My plan for 2017 is to attempt a marathon for the first time, so I thought the Bramley 20 would be a great opportunity to see if I could in fact complete 20 miles and also whether I felt I could go on and complete a further 6 miles at the end of it. My plan for the race was to run a little quicker than 8 minute mile pace (or 04:45 km pace for those who prefer metric!).
Before the race it was good to be greeted by a few friendly faces from Sandhurst Joggers, I’m relatively new to the club but I have to say what a friendly club it is!
The start of the race was a little chaotic if I’m honest, firstly a queue to drop your bag off at the baggage tent and then trying to fight your way through crowds of people just to line up in your correct starting pen (it’s a little narrow at the starting area). Once we got started we settled into a nice relaxed pace (much like a normal Sunday long training run), with a number of SJ’s running together (myself, Jim, Patrick, Kathryn and Stuart). Having never attempted any race beyond the half marathon before I found the race really sociable, having conversations with Jim and a number of runners from other clubs.
At around 6 miles we encountered the first hill which wasn’t too bad and then another hill at 8 miles followed by another sneaky hill ! Both Jim and I commented that this could be a little tough on the 2nd lap. As we came around for the 2nd lap, the 10 mile runners peeled off to the left and through the finish line and the field thinned out ahead leaving us with a much quieter 2nd lap. At around the 11 mile mark we encountered Erol Ali and in our confusion Jim asked him if we were lapping him (that kept me amused for quite a while!).
Running with another Sandhurst Jogger certainly made the miles come and go easier and myself and Jim were keeping a good steady pace. After nearly 2 hours of running together we eventually ran out of things to talk about so we pushed on in silence. I have to say I was getting a little bored of seeing farmers’ fields and winter woodlands having seen it all once already. At 15 or 16 miles we made our 2nd run up the hill and at this point I still felt fairly fresh so I decided to push on a little faster (notice that my original reason for entering the race just to complete 20 miles had gone and the racing instinct had taken over). Someone from Windle Valley Runners also made a break for it so I decided to try and stay with him to the end – eventually he ran out of steam after the next hill at 18 miles so I was on my own again. With 2 miles left I decided to give it everything I had left.
The last part of the course is clearly marked with distance markers at 1 mile to go, ½ mile and ¼ mile to the finish – seemed like a very long ½ a mile to me! With 100m left to go I even managed a sprint to pass a couple more runners before the finish line, finishing in a time of 2 hours 32 minutes and 35 seconds. Completing this 20 mile race has given me some confidence that with the right training (and staying injury free) I should be well placed to complete the New Forest Marathon in September, although I’m well aware that the hardest part of a marathon is possibly the last 6 miles.