A week I have been looking forward to for some time as it contains my favourite race in the world; the Combe Gibbet to Overton 16.1M Cross Country Race, not the snappyist of titles referred to “the Gibbet” for short. It is a wonderfully scenic point to point slog through the Wiltshire, Berkshire & Hampshire downs, greeted at the end with cake and a cuppa. Still there was training to be done beforehand and this is what it looked like.
Mon: I was completely drained after running too far the day before so ducked the easy 5 miler to rest-up.
Tue am: Steady 7M around Wokingham feeling much fresher after a day off but not fresh. Managed to drag out an average of 6:19 nonetheless.
Tue pm: Another Harriers session this time a speed based session favoured by coach Richard which goes like this 75sec fast followed by 45sec jog; relentless. For me the rep pace was 5:10 +/- 2sec. The speed was hard to come but managed to hang in there as Martin pushed the pace.
Wed: A great early spring morning around the village of Ecchinswell. Just a breath of wind and gently rolling hills combined with birdsong and blooming flowers made the miles fly by. 10miles covered in 63:15
Thu: I think there was a morning run without my Garmin but I can’t actually remember as I didn’t make notes…too many runs all blurring together. However there was definitely an evening run when I was feeling way more tired than I would of hoped for which was 4 x 1M at half marathon pace, I managed to cover the reps in 5:43/5:35/5:35/5:40, the effort felt much more than it should have.
Fri: Another day another trot around Wokingham, just 6 miles on this occasion but it felt way too hard for what it was, a sign of pre-race nerves, fatigue or the onset of a virus, only time would tell.
Sun: The Gibbet; with a start time of 2pm-ish it was a bit of lay-in followed by a good breakfast and very light lunch. Standing on the start line with the other Harriers I was amazed to see Martin Allen in the pack, it must his longest run in years, great to see him back.
The goal was simple – WIN. The plan was to run conservatively until after Ladle hill at 10miles then ramp up the pace from there, however seeing competition I reevaluated and decided on a even but fast pace for the entire race. As the hooter went I almost false started, I pushed on across the chalk and around the puddles on the frantic decent and up the other-side covering mile 1 in 5:38, around 10s too fast but I was leading; mile 2 went past equally well allowing me to utilize my hurdling skills over a fallen tree trunk in 5:45. It was then as we started-up the first proper climb of the race that my hamstring tightened leaving me two choices; push through the pain and risk a tear; or ease back and run steady for the final 14M. In days gone by I would of pushed and torn the hammy (3 tears and counting) but this time I throttled back and let Sean and the eventual winner Ben Brewster past. A mile further on and Martin Groundsell came past travelling well, my whole being screamed stay with him, don’t let him past but as the ground went skyward the hamstring complained again and I was forced to let him go. This was how it stayed until the big climb up ladle hill when Simon went past and gradually added daylight up the hill, we both watched as Martin climbed like a mountain goat to create an unassailable lead over us. I was now in 5th and relaxed as all the big hills were out the way, from here I set about not loosing anymore places and enjoying the run in, conscious there was a Stubbington Green runner close behind. As we entered the final 4 miles my thoughts turned to catching Simon, the pace increased, the gap closed then the hamstring bit back. I immediately slowed again and cruised in to finish 5th (1st V40) in 1:42:30 a pace of 6:19 bang on steady. The Harriers ran brilliantly 4 in the top 5, 5 in the top 7 and 6 in the top 16 rounded out by Stuart, there was a debut by Hannah Bliss to win the ladies race in the closing stages, as daughter of the course record holder I think there may be more to come!
A slow 3 mile cool down to add to the warm-up and that was 20 for the day…time for cake.