Bit later than I planned but here it goes…
The MK Half is traditionally cold wet and windy and this year was no different although rather than rain it snowed most of the way round. MK can be quite a windy city and with a route that included Campbell Park and Willen Lake we were never going to escape it.
With all my injury worries leading up to today I wasn’t really looking at this as a race, with London looming I feel quite under prepared for the marathon so was hoping to use this as a stepping stone and confidence booster to make the most of the next four weeks before I start to taper (although not sure how you taper when you haven’t done a lot in the first place!).
As I’m quite behind with my long runs I planned to do an easy three miles before the race to give me a solid 16 miles for the day. I’d parked in Campbell Park itself and ran down to the canal and looped back round. It was quite slow but everything felt ok so with a quick change back at the car I jogged over to the club meeting point for our traditional pre race photo. We had over 120 guys running in this race and a good 60 turned up for the photo shoot in the ‘Food Centre’. This was right next to the start so it meant we could all stay in the warmth until the final few minutes.
The start itself was a bit of a damp squib really, no obvious countdown or klaxon, just lots of people moving in the same direction really slowly but managed to jog over the line and get going. I had planned to take a least the first 8-9 miles at 9:30 pace then see how I felt for the rest, but the first 2 miles was all downhill so I was running at 9 min pace without even trying! All still felt ok so I thought I’d keep it steady for another mile or so and see how it went.
The course comes off main roads after about a mile and after a quick jaunt through a housing estate hits the redways of MK. We then rejoin one of the old roads (from before MK took over) and followed this all the way to Willen Lake. Before reaching the lake was the DLRR cheering point where loads of fellow runners and their families were waiting to cheer us on. As a club we really do have the best supporters in the business, it was seeing these guys at this race last year that made me want to join DLRR and so far I’ve loved every minute.
The lake was windy, as usual, and with the snow falling was hard work but I hit 6 miles a bit quicker than I’d planned but felt strong. As the route came away from the lake we came into Broughton differently to previous years and ended up with a bit of cross country as the path we should have followed was flooded – quite concerned about my trainers! I had a stop in Broughton to stretch my achilles – it wasn’t hurting but felt a bit tight and as I wasn’t racing wouldn’t hurt to stop for a bit.
After the stretch I felt pretty good. As we reached 8 miles and headed back towards Woolstone I thought I’d try to push the pace a bit to see how much my leg would take – quite a bit as it turned out! The pace went up to 8:30 miles and no reaction. I passed the DLRR cheering crew again and then back towards Willen Lake to do a final stretch along the canal before the final mile through Campbell Park.
I was passing people left right and centre now which is always a good feeling but decided to not increase the pace any further. I’d proved to myself I could run 13 miles at marathon pace and a bit quicker so didn’t need to do any more.
The final mile went back up through the park. It rises gradually for about 800 meters then the final 400m or so is straight up to the Beacon which is the highest point in MK. I normally love hill running so gave it a good bash although I did need to reign it in a bit as hills and achilles don’t really mix.
I finished in 1:57, a good 15 minutes off my pb but today was never about racing. I got round in one piece without any after effects and was buzzing.
The race itself is ok, I only do it each year because it’s on my doorstep. It’s billed as a festival of running’ but there isn’t a feel like that to the event. Several thousand runners take part and there’s a 10k and 5k race as well but the whole set up doesn’t really have a big event feel. The medals were handed to you in little bags, there were drinks on offer at the end but no goody bag so you’re having to carry it all. They did have space blankets which was a nice touch, but tucked away in boxes that you had to help yourself to – getting one of those wrapped round yourself while holding two bottles and a medal in the freezing cold is no easy task. The route is great. It’s quick and even with the hill at the end many of our club got PBs.
My achilles has been feeling a lot better the last week or so, I’m still very conscious of it but with careful management of it I’m still able to increase my mileage without too much of an issue. It’s frustrating not been able to run completely free but I’m in a much happier place now than I was a few weeks ago when I had to seriously consider if London was actually going to happen but with support from the guys at my club and a lot of stretching and icing I think I’m well on the road to recovery – so much so that I think it’s reasonably safe to say – we’re off to London baby!