Strong Finish at Chelmsford 10km for Final 2018 Race

My first 10km race in almost a year and half was slightly hampered by my persistent shin injury.

Having fully recovered from my eighth marathon I wanted to end my 2018 racing season by running strong over a new course in my hometown.

But I hadn’t been able to train much leading up to the event. The five workouts on my turbo trainer (amounting to 69 miles) and four training runs (amounting to 17.6 miles) were insufficient to give me confidence I would set a new personal record.

I focused on effort level rather than pace, although I couldn’t resist setting myself the target of a sub-40-minute performance.

Even during my warm up I could feel my shins weren’t fully healed. Still, as I set off from the start line I concentrated on passing runners rather than glancing at my watch.

A gradual, but long incline was my first challenge and I was soon faced with a winding road that undulated far more than I had anticipated (41m of elevation gain and 36m of elevation loss, according to my Garmin).

I continued to overtake runners who were breathing heavily after so little distance. It reminded me of my controlled, soundless breaths, keeping me from overreaching. I also focused on my arm drive, opening up my hands and keeping them from crossing my body.

The only occasions I checked my watch were when it vibrated to indicate mile splits. I knew I was on target for my time after I covered 5km in approximately 19 minutes. I ended up running every mile under 6:25, my fastest at 6:11.

Once I turned into the park where the athletics stadium was situated I tried to expel the last amount of energy I had. I doubted whether I could pass the final few runners in front of me, but when I emerged onto the track a man decided to challenge me to a sprint finish. As I accelerated the last 50m he stayed with me. I felt lactate rise in my legs as I made one final push to the inflatable arch, beating him by a second. I congratulated him with a hand slap afterwards in a competitive but friendly spirit.

Except for one runner who just evaded me, I must have passed fifty or so competitors to record a respectable 45th position, my 12th top 50 race finish.

The race was my first that started in the afternoon and the weather was crisp and dry. The atmosphere at the end was tremendous; lively and encouraging. I spoke to a number of runners afterwards, some from my running club, who praised me for my sprint finish and ‘barefoot shoes’.

The race demonstrated my natural resolve to push on during the uphill sections and hang on to overtake more runners, despite not setting this as a goal before the race. My heart rate was relatively steady and low throughout, revealing that I had managed my effort well over the distance.

But the lack of pain in my shins, except for the first mile or so, only compounded my overall disappointment; I feel as if I know my body less and am reminded that my racing season could’ve been even more successful. Nevertheless, it was a memorable race and one that only motivates me to fully recover and better prepare for the 2019 season.

Smart Pacing for my First Negative Split Marathon

22 October 2017
I was disciplined from the start. I let runners pass me as I kept to my strategic pace.
I smiled as I soon passed my supporters in the crowd.
I fought off a slight stitch and maintained a comfortable rhythm.
I sipped my homemade electrolyte drink every mile. Then I alternated my caloric intake with energy balls and dried mango.
I approached the halfway mark on schedule. But I reminded myself that the work had only just begun.
As I continued along the long, winding country lanes I adjusted my foot placement and effort level to deal with the strong side winds.
I began passing runners that were breathing hard, slumped forward or shuffling.
I reached the twenty-mile mark and knew this was the time to speed up. Only slightly, but enough to ensure that a new personal best would be mine.
Even though I ran out of fluids two miles from the end I had the fuel to push on and overtake more runners.
I felt greater strength as I continued on the path through the parks I had run many times.
I did not look back as I reached the spectators.
Then I turned into the final straight and sprinted to the line, overtaking a runner by a second.


Chelmsford Marathon 2017

Even as I crossed the line I knew I had not finished.

I continued to walk in circles in the park for ten minutes as I consumed a post-run homemade pea-protein shake, two bananas and plenty of fluid. I also stretchedI did not want a repeat of my post-race leg pain at last year’s event.

I also spoke to a runner named Alex, who told me I had inadvertently paced him for the first two hours, before he sped up. We had mutual respect for one another, and I know that he is the standard I must attain if I am to qualify for the London Marathon.

Despite the favourable cloudy and dry conditions I had to concentrate so that my energy was not sapped combating the wind.

I dedicated the race to my grandparents, who are sadly no longer with me. They taught me that hard work offers rich rewards.

There were many reasons I achieved my best marathon to date.

  • I carried my own fluid, which contained carbohydrate (in the form of orange squash) and sodium. I drank a litre of this homemade electrolyte drink, plus half a litre of water from the aid stations. This kept me hydrated and energised without needing to slow.
  • I also carried enough calories, packed with sugars and proteins to ensure that my stomach was constantly filled with fuel to use. I balanced my intake well so that I did not feel bloated or suffer from excessive stitches.
  • I kept a steady heart rate throughout the race, which meant that I could focus on my caloric intake without having to panic about an unsustainable breathing pattern.

Chelmsford Marathon 2017 Finish

I executed the race so well there were few mistakes.

  • I carried three energy bars and several handfuls of dried fruit that I did not need. Although not heavy they were an unnecessary energy supply that I could have better calculated in training. This can easily be rectified for future races.
  • I suffered slight niggles in my lower legs, ankles and feet throughout the race. Although they were not enough to prevent me from achieving my goal I could have supported my lower body better by wearing newer ‘barefoot shoes’. 
  • More importantly I felt I had more to give. This notion is always difficult to judge as the marathon requires many decisions, which are impossible to analysis individually. Still, in hindsight I ran the first half too cautiously.

The race was a success because unlike my previous six marathons I passed runners in the second half of the race, feeling stronger and faster than ever before. Perhaps I could run much further at 7:20 – 7:30 per mile…



Pain and Joy After my Third Chelmsford Marathon

23 October 2016

I wished my runners the very best of luck before the race.
Then we separated, ready for our own journeys.
I ran as though the race was a half marathon.
I soon found myself alongside a taller runner about my age. When he passed me I surged into the lead. This repeated for many miles through the Essex countryside, absent of spectators.
The battle made me concentrate on staying strong but by half way he was out of sight.
I was left to run alone.
Runners kept passing me as I fought back fatigue and muscle soreness.
I wanted the race to be over but it dragged on as I inevitably slowed.
I couldn’t estimate my finishing time as my average pace was dropping quickly.
There was nothing I could do but to endure the last miles until I sprinted the last metres to the line in pain.


Chelmsford Marathon 2016 from front

I went out too fast too early. Although this was my pre-race strategy my hopes of not fading too much in the second half of the race were naïve. Despite the generous time I banked for more than an hour I suffered even more pain than previous marathons, culminating in 10 minutes of post-race lactate acid in my legs. I had never felt so much discomfort, and for so long after any race.

Despite a huge personal best time of over 20 minutes I was disappointed by my endurance fitness. This was my first attempt to qualify as ‘good for my age’ for the London Marathon and had come up way short.

Still, I also felt pride as this was my first race I had coached runners. Three of the four that started completed the race, two of which had never run the distance before and had all achieved respectable times.

Chelmsford Marathon 2016 from behind



Adapting to New Circumstances during my Second Chelmsford

18 October 2015
Soon into the race I passed the sub 4 hour pacer.
I saw my partner at the 5 km mark located at race headquarters.
At 5 miles a female competitor told me she was impressed that I was wearing ‘barefoot’ shoes.
As I approached half way I took advantage of the water, cereal bars and dried fruit at the aid stations.
Although at 17.5 miles a marshal said I was the first man that had passed him wearing Vibram FiveFingers I was struggling. I switched my running style from forefoot to mid-foot striking, until I tired and had to accept becoming slumped forward, my feet rocking.
The muscle fatigue worsened.
I saw runners lying alongside the path to the finish, reminiscent of my first marathon. I refused to succumb to my feet’s desires to rest.
I then drew alongside a runner, frequently exchanging positions, until I finally crossed the finish line.


Even though I recorded a new personal best the last hour was painful.

I also experienced mixed emotions when I received both encouragement and distractions along the route.

I was inspired by spectators calling me “Wonder Feet” and “Vibrams”, impressed by my barefoot style of running. However, another runner, a few miles before the end, joked to other runners that I had forgotten my trainers and asked whether I had practiced in them (which of course I had). 

The route had been modified from last year for greater accuracy and less confusion. Although this was much appreciated, more of the course was on tarmac, which felt more demanding on my legs.

The race proved that everything during a marathon can be exaggerated in the mind, and adjusting to external circumstances is crucial for long-distance success.

Pre Chelmsford Marathon 2015



4 Marathon Firsts in Chelmsford

19 October 2014
Boggy conditions but not raining.
A light warm-up then I was off.
I completed the first mile in just over 8 minutes.
I kept a steady pace. My breathing was always under control.
I ignored the many runners passing me.
I focused on my foot placement, especially after treading on a hard object after two and  a half miles.
The route switched from grass to asphalt to gravel, through scenic parks and villages.
I reached half way in 1 hour, 55 minutes; a time that replicated my training.

I continued running strong, boosted by a runner praising my (former) blog that I was advertising on my back, and supported another runner by giving them some water.
I ate two bananas for extra energy, as practised in training, and saw an old running partner and work colleague from my time at university, who shouted encouragement.
Fatigue hit me at mile twenty-three but I overcame confusing signage to finish in the top 35% of competitors with a sprint finish.
My finishing time fell between my first two marathons, which reflected my limited training for the race.


Chelmsford Marathon

I observed throughout the race that many runners struggled, perhaps unprepared for the challenge. This was confirmed by reports that of the 1,900 runners signed up, only 1,020 started and 961 finished.

It reminded me of my first marathon, where the second half of the race consisted of painful shuffling.

Despite not achieving a new personal best there were many first-time experiences I enjoyed. The race was the first ever marathon in Chelmsford, a city 10 miles from my home. It was the first race I ever ran in barefoot shoes, and first in which I raised money for a local animal charity, the RSPCA Danaher Animal Home (£150 in total). Finally, it was the first marathon where all my family came to support me. The rain held off as we celebrated my fiancée’s birthday with a picnic after the race.

Chelmsford Marathon 2014 medal