Archive for March, 2011

aka The Ashby 20 Mile Race 2011

Yesterday, the family, my running mates, and I headed down (up?) to lovely Ashby-de-la-Zouch for their annual 20 miler.

It’s a two lapper, roughly 10 miles per lap. I say roughly because you actually run about a mile to get to the start of the loop, so probably two laps of roughly 9 miles each I guess.

Gracie and Niceguy picked me up bright and early. Gracie literally bouncing up and down in his seat, as is his penchant for pre-race jelly babies…

We got there; got our stuff packed away and prepared to set off. Niceguy all the while telling us how little he wanted to be there and how unfocussed he was. Yeah yeah Eddie…

Gun went and, with my “PQ mantra” of first mile slower than target pace (6:26) fresh in my head, I clocked the first mile in 6:02. In my defence it is downhill.

What was my plan? Well last year I ran 2:13 (and went on to run 2:59 in London). This year I was looking for 4 minute kays (6:26 miles) which would see me through halfway in 64:20, and completing in 2:08:40. It might seem optimistic to aim for a time five minutes quicker than last year… But I felt it was on the cards, given my higher mileage this year – in preparation for a lovely 35 mile (well, 56km) sojourn around the southern tip of Africa next month. The Two Oceans Marathon on Easter Saturday in Cape Town. This was my curtain-raising test run if you will. I wouldn’t be running this long in a race again until the big day.

After the too fast first couple of miles, I settled into a rhythm and clicked off the miles in the 6:20-ish window. The course is fairly hilly (also good training for Oceans, which is even hillier) so my splits were varying, but as long as I was in the window I was happy.

Approaching halfway is great because:

  1. You’re nearly halfway
  2. Bec, Jodie, Abigail, Aunty Judy and Google were all standing somewhere between the 9 and 10 mile markers and it KICKS ASS seeing them when I’m racing.
  3. Bec has a tasty bottle of Lucozade for me. (I was my usual organised self, and hadn’t actually figured out any drinking plan on route, other than that they only had water at the drinks stations, so I might need something more…)


I cruised through halfway, grabbed my Lucozade, high-fived the girls and motored off. My split was 1:03:26, so with even halves I could hope for 2:06:52. Very nice.

The early part of lap two seemed harder than it should be… so I eased off and the splits slipped a bit into the 6:30’s. The legs also felt a bit heavier than I would have liked. But I reminded myself that I had done some heavy training in the past two weeks that was no doubt still in my legs, and also that if I was going to try and run 35 miles in a months’ time, my legs should shut the hell up and get on with it. I regrouped after a mile or two, and started opening the effort tap a bit wider going through 14, 15, 16 miles. I was catching people all the time now and each time it spurred me on, because no-one wants to be the idiot who tears past people only to have them trot back past you a mile later. From 15 miles on, my splits were all under 6:20, with my final mile in nice tidy 5:50.

With two miles to go, I thought there might even be a 2:05 on the cards, but the little climb back to the finish (once you leave the loop) was too much and I couldn’t quite step it up sufficiently to run a 2:05 something.

I finished in 2:06:06. A PB by a touch over SEVEN MINUTES. So how could I be anything but very happy? I was very happy with that.

(If 20 miles is foreign currency to you, it’s a 2:05:24 32km)

After finishing 12 minutes behind Niceguy last year (2:01 against my 2:13) I thought for sure I would have closed the gap this year. Nope, he only went and ran an eight minute PB with a 1:53. Incredible Banks, incredible…

Gracie, having just got back into training following some pesky foot nonsense, packed away a solid 2:22, keeping his London ambitions firmly on track.

As usual Bec and the girls were super start supporters. Aunty Judy and Google chipped in too.

After the race we all went for a pub lunch in Ashby, to celebrate our runs, and my imminent birthday. (The pub was called The White Hart, but thankfully wasn’t full of noisy Spurs fans…

Thanks guys it was an awesome day.

Here are my splits:

  Time Mile Time Projected Finish Time      
1 00:06:04 00:06:04 02:01:20      
2 00:12:25 00:06:21 02:04:10      
3 00:18:58 00:06:33 02:06:27      
4 00:25:22 00:06:24 02:06:50   1st 10 01:03:26
5 00:31:36 00:06:14 02:06:24   2nd 10 01:02:40
6 00:38:11 00:06:35 02:07:17      
7 00:44:33 00:06:22 02:07:17   1st 5 00:31:36
8 00:50:58 00:06:25 02:07:25   2nd 5 00:31:50
9 00:57:01 00:06:03 02:06:42   3rd 5 00:31:51
10 01:03:26 00:06:25 02:06:52   4th 5 00:30:49
11 01:09:39 00:06:13 02:06:38      
12 01:16:12 00:06:33 02:07:00      
13 01:22:37 00:06:25 02:07:06      
14 01:29:12 00:06:35 02:07:26      
15 01:35:17 00:06:05 02:07:03      
16 01:41:33 00:06:16 02:06:56      
17 01:47:48 00:06:15 02:06:49      
18 01:53:58 00:06:10 02:06:38      
19 02:00:16 00:06:18 02:06:36      
20 02:06:06 00:05:50 02:06:06      
  Ave 00:06:18        

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I went to watch the Inter Counties last Saturday at Cofton Park in Birmingham. It was a great event, hosted in a great XC venue. I only got there in time to see the Senior Men’s race.

In the absence of Mo Farah (who had other – indoor – fish to fry), Andy Vernon won it again, after a big lead group split up over the final two laps of the course.

I took some ropey video footage, which can be found here:

Start of the race:

First Lap:

Long uphill on Second Lap:

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I was prompted to write this by an article titled Mokoka aura of invincibility to be tested in Cape Town on the Supersport website.


First off, this should be a cracking 5000m race.

It is worth mentioning this because there should be a lot more high profile distance races in South Africa than there are. The talent pool is deep and vast in South Africa. With some structure in place, meetings held in the right locations at the right time of the year should be producing fantastic races and fast times – when at sea-level.

I can’t believe Shadrack Hoff is still motoring on after all these years. I have no idea of the form he is in but am very much looking forward to finding out!

Just seeing his name on the start list is a trip down memory lane. In the mid-90’s there was a great rivalry between Shadrack and former Witsie club-mate Hendrick Ramaala. (As an aside I think Hendrick will be the first to admit that his best running was done when mingling with the Wits Track sessions on Thursday afternoons, and on the inter-university championships on road, track and cross-country).

Anyway Hendrick and Shadrack had some good battles, on track and road, back in those days.

Fast forward fifteen years and Hendrick is still operating at an elite level, having “progressed” through the distances. He has enjoyed a world class and I do mean WORLD CLASS career on the roads, most notably in the half marathon (two-time World Silver medallist, sub-60 runner before the millennium – an extremely rare feat back then) and marathon (NYC win and runner-up, multiple London top tens). Unquestionably our most successful distance runner ever, on the international stage.

So it is fantastic, and surprising, to see Hoff is still at it as well. And he is still hitting the 5k track races “showing the youngsters how to do it” etc etc. Outstanding work.

I guess it is no coincidence that the two who excelled the most are the two who would appear to have loved it the most, by virtue of the fact that both are still out there testing themselves, long after many of their contemporaries are putting their feet up and talking about how good they used to be.

But to conclude with some realism. There’s scant place for sentiment when it comes to elite distance running. For the 5k tomorrow I fully expect Stephen Mokoka to show Shadrack Hoff that his time has passed and that it’s all about the youngsters.

Stephen, who finished one second behind Mo Farah in 46:26 in the 2009 Great South Run (10 Miles), and a creditable 8th in the World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham in 2009, could well – with the right career direction – become the heir apparent to the Ramaala throne.

But that’s for another time.

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