This winter was more relaxed than last year as I don’t have Marbella 70.3 looming on the horizon, but I still wanted something to train for so I put this (Thorpe and Egham Half) and next month’s Surrey Half (at Woking) in the diary.
Training has been somewhat sporadic with some injury niggles coming and going: nothing serious, but the usual tendency to run through any pain is being avoided and to stop runner’s knee flaring up a limit was placed on activities.
This is the first time I’ve run this race and the first time it has been run at this venue. The organiser claims it has moved from Thorpe Park because of the “better public transport links” – although this claim was somewhat scuppered as there was a bus replacement service from Stains to Egham and the majority of people I spoke to had parked in Staines and taken the shuttle bus.
Still, confident of a finish but not a PB I jumped on my bike and rode the whole 1.8 miles to the start of the race located at Egham cricket club.
There was a local rock choir doing a good job of singing, and the usual race village with various stalls touting their wares.
Arriving a little over an hour before the gun I decided (with some advice) to ditch the lower thermal layer and just run in a tee shirt. Glad I did in the end as it turned into a lovely day.
I spent most of my time hanging out by Full-Steam and eyeing the Runnymede Runners pitch – I see them out and about in Virginia Water and this is probably their local half – given the number of runners and supporters on course they were probably the best-represented club there.
The organiser had the usual “warm-up to blasting pop” down pat and we were then called to the start in our respective time slots. I was hoping for sub-2 hours so wandered in when called. Shuffling to the packed-bit-not-uncomfortable stage I was surprised to see the 2-hour race pacer well ahead of me. This isn’t the first time this has happened – I’m always slightly baffled why coordination between the pacers and the organisers doesn’t seem to be managed at all. Surely the pacers should have been called along with the runners rather than all starting at the front?
At 0900 exactly the buzzer went and we shuffled around the corner and started the run.
I know the roads the race is on almost too intimately.
Heading south on the Thorpe bypass we ran virtually past my front door (where my familial support was flocked) then right under the M25, up to the Rose and Crown and all the way back again.
Running parallel to the M25 isn’t what I’d describe as scenic, but the roads are mostly flat and even enough not to have to worry about the surface.
I managed to catch the 2-hour race pacer and left her behind – quietly eaves-dropping on a trio of Runnymede Runners and holding pace with them.
Surprisingly this out-and-back first loop consisted of just over 7k – about a third of the total distance. I was trying to run with a heart rate at about 150bpm but I was pushing the boundary a little bit – the pace was nice and even at about 5 minutes per KM.
The second third of the race took us up over the M25 heading parallel to the M25 again up through Stroud to the hill leading up to Virginia water.
Pace was falling off a little to 5:20 / KM with HR constant at around ~155bpm.
Hitting the top of the hill I locked eyes with a heavily tattooed man who took his headphones out and chatted to me like an old friend. I have a feeling I know him from somewhere.
The herd had thinned a touch by the point we descended to do a left along Hardwick Lane over the M3 and then right through Lyne. My legs were telling me at this point (14k) that I hadn’t done enough long runs at this pace and the last third was going to be painful.
Looping back past Lyne recycling centre it was up and over the M3 again, a mini loop past the Rose and Crown (which helped me calculate I was about 5 minutes behind the 1:50 pacer based on where we passed each other and where the turn-around was, but I had no idea how much further ahead of me they’d started – saw the 2 hour pacer just as they joined Green road so was probably closer to 4 minutes behind).
Under the M25 I got a high five and ‘Run Daddy’ sign waved at me from my daughter and it was back up the Thorpe bypass (parallel to the M25). At this point Sargent Sarah introduced herself to me – unsurprisingly we had a mutual acquaintance in Claire from Race Strong.
Last third was hovering around the 5:30-40 at a HR of ~ 160 bpm. Not too bad but something to work on.
Quick left right at the double roundabout and back across the line in 1:54:-something. Far from a PB, and slower than I’ve done in the last leg of a half iron man, but I did at least finish.
Across the finish, we were handed a random selection of swag – some ubiquitous useful (gummy bears, water, banana, medal, tee-shirt) and some a little more eclectic (Epsom Bath Salts?)
Official time of 1:53:12.
Standing in the field it was beautiful in the sunshine. Drank my free post-race recovery drink (Thanks Full-Steam!), ate the gummies, banana etcetera.
Next door one of the Runnymede Runners had a funny turn (chest pains, shortness of breath, disorientation) and was shipped off to the medical tent post haste. Then another one had to have a little sit-down and a drip. Then a THIRD keeled over and was taken to the tent. At least the medical staff are gainfully employed I suppose. Not a great advert for their club.
It was a nice run – very local and on roads that are usually too traffic-clogged to run along. I’m not sure I’d declare it as ‘scenic’ or indeed ‘flat’, and I certainly wouldn’t drive for hours to run it again.
So back on the bike and ride the 1.8 miles home for a shower.