It’s flat and it’s fast but I didn’t get a PB – Eaton Dorney Half marathon RACE REPORT

Hi and welcome to another one of my rambling blogs. An attempt to keep those of you who are interested in my training and competitions, welfare and happiness entertained and in touch with my life, which, I think is a little too interesting at times. If only I could slow down and put my feet up and relax…no, not yet. After all I have another Ironman planned at the end of the year!


Before that though I have to tell you about my little half marathon race in Eaton Dorney on 17th February and the training I have been up to in the run up to the race and since. It certainly has been an eventful few weeks, what with book talks to various groups, my niece’s 18th birthday party and a very very busy work life. Phew, I’m getting mighty tired just thinking about it. Enough to make me want to think about retirement. Oh no there I go again, too soon for that. Plenty of life in the old dog yet.


OK, so, The Eaton Dorney Winter Half Marathon seemed a good race to enter after having exchanged a few messages with Stephen Jelly, who had dropped me a line towards the end of 2017 expressing his interest in guiding me in a race. Now, from hearing his name on the triathlon and running scene I knew that Steve was a useful and quick runner so I jumped at the chance of being guided by him. Also, he seemed a pretty nice guy and he races fast cars…just like me (well having had my first blind driving experience in a Porsche I now count myself as a racing car driver). Steve and I needed to organise a training run as he hadn’t guided before, and it was just a question of putting my entry in to the race on 17th February. This particular course was ideal for us as it was on closed roads around the Eaton Dorney Lake, relatively easy and flat. Steve and I went for a quick familiarisation jog after a cross country race at Wallaton Park on 13th January and a longer run on the following weekend. However, we couldn’t hook up after that before the race as we both had other commitments in the run up to the race.


I dropped the organisers an email a week before the race just to check if they would allow me to have a guide and to ensure that Steve didn’t have to enter. I also wanted to ensure that the race director was aware that I was racing and as is often customary to mention to other runners that there is a blind runner and to give plenty of space to us. I got no reply. This was quite unusual as race organisers normally reply one way or the other. I wasn’t too perturbed though. No news is good news in my book.


A week prior to the race Training was going OK. However, I noticed that I was feeling a bit of fatigue towards the beginning of February and had to take the additional odd day here and there off my training to recover. I think that the principle issue was the fact that I was getting used to a new training programme which involved two quite challenging static bike interval sets, and, I still had to fit in 3 runs and 3 swims. Changing jobs in September from a very easy laid back work environment to a very busy and challenging role was having its impact on my energy levels. Although the job isn’t much further away from my previous location the additional half hour a day does make a difference.


I also think that having a particularly cold winter makes people generally more tired and susceptible to illness. I had managed to escape any colds or major viruses for a few months and was generally pleased with how I was feeling. On Monday 12th I noticed I had a bit of a sore throat. I didn’t think too much of it but had that nagging feeling in the back of my head that this could possibly be the start of a virus/cold. On Wednesday Steve called me to say that he had returned from the USA with after a family trip but wasn’t feeling 100%. He thought he had better let me know so that I wasn’t disappointed if he wasn’t firing on all four cylinders. I reassured him that I wasn’t feeling all that great either – better to get in the excuses now I thought.


I took Friday off training as I just didn’t feel like getting to the gym. Not like me at all. However, the for caste for Saturday was looking really good. Steve picked me up in the morning and we made our way to Eaton Dorney.


Once there we parked up and registered. We had around 30 minutes to get ourselves ready. I didn’t want to get ready too soon as I was fearful of getting cold, but, there was glorious sunshine and it was around 10 degrees. As we contemplated the merits of queuing for a porter loo or using a bush whilst standing in the queue with only 15 minutes to go, we made the executive decision to dive for the bushes. This is where the real trust comes in with my guides to stand me in a strategically discrete place.


We headed to the start line and waited for the wheelchair racers to be set off first. I jokingly said that I wouldn’t mind hitching a lift to which one of the wheelchair guys replied, “I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has said that to me.” It was all good humoured.


As the Race Director counted down and said “Off you go.” Steve put his hand against my chest to stop me going forward. “Not our turn yet mate, it’s the wheelchair guys then us.” Oops false start…pays attention Haseeb.


90 seconds after the wheelies had gone it was our turn. We placed ourselves at the front and as we set off Steve started to provide me with the run splits. “We’re going at 6 minute miling mate.” That was far too quick. I was aiming for around 6.25 minutes per mile. We soon settled in to a decent pace. Steve counted that there were around 40 people ahead of us. There was also a 5k and 10k race going on so there may have been some of those ahead of us. No matter, I had a pacing strategy which I was going to keep to.


The course was pretty much 4 laps of the lake. There were a few 90 degree turns and a few sharper ones but nothing major. The course was fairly spread out as well so we didn’t encounter too much people traffic, and where we did Steve did a great job steering me around or warning others we were coming up behind. Considering this was his first guiding race, there was absolutely no incident. The aid stations are always an interesting challenge. Aid station volunteers can sometimes be confused on what to do giving out water. I always prefer bottles as I haven’t yet mastered the art of squeezing the cup in the right place to pour the water out of the cup in the right way so it goes in my mouth. I always end up losing most of the water. On one occasion the volunteer missed Steve’s hand on first time of asking, but, bless him he ran up with another cup for him. On another occasion the volunteer didn’t get up in time to hand over the glass so Steve had to stoop over and pick up the cup from the table.


By the time we got to the third loop I was beginning to feel the pace and fatigue of all the cumulative training. I hadn’t tapered much for this race and my legs and lungs were telling me so. We were probably averaging around 6.45 mile pace. By the fourth lap I knew that I wouldn’t be able to pick up the pace much more than we had been going. Steve told me that he wouldn’t want to go much quicker so all was good. As we approached the last few hundred meters it appeared that the finishing shoot was a strange sort of curve around to the right and not a straight finish. I did notice that there was a distinct lack of atmosphere at the event probably down to the fact that this wasn’t a residential area and in order to spectate you would have had to make a special trip to the boating lake. I’ve done quite a lot of City centre half’s and the atmosphere is so much more exciting. However, for a flat fast course it’s not bad at all. My finishing time was 1 hour 27 minutes and 6 seconds. A long way off my PB, but not bad all things considered. Next year I’ll focus a little more on my running and see if I can get back to my glory days.


Since the half marathon I’ve been back on my training regime. Unfortunately I came down with a cold a week later after the half. Obviously I had something brewing which maybe explains why I didn’t feel so great on the day.


A big Part of the pleasure of racing is getting to know really interesting and nice guys like Steve. I got a chance to pick his brains about his racing car world which is so interesting. I also love the post race catch up with other runners and we got talking to a few guys after the race. One guy was so chuffed with going under 1.30 for the first time. It just puts everything in to perspective for me. Steve and I headed towards the Pineapple pub afterwards which he told me about before we reached Eaton Dorney and their amazing sandwiches. We popped in for a late lunch and while we were waiting a very helpful waitress brought my hot chocolate to me. Except it wasn’t hot! So I asked her to microwave it. She insisted on making a fresh one for me, and, again it was only slightly warm. I felt bad but told her once again to microwave it. Steve told her that the next one was going to get poured in to my lap! I believe a hot chocolate should be hot.


Back to racing and, My next race is a 20 miler down in Gloucester with David Chapman. I’m really hoping to get a decent hit out. My fastest 20 mile time is 2 hours 13 in Ashby during 2014. The same year I broke the 3 hour time in London. Let’s see what happens. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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