Dirt Running

This has been a very nice running week.

I did not train much during the week as I was getting some rest for Saturday’s race.

Monday I did an easy recovery 11.5km run. It was also the first run with the new Asics Nimbus 16. It is early to say if they are still the best shoes for me but they felt really good. I am going to alternate using them and the old ones for a while now.

Tuesday I rested and then Wednesday I did a bit of warm up and then tried to do a 5k fast run. I felt really good. In my old way of training I never did slow recovery runs like the one on Monday and I have to say, that was a mistake. You really feel energised by those easy days and Wednesday I felt really good, no pain anywhere, and did those 5k at a pace of 3:50 min/km which is not amazing, but it was all about feeling good for the race. Plus I had two pints of beer the evening before! I know, I broke my rule of “no alcohol 2 weeks before a race”, but I had to.

Thursday I did 10 easy km and then after work went to the pub again! I know, big mistake, but I was invited to a party, I had to drink.

Friday I rested, had pasta for lunch and dinner and went to bed early. This was the plan:


The race was a bit far from home so I left quite early, good thing the start was at 10am. It took me a lot less to get there than expected and had to wait a long time. I ate a banana, an energy bar and used the toilet before the usual massive queue formed. I hate waiting.

The day was perfect, cold and dry. The location seemed very nice too. On the way there I passed a lot of nice little old villages, all of them made of a couple of old houses, a church and a bridge. Loads of tiny bridges over little canals. Really nice.

When it was about time to start I went to take my place on the starting line, in the group that aimed to do it under 90 minutes. I was confident. My half Marathon best is under 85 minutes and I was hoping the trails and hills would not affect me too much. The plan was to run at a steady pace around 4:10 min/km but as always the pull of the other runners made me start faster.
After a couple of km it was already possible to see the leading group forming in front and gaining distance. I stayed in the second group. Last of that lot, maybe 25th.
The first half of the race was on flat, on a very nice towpath on a canal. It was not a trail but it was very slippery, especially under the many bridges. Being very narrow the path made it hard to overtake but after a while I was feeling so good I started running well under 4:00 min/km and started gaining places until after a while I was the first of the second leading group. At that point I went crazy and decided to give it all. I was not even halfway through the race and decided to dig in and run fast. All the time I kept on thinking it was a mistake. I could see the people I was overtaking thinking the same. “Where does he think he is going? Doesn’t he know the hard part is still to come?”. No, I did not know and did not care. In these cases ignorance is a good thing.

Finally we left the canal and went into the fields and after a while the path started climbing and I thought “OK, this is the end for me. I overdid it and now I will pay for it”. I was wrong. All those hill training on Kingston hill paid off. I slowed down a bit obviously, but not that much. I was not looking at the road. I just looked at the feet of the people in front and one by one I overtook five of them and found myself at the top of the hill and, cheered by the small crowd, I started running down. This is where the best part of the race was. Up and down this hill in the mud, skipping roots, jumping between puddles, running through cattle gates, in the wet fields sometimes with the feet completely under water. It was exhilarating and as I knew I could not catch the leaders I, at least, ran as fast as I could to avoid being caught up by the people behind. Really, I could have not run faster and I did not care that there was still quite a bit to go.


I was so into it that at one point I missed the correct trail and started bombing down a tarmac road. Luckily one of the marshalls shouted at me “Ehy! It’s a trail race not a road race!”. I laughed but had to go back up. I only lost probably 25 seconds, but one guy behind me caught up and we were entering the small path at the same time. I have to thank him for being such a good sportsman. He stopped and waited for me to get back into the path and run ahead of him. Very nice stuff. It was the highlight of the event for me.

We then run all the way to the end together. After a bit more wet fields and slippery wooden bridges we rejoined the towpath for the last 4k of the run.
Here the competition started between us, or at least I felt like it. We ran close to each other at around 4:10 min/km pace. Going faster was either not possible because we were too tired or we both were waiting for the other to do his move. We ran together until we were 500 mt from the end. There was a small slope there, very muddy and slippery and he lost his momentum and slowed down a lot. I overtook him and he shouted “Go go! You won!”
I saw another guy in front but it was impossible to think to accelerate at that point and just enjoyed the feeling of crossing the line and finishing my first trail race.

I finished in 14th place, 6th in my category, in 1 hour and 26 minutes. It’s a result I am really proud of as I gave it all and loved every second of it. I hope this is the first of many. I will definitely go back to do this one next year.

For some stats have a look at Strava.

Cannot wait to do more. My next race is a full marathon! Unless I find another race to do before then 🙂

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