This 20 mile road race was probably the only chance either Chris or I would get at a long run before the London marathon in April. It is part of the Lancaster 3 race series, and as my mother conveniently lives in Lancaster and therefore baby-sitting was on hand, it was an ideal training opportunity.
As advertised, this race manages to avoid roads almost completely; the route runs mainly along cycle paths out and back along the Lune valley, starting and finishing on the track at the Salt Ayre leisure centre. This made it virtually flat and potentially a fast race to get your 20 mile PB. However, I’d never run a 20 mile race and hadn’t run that distance since the marathon in 2011, so was fairly daunted by the prospect.
The morning was cold with blasts of sleety rain passing through and much time was spent wondering how many layers of clothing to wear and what food to take. After a lap of the track, we were off on the cycle path toward Morecambe. I felt quite comfortable in the thick of it, but my Garmin suggested I was running at a 10K pace rather than a pace I could maintain for over three times that distance. I forced myself to slow, which was difficult as runners surged past me for at least 3 miles until folk had settled into their own rhythm.
The first 10 miles felt OK and my split was 70 minutes – but I was aware of tiredness in my legs already so pulled out a couple of jelly babies and took some water to spur me on. By mile 11 I had been overtaken by a woman so was now in 3rd female position. The route turned back on itself at 13 miles and this was my lowest point – runners ahead were pulling away, a stretch by a fast road seemed to interrupt my focus and I felt overdressed and dehydrated in the brief spells of warm sunshine.
I tried to think about completing 5 mile blocks to break down the task, but by mile 15 stronger runners with a more intelligent game-plan regularly passed and dropped me. I maintained my rhythm by keeping the woman ahead in view, willing on the arrival of each new mile marker- and simply not-attending to those overtaking me.
Having run regularly in Lancaster for the last 18 years or so, I know the cycle paths along the river well, and on the reapproach to Lancaster at mile 18 this familiarity gave me the boost I needed. The woman ahead came closer and by mile 19 I was almost at her shoulder. I was planning on waiting until the lap of the track to pass her just before the finish line, but slipped ahead before the turn off the cycle path and realised from the supporters’ shouts that there was only 100 metres to go. I kicked and held on to my position to finish in 2.24.32 as second female.
Chris finished in 2.17.41 minutes in 44th position, curiously as an M50.
The race was won by Tom Charles, Trafford AC in 01.52.52 and female winner was Jessica Wilson-Young, Edinburgh AC in 02.17.50 who finished one place behind Chris.