grand union canal

Grand Union Canal Half Marathon

It's nice to be prepared for a run for once. I've been concentrating on my running fairly solidly for the last few weeks, even going so far as to work on my technique. I accidentally managed a 25km run three weeks ago, after I chose a route without thinking about just how far it would be. My tapering in the last week has been reasonable, with a 13km run last weekend and an 8.5km run mid-week.

I got up in good time, had breakfast and got to the tube at the planned time. Apparently you can get to Uxbridge in 40mins from Hammersmith on a Sunday morning, but not on the trains I got - I had to change twice. I arrived in Uxbridge half an hour before the race, and so did the 2km to the race start as a run/walk. On arrival at the site, I took off my jacket, pinned my number on and then put my bag into the van taking bags from start to finish, and was ready to go.

After a short wait to allow everyone to get their bags onto the truck, there was a minute's silence and we were off. A quick lap of Cowley Recreation Ground preceded the run along the towpath (I guess in the hope that it would thin out the crowd a little). I started off quite deep in crowd, and there was a lot of movement for position, and a few stops as we all milled through the bottlenecks, but I was quite happy with a gentle start off, my first km was around 5:45.

I found the traffic reasonable after the first kilometre, I was still passing and being passed, and my pace soon settled into a steady rhythm. I chose people who seemed to be going at a reasonable and steady pace, and followed them until I was feeling strong and passed them, moving through the field slowly but surely.

I greatly enjoyed the scenery, I love running by water, and the many bridges and locks along the way broke it up sufficiently. As we were running up-river, all of the locks were uphill, so I used those as attacking points to pass other runners.

I was very pleased that I was overtaken by just one person in the second half of the race, and not because my pace deteriorated, so I'm not sure where he came from - a late starter, or a loo break? My pace seemed to improve towards the end of the race - indeed my final three kms were the fastest of the day!

The last kilometre was a killer - a small hill going into Cassiobury Park, certainly took a lot of effort to maintain a decent pace, but I managed to pass a couple of people walking going up the hill, and two more at the top. As I rounded the final corner about 300m from the finish, the person I was just about to pass noticed me and picked up his pace - we didn't quite have a sprint finish but it was much faster than the rest of the race! I couldn't quite take him in the end. I noticed Peta as I was coming into the final straight, but I was in the shadow of the other runner and so she saw me quite late, but it was great to see her there in support.

I picked up my medal, had some water, had a hug and then we waited for the bags to turn up - I'd beaten the luggage, go me! Luckily didn't have to wait too long before we could get my bag and catch the train home again.

This was probably my favourite running race yet (difficult to compare it against a triathlon), perhaps mostly due to the autumnal weather - I only used one water stop in the end as I just didn't need more. It was very picturesque, an interesting course (my off-road shoes probably helped - it wasn't tricky terrain, just muddy and a bit slippery in places) with bridges, locks etc, and in conditions that suited me very well.

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