A month since my last blog, and it hasn’t quite been the month I was expecting after coming off probably the most successful two-month training period of my life. About 4-5 days out from the British Universities Cross-Country I came down with a cough that steadily got worse and became chesty towards the race. With this being the target race of the winter, I obviously ‘made a go of it’, and looking back should have just not bothered. I got to about the first mile and everything held up OK in the lead group, but then my chest started to burn and I was struggling to breath. As soon as I started going backwards my head just dropped and I stepped off the course. This was the first time i’ve ever dropped out of a race and i’m determined for it also be my last. Lesson learnt.
The recovery period from this probably took even longer because of a weekend in Stirling, so I took the whole week off and got back easy running 10 days out from the Armagh 5k. This meant I had very little quality going into the race, but managed to squeeze in a 6 mile broken up tempo and a short intervals session in the days leading up to get the feel for racing again.
As always Armagh really is a special event on the calendar. The organisers do their up most to make sure athletes can prepare in the most professional manner for the race. You are flown out the day before and athletes from the local club volunteer to take the 50+ elites all day to and from airports to the race hotel. The race is always late on the Thursday night, so having over 24 hours to relax in your room is such a luxury and is the perfect preparation.
I was lucky enough to have been selected to run for England at this years race in an inter-country match between Wales, Northern Ireland, Rep. of Ireland, Poland and England. This added a bit more flavour to the race and meant usually I come here to purely run a fast time and positions are pretty irrelevant, but this time I was also running for points for the team.
Weirdly I was hardly nervous at all, mainly because how the last three weeks have panned out I literally felt like I could run anything from about 14:10 to 15:30. Conditions on the 1k lapped course were cold, almost freezing, and gusty winds so the plan was to settle in and just see how I felt and try to make the last 2k the fastest. I got a comfortable start but was pushed about a bit in the opening 1500m as the race is so bunched up. It’s a completely different experience to any other road race as there are so many people of similar ability, it is hard to get some clear road for a lot of the race. 3k came in 8:37 and I was still in the lead group of about 15, with it reducing by numbers all the time. The group still didn’t diminish heading into the final 800m, until London Olympian Nick McCormick put the hammer down and before I knew it the pack had strung out. I guess it was a bit disappointing not to have that real race sharpness back but nevertheless I ran a PB by 2 seconds of 14:28 finishing 12th and 8th Brit, with McCormick winning in a much slower time than predicted of 14:11.
So quite a few positives to take away:
- Two seconds fastest than last year
- Three places higher than last year
- Stayed with the lead group for 1000m longer than last year
On the team side of things I was second scorer for the England team, with Rich Weir finishing 2nd and Ryan Mcleod 14th meaning we took the win by five points, with Wales in second and Poland third.
A race video can be seen here:
Obviously a little disappointed with the last month as a whole, but sometimes you have to just deal with what you’re dealt. I am now having a few days downtime to make sure I am healthy for the next stint of training. What is the key for me is consistent periods of training and learning to say no to certain races, which the more you improve is often harder to do. I won’t be racing seriously for another 10 weeks now, so I am excited to build on what already is a fairly solid level of fitness despite the setbacks.