What a beautiful day to run the trails along the Thames path. The 21st May 2017 marked the 2nd time I have ran this event, but the first time I have paced it. Not only did I pace this event for F3events, but also grabbed a group of fellow pacers to come and do it with me. This was the 31st event I have paced, something I enjoy doing week in week out.
The usual suspects all lined up. We were kitted out with tops by the organisers, and registration was relatively smooth. I had expected a flag or balloon for marking us, but in hindsight I’m glad we didn’t as this would have been impossible in the trails. We started off at the start of each wave, 5 minutes apart, and announced that we were running in 15 minute intervals. Nick ran 1:30; I ran 1:45; Gazza ran 2:00; Phil ran 2:15; Matt ran 2:30 and Simon ran 2:45.
At the start we spent a bit of time chatting with everyone. Unfortunately the pacers had not been announced far in advance, and people’s wave placements did not entirely match where we would start. I spent time going to each wave telling people where we would be positioned, and a few people changed waves to match their pacer.
There were some narrow sections, and a few slippery parts, but on the whole it was a flat and fast trail route. You won’t find a faster trail half marathon out there. With all the rain lately it was surprisingly a really beautiful day, and a lovely peaceful route. After about 6 miles there is a small section where you go alongside a road, and cross over, but then join the beautiful river once again.
With the waves in 5 minute intervals I did not find any point that I was held up, except for before mile 12 where the marshal tried stopping me at the road. I found this very strange as there were so few of us and usual practice would be to stop the cars, not the runners? This was commented on by other pacers too.
The course and day was beautiful, but there were a couple of negatives. First the water did seem a little sparse, and was in cups. This is always a negative for me, but often to be expected at smaller events. The main criticism is the course measurement and mile markers. The mile markers were spot on for the first half, as were my splits, as I was hitting between 7:50 and 8:00 min miles (required sub 8’s). By about mile 9, 10 the markers then were coming up too soon, so suggested we were too fast. At mile 10 my watch only recorded 9:90 miles. This is not the end of the world, but a little strange as the opposite to what you usually expect. I’m used to mile markers being out, but usually they are too long,
I had my usual 25 second cushion so I gradually slowed, knowing that even if the markers evened out I was well within time. Both 11 and 12 were consistently under by .10, so those miles I recorded 8:07 and 8:09 to even up the miles (if I stuck to my watch I risked coming in at 1:43, which is too fast). Again this is pretty standard when pacing, trying to match the markers but ensuring you are on schedule or under with both watch and mile markers.
I felt really good and settled into a 8 min mile pace. Told those around me they had plenty of time, and for them to just push on for strong finish. We approached the final bridge and I could see people the other side, so assumed you just crossed the bridge and then that was the end. When I crossed the bridge I still had a couple of minutes to spare and it was past 13 miles (although I did not see this marker). Then I started to panic, where was the finish? I started to speed up at this point and caught up with those who I had sent on. I felt terrible as I realised the time slowly hit 1:45 and I still could not see the finish. I came in a minute over, and my watch recorded 400 metres over. At my pace that’s 2 minutes. If the markers had identified this throughout I could have adjusted accordingly, but at mile 12 my watch said 11:90, so the last 1:12 miles was actually something like 1:50, 3 minutes longer than expected.
As it turns out, every single pacer had exactly the same experience. All of us were about a minute or so over, and this included us all speeding up at the end. Very disappointing, but we all did a great job. Very proud of all the pacers and sorry the course was too long. More disappointing that we have had feedback from other runners that it is normally over by quarter of a mile. If we were told this at the beginning it would have made a huge difference.
Overall it was a great run, and until mike 12 everything was great. I really enjoyed it and so did everyone else. I can’t deny the course measurements ruined it for me personally today, because it’s so important for me to get everyone their target times. I know all the pacers feel the same. But it was still a fantastic day, and lovely route.