Jess’s perspective

Yesterday, Clinton and I took part in the sold-out Oakley 20 race. We had this run in mind for a long time ever since a couple of people recommended it to us, or rather,  said that they give out great quality hoodies instead of medals at the finish. (Who can resist a nice hoodie?) And it was actually perfect timing as a training run before the London Marathon.

We got up at 7, bright and early, had porridge and soon headed off. Having had a peak at last year’s race on Strava, we knew that the biggest hills would be at mile 3, mile 8 and mile 17, so we braced ourselves right from the beginning.

We knew we wouldn’t run fast. I pulled my right hamstring the day before during a 5K tempo run and I had no intention of repeating that on the day and risk pulling out of the London Marathon. Clinton was still recovering from his calf injuries and although he seemed ok to run, we were both terrified that his calves would misbehave again. Also, we ran out of energy gels completely, so we knew that we’d have to rely on supporters’ handouts for refuelling. Our aim for the Oakley 20 was to keep it steady and consistent and enjoy ourselves.

The race consisted of two loops: the first being 12 miles and the second being shorter at 8. It was pretty tough running past the start of the race at the start of the second lap, knowing that we were only just over half way! Thankfully there were water stations every 3 miles which helped to tick the miles off and the course was manned with great supportive marshals. The course made a nice change for pounding the streets of London – we ran through some lovely picturesque villages which reminded me a bit of running in Yorkshire. It was hilly in places, but for every up there was a down!

I was surprised by how warm it was for the time of year. I wore a thin windproof jacket and I had to take it off a couple of miles into the race and had to tie it around my waist. Thankfully, we ran past our car at mile 13 so I was able to thrust my jacket into the car before continuing on!

At mile 15, a kind lady handed out a box of lifesaving jelly babies. At this stage we had very little in the tank, having run 15 miles without anything but water. So the jelly babies really did save us!

At mile 19, someone shouted my name. I turned and realised it was someone from work! What a small world!

At this point, Clinton was really struggling. I told Clinton to think of the last mile as just two laps around the track. Clinton gave me such an evil look I was sure it was pure hatred…

It was difficult to keep a steady pace in the final mile. We ran past the front of the school again where we thought the finish line would be and turned down a side street into a housing estate, weaving through a few alleys before emerging at the bottom of the school playing field.

As the finish line came into view Clinton seemed to have found a tiny surge of energy and started sprinting towards the finish. We crossed the line in just under three hours, placing us squarely in the top half of the runners who turned up.

All in all, it was a fantastic day out. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s up to the distance. It’s a very friendly race, well supported, fantastically marshalled, and apart from the minor annoyance of being 2 laps, a great experience. Running the Oakley 20 has really given us the confidence we need to run the London Marathon in three weeks’ time. We’re both really looking forward to the taper now and we can finally lower the weekly mileage feeling a little safer in the knowledge that we will be able to get round and enjoy it on the day!

Let the tapering begin.

– Jess

Clinton’s account

This run for me was a big test. I had not run farther than 5km since the North London Half Marathon a few weeks ago and it was make or break time. If I could complete the race then there would be no need to postpone my entry to London Marathon for a year.

Thankfully I made it through, and my calves didn’t give me any trouble. However, everything else did! I had forgotten how tired long distance running can make you feel. That horrible creeping aching pain that can make it difficult to even turn your head to look each side of road.

I think what happened, and looking at my pace supports this, is that I hit the wall at around 18 miles. My pace dropped from a good 5.10 min/km down to 6.30 min/km. I was running with Jess at the time who was happily bouncing along keeping pace, I couldn’t understand how difficult it was to keep up with her. No gels was obviously a crazy mistake to make and you’d think we would know better. Lesson learned, again!

Overall I enjoyed the event, it was a real challenge for me and I hadn’t felt true full body ache for a long time. It’s good to know that I can run 20 miles, and come marathon day, with good pacing and nutrition I should be able to complete it at least!

– Clinton