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Monday, 28 March 2016

British Championship 50k, Perth

Sunday 26th March 2016 - Self Trancendence 50k, North Inch Park, Perth

50k? Why???

Well it wasn't my idea. 

But having tried to do one very unsuccessfully in this same event 2 years ago at Gravesend Cyclopark there was still the intriguing thought of whether the distance could actually be conquered. 

So when Hannah suggested that it might be a reasonable idea 3 weeks out from the race a reluctant 'go on then' was the response. 

In that race 2 years ago a DNF at about 17 miles was the result while Hannah struggled on and completed it, albeit with a couple of sit downs en route, in 3:56. So our 50k pedigree was nothing to write home about to say the least.

The Taper

The taper wasn't the most traditional in that we ran everyday midweek and then raced the Salford 10K on Friday.

Considering the 50k was only 48 hours away the idea was to not push too hard. I'm not sure how long that idea lasted but Hannah proceeded to come 1st in 36:40, just 10 secs shy of her PB and I just about kept her in sight to record a 37:10.

The rest of the 'taper' involved a lengthy evening at Saltaire Brewery Beer Festival on Friday, a volunteering stint at Horton parkrun on Saturday followed by the trip up to Perth.

The Course

The course consisted of 21 laps of a 2.389km course around North Inch Park in Perth on the banks of the River Tay.

The following series of photos show the entire course:


This was the huge hill we had to encounter on each lap:

A little souvenir that was still lying around the day after the race:

The Pacing

So what was the plan?

None really, the only aim was to settle into what seemed like a natural pace, whatever that may turn out to be. From the previous effort it was clear that you don't run it like a marathon with a bit on the end, 50k is a different animal.

After the race settled down on the 2nd lap I joined Christina Singleton, whose husband Chris had already been out there for 3 hours in the 100k. As we started chatting away we were shortly joined by Hannah.

Our paces just seemed to synch quite nicely so the three of us just chatted away for a while and before you knew it 15 miles had passed by without drama. The fact that Christina and Hannah were lying 1-2 in the British Championship was irrelevant, staying together was the best strategy especially with a strong headwind on the back straight.

Halfway (15.5 miles) was reached in 1:49:20.

The home straight on each lap was very pleasant whereas the back straight alongside the river was a real struggle into the wind. Nonetheless the overall lap times were staying remarkably consistent.

(Pic courtesy of Barry Davie)

(Pic courtesy of Barry Davie)

Before the start I had a vague idea that something around 3:45 might be possible if the finish line was actually reached but there was loads of potential for variability on that, mainly on the downside.

It was therefore a pleasant feeling after 15 laps (22.5 miles) to be still going well and realising that sub 3:40 was now entirely reasonable. 

As we approached the end of lap 16 (24 miles) it felt that mine and Hannah's paces were not quite in synch anymore. I was quite happy maintaining current pace whereas Hannah was subconsciously lifting the pace. With just over 5 laps to go we had got rid of the majority of the mileage so decided to get our heads down and do our own thing in the closing stages.

The Finish

After the first half of 1:49:20 I was delighted to see the second half come in at 1:49:49 for an overall 3:39:09. That felt like the distance had actually been conquered.

However, one thing you don't really want at the end of 31 miles is to be challenged to a sprint finish .... but that is exactly what I ended up with. Thankfully the fast twitchy things responded pretty well and the resulting 4 secs covering three places shows just how tight it was:

Meanwhile, Hannah had really cracked on to record a second half of 1:47:13 for an overall 3:36:33 and a negative split of 2:07. That was a world away from the first attempt at 50k at Gravesend which involved a lot of pain and a time of 3:56.

It became apparent shortly after the finish that the time of 3:36:33 was actually quite good. In fact it represented a new Scottish All Comers Record and was also inside the 3:40 qualifying time for the World Championships in Doha. It was also faster than any British female in the whole of 2015 and 2016 so far. On top of that the title of British 50K Champion was part of the package, which I think Hannah found quite surreal.

Christina had also held together very well indeed, especially with it being her first attempt at anything longer than a marathon. A time of 3:43:44 is around 7:12/mile for 31 miles and 2nd place in the British Championship. Quite a debut.

These are the lap by lap splits for the entire race:


Although the course was about as good as you could hope for, the conditions were far from ideal.

In the first half we had the strange situation of it raining on one side of the course whilst being sunny on the other side, the two sides being no more than 200 metres apart!

Also, as previously mentioned, the wind on the back straight was very significant and got stronger as the race progressed.

The Race Doctor

This was Hannah chatting with the race doctor, Joasia Zakrzewski, post race. Were they talking about injuries? Post race recovery? Post race nutrition?

Nope, I can reveal that this serious looking discussion was actually about easter eggs!

Of course, it isn't the first appearance in the blog for this particular race doctor. This was last October, relaxing prior to the Yorkshire Marathon, a race that the doc went on to win. Jo is also 5th on the 50K UK All Time rankings with a PB of 3:26 run in the World Championships in 2011 :


So, as mentioned above, Jo sits 5th in the All Time rankings but look who has now appeared at 11th after Sunday's run:

I was quite pleased with the consistency of my lap times until I saw Hannah's:

Just finished and ready for the finish line celebratory Guinness. It was then off for a chat with 1st vet Ian J Berry who had just recorded a superb 3:31, going through the marathon point in 2:55. It just shows that his 17 sub 3 marathon performances in 2015 didn't do much harm.

Ian J Berry on his way to a clocking of 3:31 and 1st vet in the 50K:

(pic courtesy of Barry Davie)

Christina Singleton dealing with the closing stages well to land an impressive debut time of 3:43 and 2nd place:

(pic courtesy of Barry Davie)

Meanwhile, this was the other half of the gutsy Singleton couple, Chris.

Chris had never raced beyond 35 miles previously but found deep reserves to wear the England vest with pride for 100K in 7:28:47 to take 6th overall and be part of the victorious England team:

The Prize Giving

Hannah delighted with her easter egg acquisition:

Gavin Harvie collecting his Scottish Vets medal:

The 50K British Championship 1-2, Hannah and Christina:

The Recovery

So what is the advisable recovery strategy after racing 10K followed by 50K two days later?

Well it probably isn't to run three Scottish parkrun courses, Camperdown, St Andrews and Dunfermline, followed by lining up to race again all within the next two days. Ah well....

So off to Ravenscraig Park in Kirkcaldy it was for their hilly 2 mile race on Tuesday evening. A cracking event hosted by Fife AC and ably organised by Daniel Newman.

(Pic courtesy of Gordon Donnachie)

(Pic courtesy of Gordon Donnachie)

The legs seemed fine given the circumstances but I was once again watching from a distance as Hannah carried the Udder Madness vest around in a time of 11:12 to record a new course record and 1st female.

(Pic courtesy of Gordon Donnachie)

But at least I did put some effort into my 11:30 by the looks of it :)

(Pic courtesy of Dave Morton)

It was lovely to chat to Melanie Sinclair post race who had also been bonkers enough to enter both the 50K and 2 miles within 2 days!

(Pic courtesy of Gordon Donnachie)