I was really keen to get this race under my belt not least of all because I hadn’t really completed a 20 mile training run and if truth be known really tested myself at race pace. Unfortunately a couple of weeks or so prior to the Ashby race I picked up a chest infection. This was a real nuisance and meant that I pretty much had to take off a weekend’s worth of training and try to recuperate. I got back to some light training the week commencing Monday 11 th March but I was still coughing up stuff from my lungs. Not pleasant. However, with the Liverpool marathon on the horizon I just didn’t want to take too much time off. If I could just keep ticking over for now that was enough.
The week prior to Ashby I managed a cheeky 12 miles with Gaz Chivers who is preparing for the Manchester marathon on Sunday 7th April. He was on great form. We ran along the old Great Central Railway in to Leicester. No traffic and a nice and wide fairly flat expanse to run along, only impeded by the occasional pedestrian or dog walker. It was a great hit out. My training was meant to include a couple of miles of 6.15 mile pace intervals but I only managed the one 6.26 mile before I accepted the fact that my lungs were not up to it. The following day I completed a 10 kilometre run guided by my lovely daughter Ayeisha. She wasn’t sure whether she could run the whole thing as the longest distance she had done prior to the Town and Gown 10k in Victoria Park was a couple of 5k park runs. But, credit to her, she dug deep and ran the whole thing. The sun was shining, and although it was a little cold I thoroughly enjoyed my time with her. A very special moment indeed.
I didn’t really taper for Ashby 20 other than having two rest days just before the race rather than the one day I normally have during a regular training week. With my lungs not quite 100% I was glad to have the extra day. I had two guides lined up for Ashby, Lucy Neamz and Neil Byford, or as Lucy liked
to call him during the race “Nial”.” He didn’t seem to mind.
On race day, 24 th March, Mary drove myself and Ayesha to Ashby and we parked up. We made our way to where we thought we needed to be for bag drop off. Mary thought it was the Leisure Centre and, I needed to use the loo so was quite happy to head off in that direction. It was already gone 9
am and the race was at 10. However, we ended up walking alongside two ladies who were also looking for the bag drop off who thought it was at the Ivan Hoe College. Either way, we couldn’t locate where we needed to go. The two ladies informed us that they were going to head towards the Costa Café and sneek in to use their loo, so, we followed their example. Once I had my comfort stop, so to speak, we headed straight for race start. As we were walking down one of the thoroughfares in the direction of the Bath grounds I got a call from Neil asking if I was on the way.
“I’ll be with you in 5 minutes Neil…not sure where we are but I think we are now heading in the right direction.”
Oh yes, I forgot to mention that none of us knew what Neil looked like. Anyway, he told us that he was standing near the bag drop off tent so that’s what we looked for. Except that Mary said that there was more than one tent. Ayeisha spotted someone with a guide top and wondered if that was
Neil. And, it was. He spotted us and walked across. All we needed to do now was find Lucy. Mary remembered that Lucy was blond so spotted a blond lady standing nearby and asked her if she was Lucy. Nope, not her.
I phoned Lucy and after a couple of call backs she eventually located us. I think that was probably the hardest bit of the race…actually no. Let me fill you in on that.
Instantly Lucy took control. I approached Lucy a few months ago (before Christmas) to do half of the Liverpool marathon with me as I knew she was both fast and had guided a friend of mine, Charlotte Ellis a very promising runner and ex-triathlete. So, Lucy had two credentials I need in a guide runner, speed and experience. Instantly she took my hand and placed it on her elbow and she guided me expertly to the race start. As we weaved our way to the front of the start line we approached a narrow section. A woman heading the opposite direction stopped dead in front of Lucy and I and
there was a stand off! Lucy wasn’t going to move. We both had our guide runner and blind runner vests on so the woman in question should have engaged her brain and allowed us to pass through. She eventually moved to one side. Lucy couldn’t believe the woman’s insolence!
When we got to the race start Lucy was to my left and Neil to my right. The idea was that Neil would help with drinks, gels and ensuring that other runners didn’t cut across us. As we got set off there was the usual mass start nerves. But, we very quickly found room and we weren’t really hindered
much by other runners. There were a couple of moments where Neil had to ask people to move to one side but we found our own space and pace and were comfortably knocking out 7 minute miles under for the first 10 miles. After one lap and a technical section jumping on and off curbs Lucy
asked Neil to take over guiding duties. I started to feel the pace at around half way mark but knew that my Ironman training would allow me to stick to my pacing strategy for at least another 8 miles. Lucy’s guiding had been spot on, pointing out the change in terrain, counting down corners and
curbs as well as encouraging me to stick to my pacing and enjoying the down hills. She apologised afterwards for talking too much but I really appreciated the feedback. I couldn’t talk back much as I was conserving my energy for the last push to the finishing line.
Around mile 14 Lucy took over from Neil again as he took a break in order to take a gel. She guided me to the end and I was incredibly impressed with her strength and positivity throughout. The last couple of miles proved tough. They were up hill and the longest run I had done over the last couple of months was 16 miles, and that was only a training run.
My final finishing time was 2.22.06. I’ll take that at this point in the season. I’ve completed Ashby twice before in much quicker times (2.17 in 2011 and 2.13 in 2014). I may never get to those sorts of times again, however, is it still possible for me to go under 3 hours at Liverpool? I will find out on 27th May.
In the meantime my next race is on Sunday 14 th April, the Rutland half marathon guided by Andy Salmon who is my other guide for Liverpool. I’m looking forward to that race.
A massive thanks again to Lucy and Neil who were super guides and great people. I really hope more people get involved in guiding and for more visually impaired people just getting out there and giving it a go.
MY MILE SPLITS:
1 = 6.58
2 = 7.04
3 = 7.01
4 = 6.32
5 = 7.00
6 = 7.06
7 = 7.09
8 = 6.55
9 = 6.34
10 = 7.08
11 = 7.32
12 = 6.54
13 = 6.56
14 = 7.19
15 = 7.07
16 = 7.21
17 = 7.07
18 = 7.10
19 = 7.28
20 = 7.26
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