I only managed a short warm-up of around a mile before the race. A few strides and it was time to line up for the 1pm start. Conditions looked to be good. Plenty of blue sky and sunshine around and the wind didn't seem to be too bad...
I went straight to the front group of 4 as we settled into the race. We were running into the wind and the first mile has some nice downhill sections which meant a quick first mile of 5:09. Midway through the second mile I wasn't feeling particularly great and I was soon gapped leaving me alone in 4th place, whilst the front 3 started to work away. I missed the 2 mile marker and kept plodding away still not feeling great - perhaps running into the wind was tougher than I had imagined.
My split of 10:48 at mile 3 for the last 2 miles showed that I had slowed significantly. This wasn't good. That trend continued through miles 4 (5:27) and mile 5 (5:31) to reach halfway in 26:55. At this point the front 2 runners had broken clear leaving me to chase Paul Buckley in 3rd who I had a good battle with in the same race last year. At the halfway point someone shouted out that after the next right-hand turn the wind would be on the back all the way home. Sure enough as soon as I took that turn I started to feel a lot better. I counted a gap of around 15 seconds on Paul and started to work on reducing the gap.
Mile 6 arrived in 5:18 so I had at least managed to get the legs moving again. I would say I had halved the gap and sure enough at around the 7 mile marker (another 5:18) I caught Paul and went straight past him. This was definitely a race of 2 halves as I was feeling much better and I continue to push the pace. At mile 8 I was still full of running and another decent split of 5:17. This section of the course was a little tough as you take another turn down a narrow country road with a grass median strip but I continued to plug away until I rejoined the main part of the course with the long mile and a half run up to the school. A slowish 9th mile of 5:26 but I was still feeling good and I managed to lift the pace again for the last mile.
This mile seems to last forever but compared to last year I was still feeling strong. I had consolidated 3rd place and the first 2 runners were out of sight so I had the opportunity to enjoy the run home crossing the line in 53:33 for 3rd place with a 5:19 last mile.
Happy with that. I was 13 seconds slower than last year but ran most of the race by myself after I dropped off the front group. The first half of the race was tough but it felt a lot better in the second half and I never felt like I was outright red-lining. A good confidence booster for London. Straight on the McMillan and that time gives me 1:11:07 for the half and 2:29:59 for the full. That's exactly where I want to be.
A very slow 4 mile warm-down to give me 15 miles for the day. Really tough going and by the end of that I was very low on energy. A few cup cakes and cups of tea and I was back on track.
A great race which was very well organised as per last year. Lots of PB's by fellow Harriers which shows that all the training of late is starting to fall into place. Well done to all.
Lots of beer to report in the evening with some belated St Patrick's Day celebrations. Ouch.
That's 24.1km for the day and 84.0km for the week. Two more big weeks of training then time to wind it back for the marathon. Photos to follow.