Bryan!