I was looking forward to this run, first time I’ve actually really looked forward to a running race in a long while. My training for the Outlaw Half on June 1st has been going well and my long runs have been much quicker than anything I’ve done in the past, and all done on tired legs following a long ride the day before.
So, with a day’s rest before the race I knew this could be a PB potential race! My current PB for a half is a touch under 1:46 and based on what I’ve done in training I knew that was a good realistic target.
As always the day started with a team photo. DLRR met outside McDonald’s at Stadium MK, home of the MK Dons although without our revered leader (he was managing the marshals today) it was a somewhat less formal affair – no idea who actually took the photo, but it appeared on Facebook during the event so the result was there!
The Milton Keynes Marathon is now in its third year. After marshalling the first year in torrential rain, running the marathon in a heat wave last year, I jumped at the chance to run the half when they introduced it this year. You get all the camaraderie of a major marathon, but only half the distance to run – what more could you ask for? The course for the half followed the same route as the marathon until just before the 10 mile mark when the marathon runners turned off to continue along the city redways while we continued to the stadium to finish.
Stadium MK is a great venue to start and finish an event – plenty of parking, as many toilets as you could want (all very clean!) and loads of space for runners and supporters.
The start was a short walk away from the stadium on one of the main roads heading towards the city centre. There were no waves this year so runners were free to start wherever they wished. This was good news for me as I was keen to run with the 3:30 marathon pacer (8 min miles). I headed to the start and tried to look the pacer out – all the pacers had big blue balloons so they could be spotted easily, except I could only find the 3:45 guy – there were two other pacers near the front that I could see but hadn’t got a hope in hell of getting near enough to find out whether that was the one I was looking for. I decided to just pace myself and see if I could stumble across the pacer early on in the race. With the course doubling back quite a bit in the early miles I knew I should be able to spot him.
The first couple of miles follows one of the main city roads up towards the City Centre. It’s a gradual climb so it’s good for keeping the pace in check early on. The first of the loop back sections came just before we entered the City Centre and was a good chance to check where I was in the scheme of things – plus I spotted the 8 min pacer – he was quite some way ahead of me so I doubted at that point I’d be able to catch up so I decided to carry on as I was. Miles 3-7 consisted of loops of the City Centre grid square. It sounds bad on paper but in reality it was great – the terrain is undulating – we entered the City at almost its highest point and ran down almost to the station before running back up and looping around the various boulevards. For a club like DLRR it’s a bit like a normal Sunday run – we loopback to the slowest runner to keep the group together – it’s a very social format and I spent most of that 5 miles waving and shouting at fellow runners as we spotted each other across the carriageway!
All this joviality meant I wasn’t clock watching too much which is no bad thing as the undulations meant my mile times varied by over 30 seconds but I was making good time as we left the City Centre and headed back down the main road towards the stadium. The road out of the city was a nice long downhill and gave me a chance to stretch my legs a bit and see how I felt – still plenty of running there – I could also see the 8 min pacer getting nearer – I was averaging well under 8 min miles and even by mile 8 I hadn’t caught him so not sure how far under he was!
At the roundabout before the stadium the course turns left and heads along the V9 Groveway – a road I know well as I drive along it every day on my way to work at the Open University. It starts nice and flat then as you approach the river Ouzel it swings down before sweeping back up past the OU. We had to run the length of it as far as the roundabout before taking a U-turn and running all the way back again. It was a great opportunity to see other runners coming the other way – I could see the top end of the half marathon race heading back towards the stadium. At about 8 1/2 miles I finally caught up with the 8 minute pacer. I was actually travelling faster than 8 minute pace now so swung straight past his group – best laid plans and all that!
About half a mile after the U-turn the marathon and half marathon split with the long haul guys heading off onto the redways and the half marathon continuing back towards the stadium. Once the split occurred the road suddenly thinned out and first time I ran on my own for a bit. We climbed back up the road and headed towards the stadium but as we’d only reached 11 miles we had to run back past the stadium and round a small lake before running back up to the stadium again.
This is a little disheartening as you can see the finish area and people already running towards it, but you have to run right on past it…it was at this point that I could feel my calf and achilles getting really tight – almost cramp like. I felt like I had loads left in the tank but couldn’t up my pace too much for fear of doing some damage. This isn’t my A race of the year and I couldn’t afford to take the risk. It got to the stage where almost every step sent a pain up my leg, made even worse when we left the road to run round the lake. This was on footpaths that weren’t in the best condition, not good when your leg is on the verge of cramping up. Nevertheless I stuck with it, I knew I was on for a PB, but not sure how much. Somehow I managed to churn out a 7:30 mile just before the end and held on.
The run out into the stadium is magnificent – for a reasonably small club the stadium is large – Rugby World Cup matches will be held here in 2015 so it holds a fair few people. Nowhere near full today but enough to make a noise to get the heart pumping. We had to run around three sides of the pitch to finish – never has a football pitch seemed so big – but I managed to step up a gear and cross the line in 1:42:18 – a new PB by well over 3 minutes!
I was so pleased with my run, everything went to plan, apart from the calf/achilles issue and I know I had more to come. It means I go into Outlaw knowing I’ve got a good half under my belt but also know 1:40 is there for the taking later in the year…
I must add that the marshals and volunteers out on the course and at the stadium were amazing. There were loads of them and were all very vocal – although it helps that a lot of them were from DLRR! Having marshalled a few years ago, I know what a long day it can be and they did a sterling job. Some of the best in the business – and I’ve run a lot of races over the years to know that!
It does go to show that you can still run well off the back of triathlon training – I’m only really running twice a week properly under my GreenlightPT with an interval session and a long run but it seems to be working for me…
The medal – one of the best I’ve got in terms of design!
Milton Keynes Marathon Half Marathon Route