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Race report: Orion Harriers Forest Five race 3

August 4, 2013

For once, I was starting near the head of the field.

I have a habit of loitering too far back in starting pens, crossing the start line several seconds after the race has started and spending the first mile weaving past other runners before I can get into my stride. But here I was, within hearing range of the race announcements (assuming they ran along a similar vein in previous months, we’d been clapping the race marshals – and rightly so), and able to get into my stride that bit sooner as the pack thinned out up the first hill.

Having run the course two times previously, I was relatively familiar with the twists, hills and ditches that need to be navigated on the five-mile course. I worked with gravity on the downhills, shortened my stride on the uphills, and mostly avoided the piles of horse dung scattered along the bridleway.

The first two miles passed without significant event, but then the third mile brought a burning stiffening to my legs. This is either the point at which I hit my lactic threshold (each time I’ve run this course my legs have felt the same at this point), or it’s a section that’s got a bit more uphill. I slowed a little, managed to grab a sip to drink at the drinks station, and once the feeling had settled down I got back on it.

After a little more time spent winding through the forest paths, the route turned to the right and it was up the final punishing hill, before the home straight. I’d been tracking pace with a guy in front of me, but didn’t have the strength to catch him on the hill or to chase him down on the final stretch, but I was happy not to let the gap grow.

One of the advantages of a race series is that you can see your progress over time. As the June race was my post-injury debut, I had wanted to see incremental progression over time as my fitness and speed came back. So, my times over the series were:

  • June: 32:59
  • July: 32:10
  • August: 31:44

An improvement of 1:15 over the three races feels pleasing, especially since my training recently has been a little ad hoc (I didn’t run a more than 30-mile week in July). However, with my next race being the hilly Burnham Beeches Half-marathon in two weeks’ time, it’s unlikely I’ll see equivalent improvements over 13.1 miles since narrowly squeezing a PB at Southend in June.

Where last month – suffering slightly with self-imposed dehydration and fatigue – I had flopped down on the ground immediately post-race with wobbly legs, this month I had sufficient strength remaining to stretch out. Clapping other runners as they came in, sharing out-of-breath words with others who had finished and comparing race times to the previous month, the other advantage of a race series became apparent – the community that gathers round a race. The Forest Five is well organised, dirt cheap, scenic and super-friendly. If you’re looking for a North London race or three next summer, I’d heartily recommend it.


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