Greenway Challenge 2014 Race Report

Hello!  Me again! 😀

So, since my first triathlon of the season last weekend, I’ve had a pretty full and varied week of training:

  • Monday evening – ran 10k
  • Tuesday – early morning “endurance swim” of a mile, followed by a 5k time trial at lunchtime (26:45) followed by a mile of Fartlek/strides
  • Wednesday – 16 mile bike ride (55 minutes/17.2mph)
  • Thursday – Freedom Tri run session – dreaded hill repeats
  • Friday night – Freedom Tri pool session (featuring cramp)
  • Saturday – first open water swim session of the year – 900m of cold, rubbery goodness

So I was fired up and raring to go for an off road, trail half marathon!

Not having ran more than 10k since the Brighton marathon 4 weeks ago also made me a bit nervous of the distance, but I was hopeful that I’d be able to pull a half marathon out of the bag.  I also suffered cramp during the swim session on Friday, and could still really feel this in my calf still – it felt like my muscles had been pulled, so I decided that I’d wear my rather fetching knee length compression socks, to try and keep my calves in check.

This is the third year I’ve ran this race, 2012 in 2:08:41 and 2013 in 2:06:11 (both Garmin time, as the race isn’t chip timed).  I’d have been happy to get close to these times, but my running buddy Tom was hoping to beat our time of 2:05:09 that we set at the Baldock Beast half marathon that we completed in February, so we agreed on trying to run at a pace of 9:30/mile, which should see us right.

Being nice and local, I had a relative lie-in, setting the alarm for 8:00, and got up, had a standard race day breakfast of porridge, coffee and a pint of water, had a shower, and sort my kit out, and Tom picked me up at 8:45.  We were there in a few minutes, and had plenty of to pick up our race numbers, have a drink, and a chat with some of the other runners.  Being so local, we both knew a good few people running, neighbours, old school mates, and club mates from Freedom Tri.

Chatting to club mate Greg about pace before the race, we said we were shooting for 2 and a bit hours, so we agreed to run together – Tom, Greg, and I – the Three Amigos!  Greg was treating the Greenway Challenge as part of a longer training run, as he’s training for the Liverpool marathon in a couple of weeks, so he was more interested in just doing the distance, rather than a specific pace.  He’s ran the race before in 1:44 a couple of years ago, so he’s a good bit quicker than Tom and me, but it was great to have his company.

A few minutes before the race, we headed off to the start, and started promptly at 10am.  The race isn’t chip timed, so the final results are all based on gun time, however, I’m more interested in the time it takes me to run the race, not including getting to the start line, although being a small race, the difference between my Garmin time and the official time was only actually 25 seconds, but in bigger races, this can be many minutes from when the starting gun fires, and you cross the start line.

The Greenway is quite narrow, so with a few hundred runners and a bottleneck over a narrow bridge, the first mile was quite slowish – 9:54.  We picked the pack up for the second mile, despite having to go up the hill from Thursday night’s dreaded hill repeats.  Mile 2 was completed in 9:20.  At about mile 2, there’s the first road crossing, and Sam was there waiting to cheer us on, and take some snaps – she was out on her bike, cycling around to support us all.  Here we are, the Three Amigos, me left, Greg in the background, and Tom, right.

Three Amigos!

Three Amigos!

We crossed Norton Road, and must have picked up the pace, as mile 3 was the quickest mile of the day, completed in 8:56, looking at the stats from my watch, mile 3 was also the flattest.

We carried on well, taking on the hills of miles 4 and 5 well, and saw Sam again just before mile 4.  The water station at mile 5 was a welcome sight – I was carrying my own water during the race, but it was getting warm, and I was rationing myself, as it was such a hot day.  We stopped to neck a quick cup of water, and carried on.

The next few miles were thankfully mostly down hill, passing the 10k mark in 58 minutes, we were on pace for our target “2 and a bit hour” race.  We saw Sam again at this point, crossing Letchworth Gate, and she snapped us again:

6 miles in

6 miles in

Sam headed off home to pick up our son Ewan, and cycle back to meet us at the finish line, so we weren’t to see Sam again on the course.

There are a couple of horrible hills when you get to the Hitchin part of the Greenway, but we managed to run up them, which is a first.  The last couple of times we’ve always taken a tactical walk at this point.  We did slow down a bit for the hills though.

At just after the 10 mile point we hit the second water station and stopped again for water.  There’s a road crossing and gate during this mile, so including the water stop, this mile was the slowest, and the only mile to creep over 10 minutes to 10:15.

There were a couple more undulations in the last couple of miles, but it was mainly down hill from here.  The last 2 miles of the race are on road, taking us past Fearnhill school on Icknield Way, where I went to school.  It is nice being so local!

We were soon back to Standalone farm, where the race started and finished.  Here’s me and Tom on the finishing straight.  It might look like I’m about to slap Tom around the back of the head, but I’m actually coming in for a high-5 from club mate Jackie – it’s the Freedom Tri way!

Finishing straight

Finishing straight

I completed the race in a Garmin time of 2:01:45, official time of 2:02:10.  My third fastest ever half marathon, and a course personal best of 4:26.

There were no medals or prizes at the end of the race, instead North Herts Road Runners give the proceeds from the race go towards Woolgrove School, which is a special needs academy in Letchworth.  There were, however, very welcome cups of tea and cakes laid on – better than any medal!

Here we are at the finish:



Not sure where Tom had wondered off to, but left to right, me, Rob Clarke, Greg Bowie, Angela Phillips, John Phillips, Paul Fairchild.

One slight negative from the race – the dreaded runners nipple from my running vest.  Despite a generous application of Vaseline, I was rubbed raw:



Luckily it washed out though!

All in all, a great day out, loads of friendly faces, and a good time was had by all!  Definitely one for next years race calendar.

Garmin time: 2:01:45

Official time: 2:02:10

Position: 151 out of 227

Here’s the Garmin trace for you stat fans:

So what’s next?  Well, next weekend, I’m taking part in a sportive – The Evans Cycles RideIt! Hatfield Sportive.  I’ve opted for the “medium” distance, which is a 57 mile tour of the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside.



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1 Comment

  1. Cracking race report (again!). And thanks for the excellent company – those 13 miles went far faster than any other run this year! Good luck in the sportive.


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