I have run races with Events to Live before – the Molehills relay with Mum and Dad – and my experience there was one of a well run event. The Surrey Spitfire 20 (and Tempest Ten) on the 3rd of March further enhanced this positive experience with this excellent events team.
It was a chilly Sunday morning when Lyndsey dropped me off at the end of the approach road to the aerodrome. With some hesitance I stepped out of the car and started a slow jog towards the event. The start line was about a mile away and I was nicely warmed up by the time I got there. The aerodrome is an expanse of land with a few buildings dotted along the side, a hangar in the middle and the centre-piece G-BDXJ, the aeroplane from Casino Royale.
Race HQ was opposite the hanger in the middle of the field and I headed there first to pick up my race number and timing chip. The hangar itself was kitted out as a running shop. Event sponsors Run to Live had set up a few stalls, Mizuno were also in attendance with discounts on all of their shoes and the Guide Association were doing a roaring trade in bacon rolls, cakes, teas and coffees. I duly made my £1 donation and walked off with a nice hot cup of coffee – did I mention it was a chilly day?
As I went for a wander I spied a certain strongman run hoody off in the distance and went over to see Stuart Amory and have a quick catch up. It was good to see him again for the first time in a while. Coincidentally, I think they are finalising this years Strongman team at the moment.
Anyway, after a quick walk around I was back at the hangar where I bumped into (not literally) fellow club member James Adams, and after a little while Rajiv turned up and we had a brief chat before jogging over to the start line.
Without very much fanfare at all – or if there was, we certainly couldn’t hear it and we weren’t far from the front – the horn went, and we were off. My target had been 9 min miling for a nice easy-paced morning. As is always the case at races it was easy to get caught up and I was going a little faster than planned, but eased back to 8:50 miles as the streams of people coming past me started to make me uneasy. I was comfortable with my pace though and it was important to remember that many of these people were only running 10 miles. Heading out of the aerodrome and on to the roads around the pretty villages in the area, the route is well stocked with aid stations. Water and sweets were available every time and two stations were stocked with powerbar gels – I avoided these as they are far too gloopy for my palate.
Approaching the half way point it was important not to get carried away in the onrush of finishing ten-milers. Through another water station, and we were starting the second loop of the aerodrome. With a thinner field now, this loop was desperately boring. As the wind had picked up, the back straight, which is used as Top Gear’s test track, felt far chillier this time around.
The marshall support on the route was fantastic and I tried to thank as many as possible for being out in the chill on this Sunday morning. Over the last couple of miles I stepped up the pace a touch and kept strong as I continued to catch and pass runners. No runner came past me in that final two or three miles! I was remembering the advice given on MarathonTalk. During a race it is important to think of it as a tide, in the first half of the race the tide is going out and runners will pass you. If you have paced it right then the second half will be like the tide coming back in as you remain strong and the runners come back towards you.
The two lap nature of the course meant that in the final few lanes you can appreciate where you are and how much further there is to go, so it was far easier to gauge my effort and increase accordingly. Approaching the aerodrome entrance I set my sights on the next runner and continued to pick them off.
The finishing straight is a long one and the final few meters were lined by crowds cheering runners in which was nice. I finished strongly in 2:56:01 and was very happy with that performance.
Through the finishing line and the race organiser was there to shake hands with every finisher, which is a fantastic touch. Immediately, I had my chip removed from my shoe, I was wrapped, super-hero style, in a foil blanket, my medal was hung around my neck, and I was shepparded towards the chocolate bars for which I was very grateful.
When you consider that race entry is something like £1.15/mile this race is excellent value for money and very well organised. It has set its stall as an ideal race preparation event for the London marathon and I imagine it would be perfect for that. I had a great race, and recommend it highly!