In early October I ran a 21 mile run as part of my training plan. Apart from an incident involving a leaking colostomy bag, the run went very well finishing in 2:51 (2:55 including the poop stop). I didn’t fuel as well as I could have so found the last mile a bit tough but overall I was confident that with better preparation I’d be able to run further more comfortably.
A few weeks later the training plan had a 23 mile run so this time around I was going to prepare better, fuel throughout and see what I was capable of without pushing too hard.
During my 21 mile run I was fuelled by SiS energy gels and Lucozade which suited me fine but wanted to experiment on this run so invested in some Maurten gels and drinks (you can purchase from XMiles). For the run I was going to take 1 sachet of the 160 drink and 1 sachet of the 320 drink along with 6 x GEL 100 and 2 x GEL 100 CAF 100. And whereas on the 21 mile run I stopped taking anything in the last few miles I would make sure that I continued so wouldn’t bonk at the end.
Being in lockdown exercise needs to start and end close to home so the route needed to stay in and around Newport but the benefit of running a longer distance means that you can run some of the route out in the countryside beyond the noise and traffic of the city.
I wanted a route that would allow me to run non-stop and whilst it’s very difficult to avoid crossings and traffic lights, if I minimised the encounters with them there was a better chance I wouldn’t have to lose momentum.
The route would head out of Newport towards Chepstow along Chepstow Road to the Coldra where I’d navigate around the roundabout which would be quieter due to lockdown and then continuing on Chepstow Road towards Chepstow. At Penhow and around 9 miles I’d be on the edge of the county of Newport and would straddle the line with Monmouthshire through St Brides Netherwent onto Magor. This section was a scenic, winding country lane past an ancient medieval village and hill fort.
At Magor I’d join the Newport Marathon route but follow it into reverse and would be back in the county of Newport. The route from here until the end would be pancake flat and would be along country lanes through Whitson, Goldcliff and Nash and the back into Newport. At 22 miles I would have a footbridge to climb over and some steps and then it’s flat again until mile 23.
The first 4 miles of the route is along a familiar section of Newport and is a long gradual climb but nothing too strenuous. The plan was to run at an 8:30 /mi pace and take it from there so and for for the first 4 miles and beyond until the turn at mile 9 I was a bit ahead of that pace. The plan for the fuelling was to start with 160 drink and take a GEL 100 at 4 miles, a CAF 100 at 8 miles and to the turn I had maintained this.
Dropping down through St Brides Netherwent there’s a slight decline so the paced increased slightly but I was feeling good and continued to Magor at mile 11 where I joined the Newport Marathon route (in reverse) for the next couple of miles. Apart from losing a bit of momentum having to run back up a lane to allow a Tesco Delivery van to pass I was running well and I passed the half marathon mark in just under 1:50 so was running approximately 8:20 /mi pace.
Beyond 13 miles the route is pancake flat and long straights and despite the legs feeling tired I was feeling good and was picking up the pace and beyond mile 16 was running sub-8:00 /mi pace. I had increased the gels to every 3 miles and was onto the 320 drink. The overall pace going beyond 20 miles was around 8:12 /mi so was on track to match the pace of the 21 mile run.
The weather forecast hadn’t been great for the day but I had been fortunate and had been running in the dry until mile 20 when I hit a wall of torrential, cold rain and was instantly soaked.
At mile 22 I decided to head over a footpath which meant slowing down to ascend some steps which cost me around 10 seconds but meant that I wouldn’t be caught by any traffic lights.
For the final mile I kept pushing to maintain the same pace (currently 08:11 /mi) and to try and get under 03:10:00. I managed increase the pace a bit and finished in 03:08:24 which I was delighted with. At that point I felt like I couldn’t have run any further but if I was running the additional 3-and-a-bit miles to marathon distance I would have definitely ensured that I would have continued fuelling more frequently beyond mile 20.
I was delighted with the consistent pace I achieved throughout the run and a faster second half and if I could continue that pace I would be on course for sub 3:35 which would be a huge PB for me. Based on the faster second half I do wonder if I should adjust the route to make it flat throughout.