20 Miles, my longest run – a review

On Sunday 2nd March 2014 I took part in the Thames Riverside 20, organised by Clapham Chasers

In preparation for the Big Sur Marathon in April this was to be my longest run to date. 

Now, the lack of blog updates on my marathon training are not an exact testament to how my training is going, but it’s not far off. Commitment to exercise has never been my forte even when I have something this massive to aim for. However, I have been steadily increasing my milage, it seems to be the short runs in between that are lacking.

To ensure I did the long runs I signed myself up to some 20 milers & a half marathon.

The Thames Riverside 20 (TR20) is a great little race as in order to gain permission to hold the race they have to have pacers. The slowest pacer was 10 minute miles, so I promptly went for this group. I am very conscious of the time limit on the Big Sur Marathon (6 hours = 13.45 min miles) so need to make sure I can run a majority of marathon distance at a faster pace than the limit, especially as it has some killer hills.

As this was the slowest group I was pleasantly surprised to see it had quite a number of runners in it, and I hoped I wouldn’t be trailing at the back.

Starting at Bishop’s Park at Putney Bridge, the race started at 8am (which meant a 6.30am set off from Woolwich – YAWN!), with each pace group setting off within 2 mins of each other. No chip timing so your start time was based on the start time of your pace group, so I guessed that some people could in effect cheat and start in an earlier group if they wanted??

The race route takes you over Putney Bridge to the south bank, past the posh college boat houses (hence the requirement for the pacer) and you then follow the riverside path all the way just past Richmond bridge, and then back again.

Drink stations were position approximately every 3 miles, offering water & Gatorade, and heaps of support!

My usual shorter distance race pace is around 9 – 9.30 min miles, so I found running at 10s pretty comfortable for the 1st half of the race. Some of the early miles were quite a bit quicker than 10s, but given how hard I find it to pace myself I can’t complain. It was good to be surrounded by people who just wanted to get round in a set time and not feel overly competitive, except with myself.

The path was quite muddy due to the recent flooding, and I was concerned what effect this would have on my feet after splashing through a few decent puddles when I got bored (tired) of leaping over them. 

Race nutrition is not something I usually consider but given this is a build to the big one I decided to strategically try planning in a gel and what drinks to have when. Usually I will just take whatever is offered to me at the time. I decided I would take Gatorade up until half way, then I would have my gel with water, then back to Gatorade.

I think I needed to really plan in two gels, as I was already getting tired by half way, and when I hit 17 miles I started to slow up quite a bit.

I started to fall back from the pace group at around mile 17 too, I wasn’t too concerned as most of my miles have been well under 10s up to this point, but I knew I couldn’t drop off too much. The route also got a lot busier on the way back.

I felt fine in terms of breathing, heart rate etc, it was just my legs and back that were starting to feel the 3hrs on my feet. The last mile was easily the worst I have ever felt, my legs were like lead weights. It felt like I was going so slow, so was pleasantly surprised when I realised I was still within 10.30 for the last mile.

As I entered the gate to the park and the last 100 meters I saw my husband waiting for me and cheering me in (he had joined the 7.30 pace group and had waited in the cold for me for an hour – bless him – and he then drove me home!), I started to get emotional and then found it hard to take a breath – need to sort that out for the marathon!

I crossed the line in 3hrs 19mins 34s – bang on pace at 9.59 I was pleased! I was broken, but pleased!

Every finisher received a goodie bag filled with drinks and snacks, I was a little disappointed there was no medal. But for £12 I did get an extremely well organised, fabulously supported and enjoyable training run for my next big challenge.

My walking style suffered a little yesterday, but stretching out my muscles helped. So did the muscle soak bath I had once I was home. We treated ourselves to a pub roast dinner, congratulatory beers & sticky toffee pudding. Asleep by 9pm with slightly achy knees today but overall feeling good & positive.

I’ve got the Spitfire 20 in two weeks to keep my mileage up. I’ve decided to stick to 10s or maybe even 10.30s to just get me through and let it help me plan my race nutrition better.