Tuesday, 22 April 2014

it’s been a while since the last entry…. Part 1

it’s been a while since the last entry…. Part 1

So what have you missed I hear you say? Well… Not a great deal to be honest lol

Ok, that’s a tiny fib as of course I’ve done a little bit of running and entered a couple of races.

Punchbowl 30, a few XC’s, St Peter’s Way 45, Essex 20, Colchester and Brentwood Half Marathons…

My training for my main race of the year (SDW100) had to date gone pretty much to plan and I was slowly starting to get faster which was my main goal. Well then things change don’t they! Things at work were starting to get quite busy and at home we’d decided to move house and that was meaning DIY during every spare moment.

The above combined with a few minor injuries stopped the progress I was making like hitting the wall during a race! I ran the LWDA Punchbowl 30 with Darren Coates and although we didn’t go mad, He’s a lot faster than me and I struggled but still scrapped a 30 mile race PB. The problem was that I also picked up a repeat of an old ankle/shin issue from over use. This meant running proved more than a little painful.

A couple of low key XC events mixed things up a little and as the distance was relatively short I didn’t feel too bad although I did run to/from these events and that probably was “taking the mick” a tad?

St Peter’s Way ultra

Next up was Challenge Running’s St Peter’s Way ultra. Starting in Ongar Essex, this 45 mile route takes you through some decent rolling Essex countryside all the way to the coast. This was an event I’d supported before and I was looking forward to experiencing one of the county’s main path systems.

Darren Coates and myself had volunteered to be tail runners for the whole distance and I have to admit I didn’t truly know what to expect as I’d not done this before. These event are gear of all levels of experience from the elite to the beginner.

The year before I’d helped at an aid station and everyone was well inside this cut off time so I did think it wouldn’t be that long a day? We signed in at the start and after the briefings the main pack were off. We gave it a few minutes then decided to jog slowly keeping just behind the back of the pack.

We soon realised that we might have given the pack a little too much space as we could barely see the runners on the horizon as little yellow dots cutting along field edges. They all disappeared again and we decided to floor it for a while and try and catch them up. The going was still a little moist in places so as well as the GPS route, written description AND maps, we could actually follow the footprints of the main group but suddenly….. NOTHING!

We were standing in the middle of a field and could probably see a couple of miles but nothing!, no runners and also no footprints, how can you lose nearly 200 runners? We were on the St Peters Way as we stood next to a marker post and the GPS was even bang on so what had happened? Darren had the written instructions (this isn’t meant to indicate blame, honestly) and reread them “follow path then at junction ignore marker past and turn left” oops!

Anyone that’s ever taken part in narrative trail races has probably done the same and skipped a paragraph or missed the section as it was covered by your thumb? Oh well, with a little investigation we’d realised where we’d gone wrong and also worked out that we’d end up back on track if we continued where we were heading so we set off once again.

Within a few minutes normal service was resumed and we could see the footprints once more. We still didn’t have eye contact with anyone so we once again increased the speed and followed the description until there they were! We’d covered only 5 or 6 miles and weren’t even at the first aid station when we could see a couple of people about 400 metres in front standing still looking at their instructions. We quickly ducked down behind some trees. We weren’t sure if these guys were even actually in the event but we took our duties seriously and took no chances.

This game of cat and mouse continued for the first half of the race and we entered each aid station safely knowing we hadn’t been seen! On the subject of aid… I must say the efforts of Karen Webber, Sue and the rest of Lindley’s team stepped up again delivering so much food I didn’t know I could eat so much!

Well our plan was going well until the guys in front were suddenly gone and from what we could see they couldn’t have lost us by increasing the pace as we could see quite a way in front? We stood scratching our heads for a second then decided there was nothing to do but carry on. All seemed well until from our flank we were greeted by our friends! They explained that they had made a wrong turn and that they were trying to get back on course. We tried to play it cool but they guessed we were the sweepers but we told them they had time to spare as we decided to stop for a little admin time, this gave them a chance to pull away again. It transpires that one of the guys was new to ultras and this was way beyond what he’d tried before. In some event’s he’d been “cut off” but the events are very user friendly and we explained that if they just kept going, they be ok!

Well fast forward along the rolling countryside eventually to the first sea wall at Mayland and everyone seemed happy. The team in front were keeping pretty good pace well within the times needed and we were casually following. I have to say I’m in awe for these guys as they dug so deep and were well out of their comfort zones but wouldn’t give up even when we approached the final section of seawall in Bradwall within a couple of miles of the finish in the dark.

They strode into the chapel beaming and we follow shortly behind. I was honoured to shake their hands and it was a nice touch for me and Darren to get a medal, shirt and a finish time and it was the end of a hard day’s work. I started the event thinking this would be a piece of cake but finished with a respect for sweepers / tail runners as the amount of time on feet certainly takes it out of you!

Next up… Back on the road again…

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Another one bites the dust (mud)

Race review of Benfleet 15 - Mud, Mud oh and some mud!

As this year’s race season starts to unfold, here’s a short review of yet another of my adventures...

Next up was a race I’m quite familiar with, the Benfleet 15. This is held every year in Essex near Canvey Island. I’d run this event a number of times and it’s safe to say it's a firm favourites with locals but recently its reputation has started to spread with an ever increasing number turning up at the start line on a freezing winters morning. The race used to start on the island itself then head along the sea wall before looping back onto main land, Hadleigh, Leigh then back to the island but for the last few years the course has transformed and what was a reasonably difficult test is now even harder as the race starts and finishes at the highest point of Hadleigh Downs.

No this wasn't me! (but it felt like it... wheres my shoe!)

I’d come off the back of two marathons in the week before so I really wanted to back off a little for this event especially as I knew this was going to be difficult enough so Mr Andy Hind was kind enough again to step up to the plate and pace me around "casual style". He’ll probably reply to this with some “cock and bull” story about other way around…. BUT trust me Andy, I was using you like a $10 errr anyway, you get the idea!

Well the first thing we noted about the day when we rolled into the car park was the weather. This race has two traditional settings “cold” and “even colder” which results in either "mudfest or ice mud" but today, the skies were clear and there was even a touch of warmth in the air. Strange but I assumed this wouldn’t last so dressed for a blizzard (you can see where this is going).

Anyway, we slowly walked to the start line where I got that feeling that every runner dreads. We had about 15 mins till the start so I jogged over to the “facilities” but the queue was longer than a Primark sale in Bas Vegas! I assessed the situation and returned to Andy telling him that it was in fact last minute nerves and nothing to worry about, was this mistake “number two” (see what I did there).

Whilst waiting for the start it was nice to say hi to some familiar faces including ultra legend Sir Bob Gear and we laughed to ourselves when we realised we were standing in the wrong direction on the start line. We didn't feel too bad as the whole field managed to stand the wrong way around but we were then off. The revised start is quite different to the old one on the island where the hardest part was climbing over “the hump” to the actual start itself without falling over. Here hundreds of people were sprinting flat out downhill on what I was told was part of the Olympic mountain bike course. Well I say flat out until a minute later when the course switched back up the hill and people were now desperately try to keep the running pace as we headed up vertically. I decided walking was the way ahead.

We were soon flying downhill again and I was struggling to keep up with Andy who was embracing the Kevin Wright downhill mantra of “brakes off, balls out! (eye balls!). I did my best to stay on two feet as we continued to literally at times “fly” down the mud covered slope. When we eventually reached the bottom of the downs and turned left towards Leigh Station though I was starting to slowly recover from the shock of the start especially as I think I’d lost a stone so far in sweat loss.

So far the only correct decision I’d made today was to wear my Walsh’s fell shoes as I had decent grip even though the going was terrible at times. As we jogged along recharging the batteries I finally drew level with Andy who looked in about the same place as me now. We were actually towards the back of the pack still at this point mostly due to our decision to start pretty much last but thanks to Andy’s turbo speed we’d somehow managed to pass a few people so weren’t doing too bad. We switched direction again and headed uphill and yet again I decided to employ some ultra running tactics and walk it. I could see at the top where the course switched sharp right that people were again struggling to stay on their feet and I chuckled to myself safe in the fact I was wear my “special shoes”.

We were both still together as we reached the mudfest at the top of the hill. Andy took the lead as he followed the masses along the same line but I decided I would use the special shoes to take the faster racing line. At first it was looking good, I had made up some ground on the runners ahead but this ended suddenly when one of my “super shoes” hadn’t brought into the deal as I ran along leaving it behind in the mud. At this point if I was near the finish, I think I would have left it there but with 13 miles still left to run I had to go back and retrieve it. After finally locating the shoe and digging it out I then tried like a wally to run while trying to pull the shoe back on! Why do people do that? Eventually I pulled the stupid thing on as Andy was starting to disappear in the distance.

I hit the gas on and managed to catch up my partner in crime. Andy hadn’t noticed me "throwing a shoe" and he laughed sympathetically when I told him what happen as we again started to climb into Leigh. This is usually one of the worst parts for mud but strangely it wasn’t that bad this time as they had placed some form of mesh matting for the Olympics and this made the usual mockery of running at this point actually achievable.

As we switched from mud to road, I had pulled away slightly from Andy but I pushed on for now as I decided to stop at the aid station for a breather. I have to say all the volunteers were amazing as usual and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many jelly babies in my life. Andy soon came in and we walked together out of the checkpoint on the sea wall heading to Canvey. It was a pleasant surprise that we weren’t greeted by the high winds that can be a feature of this section and again it was actually very nice. Andy was reminding me that we were starting to go too fast and I was grateful as I was feeling pretty good but recovery was the order of the day so we backed off.

It was too long before we turned off the seawall back onto road and got to the next aid station. We again restocked (more jelly babies) and pushed on over the road and along the opposite seawall towards the school on the island and the old start which was actually now the turnaround point. We were passing the race leaders running the other way and as always it was nice to shout greetings to each other. We eventually got to the turnaround point with yet another aid station where I ate.... even more jelly babies! We passed another marshal just after this aid station who was jumping up and down in excitement cheering on the everyone and giving out chocolate, it doesn't get much better.

I was feeling really good as we waved to some of the other runners who were still on the top section of seawall and shortly we were leaving the island, running past Benfleet train station and walking him the hill to the final checkpoint. You guessed it more jelly babies and a juice chaser and I was ready to go. I think Andy was starting to feel the effects of missing out on some recent training (he was still doing pretty good in my books), and I started to pull away a little but only so I could push the hills a little.

I knew now the end was near but I’d also run this modified route once before so I knew the finish had a huge sting in its tail. Well I thought I knew! This year the route switched to more sections of the mountain bike course but this time it was uphill winding up the steep incline like an alpine pass (well it seemed like it at the time). I got to what I thought must be the top only to discover that is was a short plateau and there was another “mountain” to climb. I couldn't walk up the last hill so I jogged up and over the finish line. Andy finished shortly after and I think both of us were more than pleased with the days efforts. I must of come away with some kind of jelly baby PB.

Lessons learnt? My "gut feeling" at the start was correct as the only brown stuff I was covered in was mud (I hope!) and running in the sun with 3 layers head to toe isn't the best idea....

A great day out with friends.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Tale of two marathons

The story so far...

It’s been a little while since I wrote about my general running exploits, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to catch up!

It’s a Monday morning in Feb and the morning after the LDWA Punchbowl 30. So far this year my main races have been Cold Christmas to Good Easter Off-Road Marathon, The Enigma Buff Marathon, Benfleet 15 and Punchbowl yesterday. This entry will be specifically about the first two marathon events and I’ll write something about the other events later.

Well I’d had probably one of the best Christmas / New Year breaks ever as I took a few days off just before Christmas to visited the Alps. It was the first time the family had been there and I have to admit it was amazing to see their faces when they first saw the mountains complete with snow at the peaks! A proper Winter Wonderland!

On top of the world with "the boss"

The above had been amazing but had also meant I’d had a break from exercising (probably not a bad thing) and when I got back we were straight into the “holiday feeding” mode… i.e. feet up in front of TV, beers and chocolate. This resulted in a great holiday but also some extra inches on the waistline.

I decided that I need to try and lose this extra bulk and also generally modify my diet habits. Don’t get me wrong I don’t eat bad at all it’s just I think I needed to operate a little "portion control" and also cut out some of those little treats as I found I was “treating myself” too often (does that sound wrong?)

A friend at work recommended an app called My Fitness Pal http://www.myfitnesspal.com/ and I started to use this but only as a rough guide to what I was taking on fuel wise. It’s a simple tool where you enter what you eat and how much you train and it tells you if your good or bad. Well I’ve used it for nearly a month now and I’ve lost 11 pounds! That’s the Xmas weight now gone and I’m looking to lose a little more before levelling out. So far so good!

Anyway, back to running…

Cold Christmas to Good Easter Marathon

Me looking far too happy at the start of the CC to GE marathon

My first race back in the new year was The Cold Christmas to Good Easter off-road marathon. This is a pretty tough narrative trail race from Hertfordshire back into Essex. I’d run this once before previously and it’s always a great event with lot's of local runners and hats off to Pete Tremain the event organiser for putting on a seamless race. I was still working with my running coach but hadn’t had much time to train recently due to being away / ill so I didn’t expect too much. I’d had a chest infection before xmas which wasn't ideal but on frosty the start line I actually didn't feel that bad.

Darran Hull and John Daly at the start

We were soon off and I settled into running with a small group of fellow club runners. I’d already agreed pre-race to run around with a couple of people and we all jogged along together taking advantage of the frost which had turned the water-logged fields into semi-decent ground. For the first few miles I stayed in the middle of this group and felt ok but did have to work a little in places to stay with the boys as the pace sometimes increased. There were 3 aid stations and I’d already decided that I wouldn’t look at the watch and try and just run comfortably. Before I knew it though we ran into the first stop. We all checked in and I filled my bottle, ate some biscuits and took a couple for later then were soon off.

A couple of the group had left just before us so the rest of us pushed hard for a couple of minutes to catch them. We were soon skipping through the mud again as the ice was now starting to thaw. It was about now that I first realised I was feeling actually felt pretty good! We were about halfway through the race and running along the River Stort so it was nice and flat so I started to push the pace with fellow club mate Andy Stroud who I was chatting to. We continued this for a while and all seemed good before deciding we’d better actually slow down a tad as there was little chance of keeping this pace going for long.

As we turned off the river and started a climb towards the M11 motorway, I started to drop a little and I was now fighting to keep the pace going. I didn’t say anything and the banter in the group probably kept me going at this point. I often experience lows around 15-18 miles so I took a gel, had something to eat and kept pushing knowing that it should pass.

I was starting to get some comments from the guys in the group that I was running well (control yourself Mr Brazier). I’d put in quite a bit of training before the new year thanks to my coach Paul Anderson and also thanks to my family (who let me do it) and I think it was finally starting to show. Well this motivated me to keep pushing as we approach the 2nd aid station manned by fellow club members Sarah and Malcolm and it felt great to see them. I’d dropped a isotonic drink down to them the day before and I downed the whole thing standing there and again ate some custard creams.

We all left together and I started to push again with Andy. After a few minutes we noticed that we’d pulled away from the rest of the group. We slowed slightly to re-group but Andy said I should try and push on. I felt guilty as I’d said I’d stick with my mate Paul but I was also having probably my best race ever so after Andy assured me that the rest of the group would be fine I pushed on again. After a few miles I headed into the village of Hatfield Broad Oak where they stage a well-known 10k race every year. It felt a little odd running part of that course but was good to recognise where we were for once and not just another farmers field. I passed a couple of other runners and we exchanged greetings and I soon approached the final aid station.

Inside the hall was an enormous spread of food and I tucked into some cake and had a brief chat with a couple of friends who were taking a break. One of the guys in particular looked as like he wasn't having a great race. I kind of guessed this as they would probably have been finished by now in normal circumstances. I left the hall but decided to wait for the guys I’d left earlier just to make sure one last time that they were all good. I didn’t have to wait too long as Andy came in and again he said everyone was ok so I was off. 

Paul Bridges at CC to GE marathon

Well there was only a couple of miles left and I was still feeling ok. As I headed towards Good Easter and the finish, the incline increased slightly but it started to feel like a mountain as the legs started to get heavy but I knew we were nearly done so I pushed some more. Somehow I managed to overtake a couple more people before finishing. Approx. 20 minutes faster than last time out. As I said, probably the best all-round race I’d ever had!

I changed my race kit and soon the rest of the gang finished. Everyone seemed happy with their times and I think everyone had a great race.

Enigma Buff Marathon

Only 3 days after running the Cold Xmas Marathon I was running this multi-lap marathon in Milton Keynes with good friend Paul Bridges. This was obviously something I normally wouldn’t do but I thought why not as I had some holiday to use so thought I’d go for a day trip to the Midlands.

For those that don’t know, Enigma is a small close-knit group of people headed by “Foxy Dave” and they specialise in multi-lap marathons (and I hope I’m not offending them) in my opinion geared towards people pushing for membership to the exclusive 100 Marathon Club http://www.100marathonclub.org.uk/ That said, they are always set in pleasant surroundings and I know they are run like clockwork.

The Enigma Marathon - Only 70 laps to go :)

We set off early to avoid any rush hour traffic and without any issues we were soon turning off the motorway and negotiating some of MK’s notorious roundabouts. We pulled up at a rather nice lake which looked to have a path system all the way around it. We parked up outside a near-by pub which doubled as HQ for the day and went in to look for the guys. 

We registered and I said hi to Foxy and I also notice a couple of familiar faces that included Rachel and Traviss, famous 100 marathon clubbers. As we waited for the start, Paul spoke to a few people he knew and they all sounded like seasoned marathoners including a guy that had done over 900 marathons and was scheduled to hit 1000 this year, amazing!

Well after the small group had been briefed it was a short walk to the start and we were soon off. Our plan was to run together at 9 min/miles for half the distance then slow down and hit 4:30ish, not too shabby considering we’d both run hard marathons only days before. I actually felt ok running around the lake in my Luna sandals and it was cool to see local boy and fellow Luna runner Russ in the crowd. I’d decided recently to try and wear the sandals as much as possible again as I’d “slipped” back into minimal shoes over the new year as the weather had got poor.

It was wet but the rain seemed to hold off thank god and Paul and me were chatting lap after lap grabbing the occasional drink or bite to eat as we passed the line. I again had decided not to focus on time apart from the occasional check to see what pace we were hitting. Before I knew it though Paul was telling me we’d completed 10 miles and despite looping around and around the same lake, time seemed to be flying. 

Socks with sandals - A classic look

Once again in no time we’d crossed the halfway point in the race and unfortunately Paul was starting to feel the effects of our recent races, I was still ok but I think my ultra distance training was standing me in good stead. We were starting to slow a little and Paul told me to go on. I was determined this time not to leave my “wing man” but Paul insisted I should run as well as I could. I sat back for a couple more laps before deciding that Paul was right especially as we could see the entire route at all times from across the lake so I said I was going to give it a little blast but I’d probably see him soon.

I opened the pace a little and settled again as Paul decided wisely to back off. I was starting to overtake people on this short course and this again served as a decent morale boast passing them. I got back to lapping in 9 min / miles and with a few miles to go I just wanted to see how long I could keep that going. I’d previously been lapped by the leaders and soon they were pulling up at the finish line to receive their medals. This again was positive for me as I knew the end was near. This was the first time I looked at my watch to see total time taken and with a couple of laps to go I was minutes away from the 4 hour mark.

Paul coming over the line to finish the Enigma Marathon

I wasn't fussed about the time but I thought I’d give it a go anyway for a surprise sub-4. I pushed as fast as I could but as I approached the finish I knew I'd just missed it. I’d finished 9th in 4 hours 53 seconds. I was asked if I was gutted not to break the hour mark, but to be honest I wasn’t really. Don’t get me wrong, if this was the first time I’d got near to the time I might have been more upset but it was still the second fastest marathon time I’d ever run and not bad considering I’d not started to race that time and days after another marathon. It was a great event well done Foxy and Paul finished shortly after me getting his sub-4:30 just as planned.

Me and Mr Bridges

Next time…. Benfleet 15 and the Punchbowl 30.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Never mind the Frolics

Well the day had finally arrived when it was time to deliver on an idea that me and a couple of friends had months ago...

It was one of those "spur of the moment" things when a conversation post-event turned to "well could we do that?" Well a few days later I was still thinking about it and I started swapping messages with the fellow ultra marathon runners Bob Gear and Darren Coates who I'd spoke to originally about the possible event.

I was sure that I wanted to create something different from the norm that would be remembered for being a little special hopefully. Also as all three of us were distance runners it obviously needed to be long!

The first thing I thought important was the classic... location, location, location. This would then lead to the distance of the event and everything else should fall into place? Well that was the plan.
The idea of keeping things simple was always on my mind so I decided that we should use an established venue as a base and what better than a pub! By now I had an idea of both race distance and location so this defined the available area.

Eventually I chose the Eagle Public House in Gallywood Essex. Based near the old disused horse racing course (which can still be seen in a few places). Gallywood is situated on the south side of the city of Chelmsford and offers access to many decent trails with the 20 mile Centenary Circle passing through here and the St Peter's Way Path only a stone's throw away.

I shared the location with Bob and Darren who agreed it was a decent choice especially they said as all routes back to it were uphill! I met the boss and agreed the date (27th Dec) and we had an event. I next started to look closer at routes. To keep things simple, I liked the idea of a number of loops using the pub as a base. This would be simpler to manage and would also mean we could offer a selection of different race distances.

We all decided 30 miles would be a good manageable distance and we knew we'd only get a small amount of people interested which suited us. We chose two different twelve mile loops and a small six.

I highlighted two loops which were some of my favourite places to run, The Hanningfields and Danbury. The last loop would be a short 3 mile out and back down to Margaretting. These routes offered a mixture of terrain, road, track, trail and at times full on cross country mud but we had an idea that would mix it up a little.

What I didn't really want to put on was a traditional narrative trail race as there are a lot of these every week. So I thought about other options and remembered all the navigation exercises I'd taken part in when in was still in the Army.... These were always good and were a "leveller" for different abilities as people would need to think hard about route selection as well as just "head down, push on".

Darren Coates busy working
Well everything was set. The event was advertised (but not too well as we didn't want too many people at the first one). But actually we'd had quite a bit of interest and I was especially pleased that there were entries from at least a dozen people wanting to do the 30 mile route.

Sir Bob Gear with Lead helper and IT support Alistair Brazier

On the day the weather had turned and the high winds over the xmas period had reduced a little but I was hopeful of decent weather for the race. The runners assembled at the pub and were handed their route cards with the list of checkpoint grid references. It was interesting to see another side to running events as instead of last minute kit checks, runners were huddled in corners with maps busy marking them up and trying to decide the best way to get there. Looking at some of the choices being made, I could already see there were going to be some different results.

The Strider Dream Team of Siddy and James

It was then time to start. For the first loop, most people headed of in the same direction (always a good start!) After a couple of minutes, Darren took off to man the first aid station at the 6 mile point at Hanningfield. The first runners passed through there after just under the hour mark which was good work considering the heavy going with all the rain etc.

Sean Ketteridge and Alan Smalls were leading as a pair but were closely followed by the Strider double act of Simon "Siddy" Bowring and James Neugebauer. All these guys were working as pairs and were also running the whole 30 mile route. 

The leaders were soon back at the pub and onto the second loop and off towards Danbury. This time the check points forced runners under the new A130 at Howe Green and through some routes that even the locals probably didn't use often! (route selection at this point wasn't helped by the fact 70% of runners didn't have the A130 on their maps!)

By now all the loop one runners had finished and a large number had decided to it a day here at 12 miles. This was a respectable distance for anyone and many loved the event so much they even covered a few bonus miles. Stand out runs throughout the field but picking out MEC's David Game's run coming in as first "loop one only runner" and the large team from the Southend Flyers did well also and were in amazing spirits!

The second aid station at Danbury was now receiving the leaders and it was still neck and neck between the pair from Colchester and the pair from Springfield. This looked like it was set for a tag team fight to the finish until a call came through to race control that Simon Bowring had pulled up at the aid station and had to retire, a real shame as he was having a good run and it looked like the battle of the pairs would be over?

Back in the pack the ultra distance runners on loop two were also joined by some late starters who were doing the second loop only. Pillars of Essex running, the dynamic duo of John and Lorna Pettifer were joined by Springfield Striders Richard Rule and Andy Stroud and they looked good to go at the start of their runs but I have to admit it was entertaining to see them all head off in different directions. 

Eventually the first runner came back through the HQ... Richard Rule! Richard had started the second loop before the leaders of the "full race" but had a great run with no navigational issues worth speaking of and had the finish time to show for it as he was back just after midday. Next in were the leading Colchester pair followed only 5 minutes later by James N on his own now.

First, second and third paced runners were all now at the pub together refuelling and checking nav decisions but it looked like James might call it a day here at the 24 mile point possibly? Alan and Sean quickly transferred their grid references onto their maps and were off on the last leg, after a few minutes joined also by James!

By now the first three places were set but local runners Peter Chubb of Springfield Striders and Colin Harper were still fighting the route and by now the elements which had taken a turn for the worst again with driving rain and galeforce winds. Pete arrived at the Eagle again and announced he was set to finish here. By now I was rejoined by Bob and Darren and we all told him he should definitely push on as it was only a couple miles out and back to finish. Eventually after a little arm twisting Pete left only to come limping back seconds later announcing he could "barely walk let alone walk." We all sympathised as you can imagine and hats off as he left again for the second time!

Last back of the long course runners was Colin Harper. Chelmsford runner Colin was using the event as training for his Marathon Des Sables (desert multi-day event) attempt in 2014 and thanks to a couple of minor navigational episodes had already covered 30 miles without even attempting the last stage! He'd had a solid steady run so far but decided to call it a day here as he'd completed what he wanted to achieve.

So it was just left to see who came out as winner for the whole event and it soon came back that Alan and Sean were through the turn round point first and racing back to the finish line. Crucially James had chosen a slightly different course to the aid station and by now was back in sight of the leading pair. As all the runners headed back to the finish James pushed hard on the steep muddy climb but was still off the back of the Alan and Sean as they climbed the hill back into Chelmsford.

Just as the result looked set in stone with less than 300 metres to go, the front runners took a right turn  and James took a left... James entered the pub and was greeted by with applause. Poor guy didn't even know he'd finished first. Literally less than a minute later Alan and Sean followed. 

Over 30 miles across country with different routes between all the runners had resulted in a sprint finish decider in the last few metres of the end. We couldn't have asked for a better result.

Well done to everyone that took part especially Bob and Darren and their families for their support. We set out to give something back to the running community especially the efforts of other race organisers and volunteers and I think we achieved that. See you in the summer when the Frolic team presents the "Race to the Basin".....

James seen here "overwhelmed with joy" at finishing first!
(by the way what hobo did you steal those shoes from?)