It’s good to be back.
The pre-race nerves, the tension that builds as you make your way to the start line and the excitement as you cross the timing mat – I’ve missed it all.
The Milton Keynes Winter Half Marathon is billed as the final race in the calendar and this was to be my 5th time running this event. A slightly modified, Covid-friendly event may I add but it took nothing away from the overall experience and excitement you get from race day.
I treat this event like no other. Over the year’s it’s turned into somewhat of a family affair where I’ve been joined by Ruth, my sister-in-law Elisabeth and various friends – and we’ve all run together. It definitely has the feel of a social run over a race. No PB attempt, no training plan – just an enjoyable, social, chatty run which lets the miles take care of themselves. This year was no exception.
With the new restrictions in place, I was fortunate enough to be in tier 2 which meant we were allowed to travel and partake. I have sympathy for those in tier 3 – and by following the comments section on the event Facebook page, there were plenty of participants who weren’t allowed to attend. The race itself was split over 2 days – presumably to minimise the number of runners on the course so we’d opted for Saturday morning.
Joined by Ruth, Jill and Clive, we arrived at race HQ ten minutes prior to our start time, as instructed by the race brief which was emailed to all participants in the build up to the race. We were given a start wave of 9.40am and joined by approximately 20 other runners who formed our bubble, we were promptly and unceremoniously sent on our way. No warm-up, no pre-race words of encouragement, no jockeying for position on the start line. It felt a bit subdued compared to previous years but acceptable given the current climate.
The route itself hasn’t changed. It’s a lovely, scenic, single-lap route taking in parts of the Grand Union Canal and linear parks around Milton Keynes. It’s considered a fast course with minimal elevation other than some gradual inclines on the bridleways or the occasional canal bridge – I’m always surprised how the latter tests your calves!
Clive set off at a good pace – with a target time in mind whilst Ruth, Jill and I set out at a more comfortable pace with no ambitions other than to just enjoy the day and run to feel. With so few competitors on the course and limited spectators it felt like a training run but we soon settled into a comfortable pace, enjoying each others conversation as the miles ticked by.
At the 5k point I made a note of the splits and it was apparent that we were averaging 9.5 minute miles which was PB territory for both Ruth and Jill. Although still early on in the race, both Ruth and Jill had put in a lot of training miles prior to this event and were running well within themselves so we maintained the pace for the next few miles.
By mile 6 Jill was still feeling strong and with a bit of gentle encouragement from Ruth, pushed on ahead – her training paying dividends as she was running a near perfect race.
Ruth was also running well within herself – and on PB pace – and the conversation was flowing as we made our way around the course, passing the occasional runner and thanking the marshals who were well placed to assist if called upon. Considering how well Ruth was running, I’d made the subconscious decision to try and maintain the current pace up to the 10 mile mark and then reassess in terms of either pushing on – or holding on – dependent upon how she was feeling at that point.
By mile 9 we reached the only notable incline, or at least a sustained incline on the route. Once at the top, the following couple of miles were predominantly downhill and as we pushed the pace it became clear that the PB was a certainty – avoiding any unforeseen disasters! We briefly discussed this in conversation before settling back into a rhythm and grinding out the last 3 miles.
We crossed the finish line in 2:06 – a new PB for Ruth and 5 minutes faster than last year. An absolutely fantastic run and thoroughly deserved – and detriment to how much hard work she’s put in to her running this year. I couldn’t be prouder! There’s definitely a sub-2 on the cards if she keeps the consistency going in training.
Jill also smashed her PB coming in at 2:04, taking 7 minutes off her PB whilst Clive, not to be left out, smashed his PB with a time of 1:47.
A fantastic day and PB’s all round!
Well done to the event organisers for putting on a great event under difficult circumstances.