Lydd 20 Miler
10/10 would run again
I'm definitely a convert to smaller races - £20 for entry to a field of about 2000 runners, a medal and some yummy sugary things to raise a smile at the finish line. Who needs another technical tshirt, 15,000 other runners and a line up of big flashy athletics names?
The Lydd 20 miler is perfectly placed as a training run for Spring marathons, a great opportunity to test out marathon pace and all that race day stuff (race-eve and morning routines, nutrition etc).
Both the Lydd half marathon and 20 miler take place at the same time on the same day on the same course. Everyone sets off together for the first few miles before the 20 milers steer off. Both courses are out and back which gave me the opportunity to encourage half marathoners on the way back in. I can't recommend this enough. For me, the energy I give in a clap and a 'well done, you're doing a great job' comes back to me threefold in the nod, smile and 'you too' that follows. Yes, I was focused on keeping marathon pace and yes I take racing seriously but you know what else I take seriously? The joy that running and racing has afforded me, and the desire to spread that love as much as possible. For this reason I'll always be smiling and encouraging. You can count on that.
Both the half and the 20 miler are out and back courses that wind through the flat-as-a-pancake marshes. Occasionally there was (very slow-moving) oncoming traffic to contend with and some interesting headwinds but in general it was great day to be out running, and an extremely well organised course.
My original plan was to head out at (and sustain) marathon pace - 5:00min/km - bringing me in to finish for 2 hours and 40 minutes. My plan tends to change right up until I start running and then again depending on how I feel. I set off at somewhere around 04:45 feeling springy and unsurprisingly very excitable. I made some friends along the way, a group of Hastings Harriers who I stuck with for the first 10km before they pulled away and two Rye Runners whose plan was to settle at my pace until the turnaround when they would speed up. At 14 kilometres still feeling fairly fresh, my plan changed - I would now try to go with them when they sped up at 16km. I didn't hang on for long. The plan changed again - 'sustain what you've got going' I said to myself, 'you've already done a great job'.
Off the Rye Runners trotted and I settled into a challenging couple of kilometres - no one behind or in front to focus on, just me and the twisting roads. Finding focus in 'noting' (see my post on this mindfulness technique here) I gradually gained on a familiar green running blob out in the distance - a Hastings Harrier I'd befriended earlier in the race. I passed him with a few kilometres to go and as I entered the last mile an even more familiar running-shape came out to greet me. It was the angular running-arms of Paul Bown, recognisable from quite a distance. Along with the Paul Bown arms came 'Would you like me to run you in or fuck off?' a fair question after 30km. Still feeling pretty good, I beamed my biggest beam and we ran in together most of the way, Paul leaving me to sprint finish ("I'm probably not going to sprint finish" is always a lie, I can't be trusted not to).
Fairly early on I was aware I'd make it in quicker than planned and lo and behold I did, crossing the line as 3rd in my age category at 02:37:06 and feeling like I could have carried on for the last 10km. As reticent as I am to set myself concrete goals, having completed 20 miles at 04:53min/km my goal for Paris has shifted from 03:30:00 to an optimistic 03:25:00. However, much more important than these numbery bits for me is the feeling of running strong, in control and totally present. I'm confident I nailed those goals too. Come at me Paris, I'm ready.
Keep running happy,