2019 Great Baddow 10 Mile Race

19 May 2019

There was a false start then we were off.
There was a short lap around the recreation ground before I hit the pavement.
I knew I couldn’t sustain sub six minute per mile pace but the runners around me made me especially conscious.
I encountered several inclines and I could feel my heart rate rising. But I stayed calm.
Then, as I completed the second mile, the longest, steepest hill of the route inevitably slowed me.
I kept working hard and passed several runners. I glanced at my watch and had a dilemma; should I increase my effort to maintain a strong pace or respect the hill?
I found a middle ground within myself and ran. I knew there was a long way to go still.
By the time I reached a flatter section of road my pace didn’t return as I had hoped. I still had to work hard.
Before halfway I had to accelerate or be held back by a couple of runners.
Vehicles continued to whizz by me.
There were pockets of cheering spectators including some from my former running club. It gave me a slight boost but another hill loomed.
Whenever I saw my watch early in the mile, my average pace was promising, sometimes sub six minutes. But by the end of each mile the time just crept over the mark.
I kept calculating whether I was on track for a new personal best. I had to force myself to believe I was still on target
I took a sponge and water from two aid stations, never stopping.
I continued to pass runners, many of whom praised my strength.
Then one final hill faced me. The traffic was building from every direction.
I checked my watch and knew there wasn’t too far to go. I soon passed the sign for ‘400m to go’.
The runner ahead was too far ahead to catch now.
I turned the final corner along the straight to the finish line. My watch buzzed in recognition of covering 10 miles.
I sprinted the last seconds.


The Great Baddow 10 Mile Road race was the final examination of my training since the start of 2019. After improving my personal best for 10 miles by over two minutes 13 days prior I wanted to give any last effort I still had.
Although I expected the course to consist of hills, I wasn’t prepared for such frequent and steep undulations. I wanted to maintain an average pace closer to the Witham May Day 10 race and was on course after the first two miles. However, after the third mile, the fourth and fifth miles were too challenging for me to maintain. I am pleased that I ran the second half of the race quicker, and I managed a sub 6 minute mile in the final mile to finish in a respectable fifteenth position.
My Garmin watch showed that I had actually run the 10 miles in the exact same time as my previous race, which proved that the recovery and additional workouts in between races helped keep me performing at my best. The 25th road race of my running career was a memorable one, even if the traffic and hills made for a stern test of my physical and mental resolve.

2019 Witham May Day 10

6 May 2019

I held back from running too fast from the start line.
I had to be patient.
The course was undulating from the start and along country lanes with few spectators.
I kept glancing at my watch to make sure I was running under my targeted 6:20 per mile pace but not faster than ten seconds.
I ignored the first water station and continued to adjust my effort as I ran up the slight inclines, on the flat, then down the slight declines.
Runners ahead of me helped give me a target for which to aim.
As I approached the halfway mark my pace was controlled and within my target.
My instinct was that I would achieve a new personal best. I felt relieved.
I passed a couple of runners as I quickened my pace.
By the next mile my quads were feeling tighter. I continued to power up the inclines.
I wasn’t perturbed and continued to concentrate, largely running alone.
I grabbed a water bottle from the final water station just after 7 miles. I took a couple of sips and wet my hands. I then chucked the bottle in a nearby bin.
I wanted to push my pace, and I knew I still had the strength.
I kept a cluster of three runners in my sight ahead of me.
At mile 8 I quickened my pace once again, keeping my breathing controlled.
I passed one runner, then another.
Over the last mile I forgot about my watch and pushed on. I could hear my own breathing as a runner in front stayed ahead. The last stretch of road was the same as the one- and two-mile time-trial I ran in late March and early April 2018.
I never looked behind me.
Instead, when I turned towards the final stretch, a marshal congratulated me on 11th position. So I sprinted the last 100m over the grass to the finish line. I was desperate to overtake another runner and although I was gaining, I ran out of distance. The results showed I was half a second away.

Witham May Day 10 2019 sprint finish

I had three aims prior to the race.
First, I wanted to beat my previous year’s time at the same race.
Second, I wanted to run under 6:20 for each mile of the race.
Third, I wanted to finish in the top ten.

I accomplished the first two aims and was so close to the third aim.
Most importantly, I beat my personal best by 2 minutes and 5 seconds, which validates the 18 weeks of steady and progressive training since the New Year.
I felt much stronger than a year ago and am confident that my daily routine of stretching and core exercises, along with my consistent 30+ mile weeks, had the desired effect.
The cooler conditions also helped me perform at my peak but an injury-free race was enjoyable and highly rewarding.

Pacing, Surging and Pain at 2018 Great South Run

The 29th year of the Great South Run was billed as a battle of the Brits.

In the women’s race, Eilish McColgan, Scottish middle-distance track specialist, was running the longest distance race of her career, competing against defending champion Gemma Steel and in-form Steph Twell. 

In the men’s race, Andy Vernon was out to stop long-time rival and friend Chris Thompson from winning his third consecutive title.

Every athlete had their concerns, mostly fatigue due to recent races, but there could be no excuses. Portsmouth laid out ideal running conditions for the 10-miler with little wind and even some warmth.


Surge at the right time to test your competitors

The top women were together at 10km until Twell surged. She looked determined as she pushed the pace, quickening her leg turnover. Steel couldn’t respond, and for the next mile it looked as if McColgan was almost beat. But she hung on, and by 8 miles they were side by side again. At the start of the final mile McColgan turned the tables on Twell and made a decisive move. Her lofty, bouncy stride was majestic as she stormed to an impressive victory.

Vernon executed a similar tactic to Twell, trying to break Thompson early in the race. By 5km through to 10km Vernon was staying ahead of Thompson. But no discernible gap had formed, so when Thompson surged before 7 miles, Vernon couldn’t respond, and instead focused on maintaining second place.

Don’t show your best move too early

It’s easy to think that Twell and Vernon made a tactical error, forcing the pace early in the race. However, when you consider that McColgan had never raced beyond 10km, and Thompson felt heavy in his legs from the recent win at the Great Scottish Half Marathon in late September, Twell and Vernon were smart.

The problem was McColgan and Thompson had that slight advantage in persistence and endurance that the 10 mile distance requires.

Although it appeared to play into McColgan and Thompson’s hands, if they had any weaknesses, the strong pace early on would have given them too much to claw back. As it was, McColgan and Thompson not only dealt with the early leaders’ surges, they had the superior strength to counter-surge when Vernon and Twell were starting to fatigue from their unsuccessful breakaways.

Pain is easier to take when achieving your goals

David Moorcroft, the former 5,000m world record holder, remarked in commentary that pain is more bearable when winning. This was certainly the case for both champions; visibly fatigued but still running strong and fast during the final mile of race.

But their efforts were rewarded with new personal bests and impressive victories; Thompson gaining his third successive title and McColgan following in her mother’s two victories in the mid-1990s.


Although the 20,000+ recreational runners weren’t able to experience the highs (and lows) of running at the front, they could execute similar strategies to the elite field.

Runners should play to their strengths; if they know they can endure (and not slow in the final stages of the race), then they must be disciplined early on. If, however, they feel their speed is their best attribute, then getting through two-thirds of the race at a fast pace can allow sheer determination to kick in until the finish.

Either way, runners must embrace the pain of muscle soreness and keep believing that the end is in sight. After all, a new personal best is never that far away when the conditions are right.


Running 10 Miles Home

7 May 2018
A runner in front of me pulled up just after two miles.
Two other runners passed me early.
I stayed composed, focusing on forefoot striking and taking water from the aid stations.
Before five miles, a fellow club runner who was marshalling told me I was in twelfth position.
I now had greater motivation to work hard.
On one of the steeper inclines, I passed one runner.
I told him he was running great, and he returned the compliment.
My pace remained consistent. I was encouraged that the runner in front was getting slightly closer.
I knew I could chase him down if I patient enough.
I picked up the pace, confident that he wouldn’t respond.
As I passed him I again congratulated him on his running.
His heavy breathing boosted my chances.
I was now in tenth position.
As the temperature appeared to rise I kept drinking water and pouring it over my head and back.
I kept glancing at my sports watch over the last two miles.
I knew the route back. It was the same as the one- and two-mile time-trial I had run in late March and early April.
I looked behind and found I hadn’t extended my lead.
I asked myself how much did I want a top ten finish.
I responded by executing a couple of surges around the 6:00 per mile pace, and knew I had succeeded as I sprinted the last 100m over the grass of the rugby fields where I had started the race.

I had four aims prior to the race.
First, I wanted a top twenty finish.
Second, I wanted to be the first runner from my club to cross the line.
Third, I wanted to run my club’s gold standard of 1:01:58 for the 10 mile distance.
Fourth, I wanted to run under 1:00:00, equivalent to 6:00 per mile pacing.
I accomplished the first two aims, finishing in the top ten for only the second time. The first time was almost two years ago.

I ran 1:03:25, which was a respectable time when considering the heat. I was pleased to have represented my club admirably, and after volunteering pre-race. I assisted in directing vehicles to park. This meant an early start, but none of my pre-race warm-up, hydration and nutrition were negatively affected. I was thankful that I could help my running club organise a well-received race.

On reflection, my race performance was predictable. My training since my One Mile Challenge had been limited, especially miles at my intended race pace.

Still, I feel I earnt my finisher’s t-shirt, and enjoyed a distance I had never raced before, relying on my mental strength to guide me home.

Staying Patient (Week 4)

23-29 April 2018

Despite my best intentions I didn’t find the energy to build on last week’s increased mileage.

Much of the week consisted of staying realistic about my chances in my upcoming race and keeping my body healthy.

Lesson #7: Don’t push the pace unless you can

Ideally, the week would have consisted of more miles at my intended race pace*. Except for the first two miles of Wednesday’s (25th April) run my pace was not close.

The effort required to get up to speed would not have been worth it, as I didn’t feel confident I could sustain it. Rather than risk injury, especially in wet conditions, and further discouragement I focused on slower-paced miles**. The 27.45 miles I covered in five days was beneficial to keep my legs and my mind active without much stress.

Approaching my taper week, the most important aspects of my training are now remaining injury-free and eager for the challenge ahead. As I developed some tightness in my left calf muscle I now must ease off to ensure full recovery before race day.

Lesson #8: It’s not always about times or distances

On Sunday (29th April), a week after the 2018 London Marathon, I purposefully ran 3.7 miles.

I thought of Matt Campbell, the man who collapsed and died 22.5 miles into the capital’s most iconic race. The sadness of his death reminded me that although running performances  are important for motivation it’s the sport itself that should bring the most joy.

Sometimes times, distances, races and medals are not important. Instead, all the support, globally and from non-runners, has the greatest impact. Unfortunately, mass participation events in relatively hot conditions will very likely result in casualties, but the best of people often shines through.


I took two rest days, on Tuesday and Thursday, and will now look to stretch and rest before my first 10 mile race in a week’s time.

10 mile Training: Week 4

* The race pace I am still hoping for is 6:00 per mile.
** This is equivalent to a pace of 6:30-8:30 per mile.

Building Mileage (Week 3)

16-22 April 2018

I knew I had to focus on increasing my weekly mileage. Reducing the number of rest days would also develop my leg muscles quicker, although I had to be careful due to a recent minor injury.

I believe I found a productive balance.

Lesson #5: You are stronger than you think you are

On Friday (20 April) I wanted to test myself over a distance that was close to 10 miles. I had doubts that I would find it comfortable.

I chose 8 miles and, although I started strong, I did not expect to be particularly consistent. But I was.

The miles seemed to fly by and I was pleased to finish, knowing that 10 miles would not be difficult to cover in a few weeks’ time. Although I have not demonstrated my race pace for an extended period I ran five days in a row, building my mileage sensibly by running some at an easier pace. My legs did ache at times but not enough for me to worry about injury.

This proved that my endurance is progressing and I am still on track for my future running goals. Psychologically the ‘long’ runs were a boost.

Lesson #6: Running on grass can sap your energy at high speeds

I ran my only interval workout on Monday (16 April). I ran 4x 1 mile at race pace* with 3:30 walking recoveries. Only the last mile rep fell below my race pace but the I feel I met my target.

However, the interval workout was challenging. Each rep was two laps around my local park, and after the first minute of each rep my effort level increased significantly. Despite the consistent pacing I was clinging on at the end of the reps.

My One Mile Challenge taught me that although grass is a kinder surface than road for bones and ligaments, a runner has to work harder to generate the same power from the ground. This means that for speed workouts the pace can be lower than expected.

I knew I was hitting my target pace because I allowed for this. So rather than be disappointed I was satisfied with a tough workout.

Excluding the interval workout I accumulated over 27.3 miles during the week, of which 12 miles were ran at less than a minute slower than race pace**. The remaining miles were run at a comfortable endurance pace***.

My only rest day was Tuesday.


10 Mile Training: Week 3

* The race pace I am still hoping for is 6:00 per mile.
** This is equivalent to a pace of 6:30-7:00 per mile.
*** This is equivalent to slower than 7:00 per mile pace.

Reducing Training Stress (Week 2)

9-15 April 2018

Transitioning from my One Mile Challenge to endurance-based training has resulted in a minor injury. I was therefore forced to take more rest days than I had planned.

Still, this made me more determined and focused to gain the most from my limited training.

Lesson #3: Never ignore your gut instincts

The purpose of my first workout of the week on Monday (9 April) was to accumulate more miles at race pace*. Like last week the tempo threshold run was tougher than I had wanted it to be. Still, I ran 4x 1 mile at race pace with ¼ mile recovery jogs** in between.

I knew that I needed to rest but because I coached in the evening, and the following two days, I knew I had to be sensible. As I often run to the start of my coaching sessions I found the extra effort resulted in increased pain in my lower legs.

Although I was fully aware that rest was essential I decided to ignore it. This set my training back a couple of days. Therefore I learnt that a more sensible approach would have been to modify my own workouts to factor in extra, but less structured activity.

Lesson #4: Running on grass can aid recovery

On Sunday (15 April) I ran simply to stretch my legs and test my MTSS injury, which was made worse by the club run I committed to on Thursday (12 April). The club workout was 30x 30 seconds of fast pace running*** with 30 seconds of jogging recoveries in between. The high impact of running on the pavement did not support my training. Instead I realised that these faster workouts are not what I need in the build-up to my 10 mile race.

So instead, on the last day of the week, I purposefully ran on grass, striking the ground with my mid-foot rather than forefoot. These modifications ensured that my leg muscles received a workout but without excessive stress.

Psychologically, the run gave me confidence because I felt positive about my injury. Also, because there was less focus on maintaining a particular pace I could enjoy the countryside around me.

During the week I ran 4.25 miles on Friday and 4.6 miles on Sunday at recovery pace** to build my endurance. My rest days were Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. My mile repeats on Monday and interval workout on Thursday amounted to 6.95 miles at race pace or quicker.


10 Mile Training: Week 2

* An appropriate pace range for me to support my race goal is 6:00-6:30 per mile.
** My recovery pace this week (including warm-up and cool down) is any pace slower than 8:50 per mile.
*** Interval training for me this week is any pace faster than 5:30 per mile.

Two Reflections on Transitioning to Endurance Training (Week 1)

3-8 April 2018

After last week’s success of breaking multiple personal records from ¼ mile to 2 miles my focus switched to endurance. My next race, 5 weeks away, is a local 10 mile race.

So from Wednesday I began accumulating miles in preparation for my attempt at running under an hour, equivalent to less than 6:00 per mile pace.

Lesson #1: Sometimes you need to change your workout during it

I intended my first workout of my 10-mile training (on Wednesday 4 April) to be a 10k time-trial. However, after a mile at race pace* I realised my legs had not fully recovered from my mile time-trials so after another mile at race pace I altered my workout.
Instead, I completed a 1-mile jogging recovery**.
Then I ran another two miles at race pace.

Although I did not accomplish what I originally set out, I modified it to reflect my current fitness level. I therefore accumulated 4 miles in the pace range I desired as opposed to 2 miles (as my pace would have progressively slowed if I had not had a recovery).

The workout proved to me that runners need to prioritise the overall purpose of a workout (in my case to accumulate as many miles at race pace) rather than any preconceived plan. As a result training will be maximised.

Lesson #2: A running nickname can reflect important developments

On Thursday (5 April) I ran a quality session*** with my running club. As there is a greater amount of daylight I chose to run in my black running jacket.
I led the session from the start, running 2,3,4,5,4,3 and 2 minutes quicker than race pace with half the time of the intervals as jogging recoveries.
One coach called me the ‘Black Assassin’, later the ‘Silent Assassin’.

More important than obtaining another positive nickname is the observation that my forefoot strike in my Vibram FiveFingers barefoot shoes is quiet. This suggests the lightness on my feet has transferred to efficient speed. This style of running feels so natural to me that my calf muscles are fatigue resilient.

The nickname reminds me of the hard work I have made with calf raises and committing to barefoot shoes.

I also ran 4.4 miles on Friday and 6.4 miles on Sunday 30-90 seconds slower per mile**** than race pace to build my endurance. My rest days were Tuesday and Saturday.


10 Mile Training: Week 1

* An appropriate pace range for me to support my race pace goal is 6:00-6:30 per mile.
** My recovery pace (including warm-up and cool down) is any pace slower than 9:00 per mile.
*** Interval training for me is any pace faster than 6:00 per mile.
**** This is equivalent to 6:30-8:00 per mile.