I was in two minds about racing the week before Bath Half Marathon and I made a late decision to do the Ron Hill Accrington 10k. As my main focus was on the half marathon I didn’t taper for this race and was surprised to turn up to Accrington feeling quite fresh after doing 16 miles of running the previous day. Danny Collinge set the initial pace and we covered the first kilometre in 3:02, which was quicker than I expected. I managed to forge ahead and focused on opening up a lead during the long gradual climb up to about 7km, which I reached in 23:04. The course then becomes quite easy over those last couple of miles and I came into the finish crossing the line in 31:42, over a minute quicker than last year, whilst also being well under 9 minutes in that last 3k. It gave me the belief that I really was coming into my very best form. Whilst a 31-minute plus 10k may not draw much attention, I knew that a time like that on this course ranks as my best result over this distance for a couple of years at least. Danny was edged out into third by a relative unknown, Matthew Williams, who ran very strongly indeed to finish ahead of a runner with such high calibre. Blackburn Harriers also won the team, backed by superb runs from Ben Costello and Sean Procter.
Next up was the journey south to Bath; the place where 30 years ago, The Smiths were recording what was to be their ill-fated final album in Bath, I was hoping my own experience wouldn’t suffer the same demise as Manchester’s finest (sorry Simply Red fans)! Bath Half Marathon would be the first big test of the year for me; is my back to basics approach going to work? I went into this race having done more runs, miles and sessions than I have ever done up to this stage of the year. I dropped the miles to 73 from the Sunday to Saturday prior to the race and I felt as though I struck the correct balance of maintaining my routine without overdoing it.
I spent the Saturday evening in Swindon, a nearby town that’s much cheaper to stay at than Bath. I had planned an early night at 9pm, but my ears were drawn to the faint sound of the karaoke bar nearby. Someone was belting out U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” and it didn’t sound very good at all, next was a rendition of some Snow Patrol song… this was too much! I stuck on a Tindersticks album for a bit of relief and afterwards there was no more sound from the bar, either he’d had enough, or the others in the bar had! Still, I had a reasonable night’s sleep compared to my usual pre-race standards. I was up at 6am for a light 15 minute jog and it was drizzling quite a bit; even the weather seemed to be on my side.
I had heard rumours that the field may not be as strong as last year, but I didn’t want to dwell on external things; regardless of position, I was here to run my best race. However, I was surprised at the small number of elite runners that were knocking around during the warm up and I didn’t spot any African runners either, which was a rarity. We were all lined up ready to start and my presence was announced on the PA system… so much for sneaking in under the radar! The race got off smoothly and I immediately found myself in the lead, with only Peter Huck coming with me, I have to admit, of all the scenarios I thought of before the race, this was not one of them. I know of Peter Huck all too well and he has beaten me in all our previous encounters at the 10k distance, so I ran the first three miles very cautiously in 15:11, slower than last year. By five miles I could sense it was just a two-horse race between myself and Huck, so I decided to risk ramping up the pace, reaching six miles in 29:53. It was around this point where I opened up a gap and I could hear the crowd loudly cheering me on as I began the second lap. I was feeling really strong at this stage of the race and the support from the spectators seemed to be giving me a much needed adrenaline kick. 10 miles was reached in around 49:42, around the same time as I managed during the 2012 race. 12 miles was well under the hour in around 59:34 before the final mile to the finish, which is the only challenging part of the course as it’s mainly uphill. At this stage I knew I had the race won and the pb looked to be on, but it would be desperately close in chasing the club record. I gave it one last final surge down the finishing straight to win in 65:16, a new pb! I was elated, even despite missing out on Michael Green’s club record by just one second. Peter Huck made a fine debut at the distance with 66:35 in second.
It ranks by far as my biggest career win and it was a busy hour after the race with photos and interviews, along with the prize giving ceremony. It’s really something special to have so many people cheer me on and appreciate my efforts, it was a real honour. It was a world away from how it felt for me last year when I was well down on what I hoped for and dashed off for the first train out of Bath! This time I decided to have a good look around the city and appreciate what a wonderful place it is. I suppose there’s some similarities with York, with all the classic buildings, the Abbey and Roman Baths are very impressive. Another thing that impressed me was the culture of the place, it’s very creative and even the buskers sound amazing, which is much more pleasant than listening to Ed Sheeran and Robbie Williams in shopping centres! So, that’s the first challenge of the year tackled, now it’s back to more training and racing with Hastings Half Marathon next week.
Training has gone well, better than ever over these past few months. February was very testing at times and there were some days I was struggling a bit, but I managed to get through it without any snags.
Sun 12th Feb: 9am – 9 miles in 59:10
Mon 13th: 9am – 3.5 miles easy to Clitheroe from Whalley. 6 pm – 17 miles home in 1hr 55.
Tue 14th: 6 pm – TRACK: 2 sets of 10x 300m (1 min rec / jog lap between set) 49, 48, 48, 48, 47, 47, 47, 47, 47, 46. 47, 47, 48, 47, 47, 47, 47, 47, 47, 46. 11 miles total.
Wed 15th: 8:15am – 4.5 miles to Blackburn in 29 mins. 5:30pm – 15 miles home in 1hr 40:10.
Thur 16th: 8:15am – 4.5 miles to Blackburn in 27 mins. 5:30pm – SESSION: 5x 6 min reps (2 min rec) at Threshold. 9 miles. 6:45pm – 3.5 miles with store SRG group.
Fri 17th: 8:15am – 4.5 miles to Blackburn in 28:55. 5:30pm – 15 miles home in 1hr 41:05.
Sat 18th: 9am – SESSION: 12x 1,000m (1 min rec) 3:02, 3:04, 3:06, 3:04, 3:04, 3:03, 3:05, 3:04, 3:03, 3:04, 3:05, 3:04. 14.5 miles total. 7:15pm – SESSION: 20x 30 sec Hills. 7 miles total.
Sun 19th Feb: 10am – 12 miles in 78:30.
Mon 20th: 1:30pm – 6 miles in 39 mins. 5:45pm – 10.5 miles to Blackburn in 69:09.
Tue 21st: 8:15am – 4 miles to Blackburn in 25:15. 6 pm – TRACK: 10x 800m (2 min rec) 2:20, 2:19, 2:20, 2:22, 2:22, 2:21, 2:22, 2:20, 2:22, 2:21. Very windy, went ok. 10 miles total.
Wed 22nd: 10am: 12 miles hard in 68:14, 1 mile jog. On a hilly route and terrible weather! Happy to manage 5:40 pace! 5:45pm – 4.5 miles easy in 31:50.
Thur 23rd: 8:15am – 4 miles to Blackburn in 26:50. 6:30pm – 11 miles in 74:35 around Ewood.
Fri 24th: 3:30pm – 17.5 miles off-road and back along canal in 2hr 01.
Sat 25th: 8:15am – 4.5 miles easy to Blackburn. 6:30pm – 11 miles hard around Ewood in 59:36. Good, well under 5:30 pace.
Sun 26th Feb: 10:30am – 11 miles easy in 76 mins
Mon 27th: 7pm – 4 miles easy in 27:15. Easy recovery day.
Tue 28th: 8:15am – 4.5 miles to Blackburn in 28:45. 6 pm – TRACK: 14x 500m (1 min rec) Averaged 83/84’s. Best session so far this year. 11 miles total.
Wed 1st: 8:15am – 4 miles to Blackburn in 27:15. 5:30pm – 15 miles home in 1hr 44:40. Sluggish.
Thur 2nd: 3:30pm – 10 miles around Alkmonton in 69 mins.
Fri 3rd: 11:30am – TRACK: 20x 400m (30 sec rec) Averaged 73’s, 12.5 miles total.
Sat 4th: 11am – 5 miles in 33:15. 6:30pm – 11 miles around Ewood in 74:12.
Sun 5th Mar: 6:30am – 4 miles to Blackburn in 27:40. 9:30am – Ron Hill Accrington 10k, 1st 31:42. 8 miles total.
Mon 6th: 11:15am – 4 miles in 26:15. Easy day.
Tue 7th: 8:15am – 4 miles to Blackburn in 26:45. 6 pm – 12.5 miles home from Langho in 1hr 26:20.
Wed 8th: 8:15am – SESSION: 4x 5 min reps (2 min rec) at threshold from Blackburn to Clitheroe, 10.5 miles.
Thur 9th: 8:15am – 4 miles to Blackburn in 24:50. 5:30pm – 10.5 miles to Blackburn in 69 mins.
Fri 10th: 11:30am – 4 miles easy in 27:15. 6:30pm – 7 miles in 47:50.
Sat 11th: 9am – 4.5 miles in 29:40 around Darwen.