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Farnham Pilgrim’s Half Marathon – Gavin Loader’s view from the front of the pack (by the numbers)

Last weekend, I ran the Farnham Pilgrim Half Marathon. I’m a numbers man me so I did my homework well in advance. Hills at 5km, 10km, 15km and 20km mark. 354m of elevation. And, if I wanted to make the Top 10, I’d need to run at least 4.14 / per km average. Seemed reasonable!  

Come race day, I was my usual nervous self. I warmed up on the field, checked out the competition, double checked the map and my numbers – multiple times!

We started fast – 3.43 for the first kilometre. I was already in the top10 and decided that’s where I would be staying.

The race itself is quite amazing. The route is a mix of road and off-road; hills up and up, plus the obligatory gates and stiles. The views of the North Downs are stunning.

I found it quite hard to maintain a decent pace with so many changes in terrain. I’d also made an error and chosen road trainers. But, nonetheless, I had moved up to 8th place quite quickly.

By half way, the runners were well spread and I was eyeing the top 5. I really wasn’t sure if I could hang on, but reminded myself frequently that everyone was feeling the same level of pain and they would throw in the towel before me.

A few runners began to stop [or slow] at water stations and I considered this, firstly, a sign of their deterioration and, second, the perfect chance to steal places. This of course meant adding to my own increasing dehydration. 

By 16km, I’d reached 5th place. I remember a marshal telling me the front runners were 2-minutes ahead and I considered this to be too big a gap to close. I also hadn’t run over 16km all year, so this was now uncharted waters.

Gavin Farnham Pilgrim

But, I did close the gap. By 18km, I ran [probably too closely] to the chap in front who asked if I‘d like to get through. I didn’t need asking twice and moved into 4th.

The next 3kms to home are a really painful blur.

3rd [and 2nd place] came into view pretty quickly. I surged up behind 3rd place. Once or twice, I ran alongside [just to let him know I was there]. We shared a knowing smile [part grimace]. I tried to hide my breathing so that he didn’t know I was trying.  

The pace was well below 3.50/km and, as if I was having DeJa Vu, he asked if I’d like to pass. It took me by surprise. I didn’t really want the invite and I wasn’t ready. This time, I said no. I felt sure there was one more hill to come and I’d take my chance then. That was probably my biggest error.

The hill came and the effort I’d made to close a 2-minute gap left me with nothing. I tried to find some competitive spirit, but it was gone. I shouted to myself and turned a few heads on the local golf course with my colourful language. The chap in front knew I was beat and so did I.

With less than a half a kilometre to go, the gap went from mere feet to 15 seconds and I resigned myself to 4th place.

In the process, I managed to put together seven sub 4-minute kilometres and averaged 4.14 /km [as planned!]. Make no mistake, if you’d offered me that at the start, I would have taken it. Right now, I would have loved 3rd or 2nd!   

Nonetheless, that’s one more race off the 2017 list. I’m trying to race at every distance this year. Thanks to Sandhurst Joggers’ Monday and Thursday night people for helping me along. Next up is a marathon and an ultra. I just need to check my numbers first!



One comment on “Farnham Pilgrim’s Half Marathon – Gavin Loader’s view from the front of the pack (by the numbers)

  1. What a great write up! It felt like running along with you, which I could never do in reality. Would love to be that quick and well done with your placing. Full next year?!..


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