The Double Half Marathon Weekend

As most people know by now, racing is my favourite pastime.  I've done my fair share this season, clocking my 60th race after Sunday's Garstang half marathon, along with race 59 on the Saturday, after running the Great Langdale half marathon.  Saying that, another thing that most of you will now know is that I'm not a road runner either!  Now some of you might be thinking, well running is running, you use your legs & lungs while battling psychologically to push through the pain barrier, but, more seasoned runners will know that there is a difference between the fells and the roads, both in terms of terrain and the type of running you do.

Anyhow, this double had been planned for a couple of months, with all my racing I keep a good check on my race calendar and my diary is planned well in advance but my training doesn't always match up to certain races.  I'm a firm believer in training to race & not racing to train.  By that I mean I will train hard and always work hard with specific training, avoiding "dead" miles of plodding or just running for the sake of sticking some miles on Strava.  Then I will just decide to race, where as I know other people book a race a few months in advance then train up for it, but I've always been taught, mainly by my Grandad, to train to race!  Even with two half marathon's in 24 hours, I literally just decided to run them, and didn't train specifically for them.

Not everybody will agree with that but if it worked for my Grandad then I am more than happy to follow the guidance of a fell running super vet!  It also works for me and I enjoy it a lot more than racing once a month then going back to the same old training, which is obviously a bonus.  It has seen my times improve dramatically and hopefully this will continue with the work I am putting in.

The last time I had ran 13.1 miles was the last time I raced a half marathon, Stoke half marathon in June, to be exact.  I've trained to 12 miles quite a few times since then but these are all on the fells, I've also raced 10 & 11 miles on the fells too, so I guess you could say I've effectively used the energy that a 13.1 mile road run would require, even without training for the races.

Saturday 12st September 2015 - Great Langdale half marathon

This was my second race in the Lake District, the first being the Kentmere Horseshoe a few months back, although it was my first road race in the Lakes.  A few of the Dashers had raced it last year and said good things.  It will a hilly half marathon (as expected, anything in the Lakes involves hills!) but the scenery on the route was worth the pain.  We arrived in plenty of time before the race start and the weather was terrible, pouring down with rain and water building up everywhere, even on the roads where we'd be running!

low mist on the Langdale tops, stunning scenery

I didn't honestly have a race plan for either of the two half marathon's.  I knew Langdale was a lot slower than a flat one, potentially 15-20 minutes slower, so there was a 100% chance of no PB here but I hadn't entered for that anyway.  I took it steady, the first mile was flat and I ran that at my regular half marathon pace, around 7:25/7:30 and then at mile 1 a very steep up hill appears after you take a sharp bend, a good 23%-25% gradient climb, many people walking up here even after 1 mile, that's how steep it was.

The rest of the race was pretty much up and down all the way but the up's were runnable (for me anyway) and the views were fantastic.  The mist had cleared by the time the race got going and the rain had long stopped so it was technically perfect racing conditions.  Still slightly warm but not too warm and the water everywhere kind of kept a cool enough atmosphere to be comfortable when running.  I kept a comfortable pace for the whole race, one reason being that I knew I had another 13 miles in the morning and didn't want to spoil my weekend by doing something silly.  I guess that's the beauty (if you'd call it that), of not being one of the front runners...I don't feel any pressure on myself at all on runs like this, they are just purely for enjoyment and race experience.  Although, secretly, they are all speed endurance training for my fell running!

I crossed the line in 1 hour 54 minutes.  In my head I wanted anything under 2 hours and with a mile or so to go I checked my watch for only the second time in the race, and the first time since going through the 1 mile mark, and I knew I could run under 1:55 so put in a little burst of speed for half a mile and there it was, the finish line.

I have to tip my hat to those hardy souls who did the full marathon.  They started at the same time as us but it was a 2 lap course, I felt like I should have spent less energy on my run and passed some on to the marathon runners, including Stu who organises the Viper Series relay.  Caught up with him pre-race and saw him for the first time since I'd ran the Viper back in March.

can't help but be impressed by the surroundings in the Lakes

Sunday 13th September 2015 - Garstang half marathon

My main fear for this race was a burn out.  I woke up a good while earlier than I normally would before a race, just to make sure I made myself mobile.  I actually wasn't suffering anywhere near as much as I'd imagined I would've been, although I suspect Monday morning would be the toughest to tackle.  It was also an odd balance in my head because I knew Langdale was a tougher course and therefore I'd be running faster at Garstang but on tired legs so how this was going to pan out was a mystery to even myself, even with all my race experience over the past 10 months!

Again, I had no race tactic, my actual plan was not to race it and just enjoy myself, after all, I was doing these back to back half marathon's as training runs anyway so there was no point stressing about a time or mile for mile pacing.  I set out at half marathon pace, as I did at Langdale, knowing I wouldn't hold this for the whole race but there is no way I can hold back as I'd just be left thinking "what if?" when the race was other with.

I went through 6 miles in about 46 minutes which was alright really, I felt okay and wasn't feeling that tired considering.  I knew the next 6 miles wouldn't match that, with tiring legs and also a couple of short, steep inclines to come but I ran it all and felt pretty strong going up the hills to be honest, only Autumn from Trawden passed me going up hill but she gave me a cheery push of encouragement and told me how mad I was for doing Langdale and then Garstang in the space of a day, haha!  It boosted me though and kept me pushing on and then beyond this point was a much welcomed downhill covering about half a mile.  Just short of 11 miles and I was more than ready to finish the race but I knew it was relatively flat between now and the finish so it was just a case of keeping up my leg turnover until the end, avoiding any distractions of runners coming past, which I knew was inevitable at this point in the race.

I was actually turning over at faster than my average race pace for the day on these last couple of miles but this is normally the case when you're closing in on the finish line anyway.  I turned the corner for the last 0.2 miles and was glad to cross the line.  I'd ran 1:46 which was considerably quicker than Langdale but on a course with a lot less ascending.  My hill training that I have stepped up to recently, paid off!  I still felt strong even though I'd done more than half my usual weekly mileage in the space of 24 hours so I'm clearly doing something right at the moment.

Now just on to Scafell Pike fell race on Saturday 19th, a different ball game altogether.  I'm expecting a severe mental test as well as a huge physical task but I feel ready to take it on and I relish the bigger challenges, as you might have noticed over the past few race reports!

A final note; well done to all the Dashers who completed the race double with me, a task that has branded us with the "Crazy Gang" label - Lee Shorrock, Amy Freeman, Chris Cash & Debbie Bevitt.  Fantastic running guys & girls...on to the next one!

And a blog first - my club, Darwen Dashers, have confirmed our very own half marathon will be reborn in April 2016.  The Darwen Heritage Half Marathon will take place on Sunday April 3rd and I will keep you up to date with more information when I get it.  In the mean time, keep an eye on the club website - for any other information

Also, as some of you will be aware, I am a brand ambassador for Ascendancy Apparel and we are launching new clothing items pretty regularly at the moment, hoodies the next in line for the colder months to can check them out at and if you're placing an order, use the code "CALFERG10", for 10% discount.  If you want any more information, on either the company or the clothing range, please get in touch!

Thanks for reading,



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