The Top Gear track, the Top Gear track!!!! I’m going be running on the Top Gear Track! How cool. Plus, it’ll be a nice flat race, you know, being on an airfield. Brilliant. Such was my thinking ahead of the Surrey Spitfire 20 mile race. I was initially very excited to be running this race. Then Richard, my race partner, realised that the route took us off the airfield and round the surrounding roads and villages. So it wasn’t a flat race at all, but in fact particularly undulating. Then, Richard got injured, and was forced to drop out. Then the weather turned and the forecast for the race was wet and windy. I was gradually losing my enthusiasm.
Still, race day arrived and I found myself still relatively excited about running 20 miles as fast as I could in the conditions. It was indeed wet and it was indeed windy. I drove my toy electric car up the A24 to Dunsfold and found the north entrance to the airfield. Now, here’s the thing. I do like planes and the sight of all these aircraft, as I drove on to the tarmac, did put a bit of a spring in my step. There were private planes, old abandoned planes, fighter jets and one enormous white Boing 747.
I parked up, got my race number and got changed. I decided that I would warm up by running to the 747 to see it up close. No one else was doing so but it didn’t look like I was about to get stopped by security personnel, so I went for it. Once I got up to it I noticed some of those vehicle driven portable steps parked up at the side. So I duly climbed the stairs and took a selfie from the top. For those people who are not impressed by such things I guess you could say, well so what? But for those of you who like massive hunks of metal that clatter down a runway and somehow manage to lift 400 people in to the air, seeming to defy all know laws about what should and should not fly, then this was awesome. It was awesome.
The race was to some degree and secondary matter. But it had to happen and happen it did. There were two races going on at the same time. The Surrey Tempest is a 10 mile race and the Surrey Spitfire is the 20 mile version. We all started together at 9:30am. It seemed to me that there were lots of good runners taking part. Lots of club vests and a few people I recognised from other runs. Despite the somewhat serious nature of the race it was friendly and good natured and I chatted briefly to some as we ran together.
My plan was to stick to marathon pace throughout. Marathon pace this year for me is 4:30 per kilometre or 7:15 per mile. It is right on the edge of what I think I can do. I have no idea if I can maintain that pace for 26 miles. I’ve done it once for 20 miles on a training run, but the last few miles of that was very difficult. I have two road marathons this spring. As I did in 2012, 2013 and 2014, I am running the Paris Marathon. Then two weeks later I am running my first London Marathon. The first two or three kilometres of the Surrey Spitfire took us round the track and out of the airfield’s north gate.
Unfortunately I do still have a habit of going off too fast sometimes. It was my full intention to keep to 4:30min/km but I was well under that a few times in the first 10 miles. The other unfortunate thing was the elevation. The uphill sections really were quite draining. Sometimes I would have the wind and rain behind me, pushing me along. Other times I’d be running uphill with the wind in my face. Doubly difficult. The route only comes back on to the airfield for the final 400 metres of the loop, via the south gate. I made it through the first 10 miles in good time and on pace.
The second 10 miles were more challenging. I ate my race nutrition of one Ella’s Kitchen baby food sachet, slowly, between miles 9 and 12. I was starting to tire and the wind seemed to be getting stronger. I’m sure it wasn’t but that’s how it felt, especially on the Top Gear test track which is much more open to the elements. The hills felt longer and steeper second time round and I also started being passed by other runners who had judged their pacing better than I. It was a little demoralising.
20 Mile PB
In the final 2 miles I remember arriving at the foot of yet another hill and thinking, I could walk up this one. But I didn’t. I kept going, kept running and pushed hard to the end. I crossed the line in 2 hours 24 minutes and 51 seconds. This is my fastest ever 20 miles, including training runs. Unfortunately, as the Surrey Spitfire does not have a UKA licence, it will not be recorded on runbritainrankings.com or Power of 10. A little annoying and it may mean I don’t do this race again. The finishers medal is great, but I do like my stats.
I am pleased with my time. I’m not so pleased with how tired I felt at the end considering I was on marathon pace and will have another 6 miles to go on the day. The consolation is remembering that I had run parkrun the day before and the day before that I had run a Yasso 800 session, so my legs were justifiably tired for the Surrey Spitfire and they should be fresh on both marathon days in Paris and London.
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