In light of my issues I had been having with my hip (and the fact I have been referred to an orthopaedic surgeon for a bone scan of my hip and told to stop running), I was unsure about the viability of my running the Bramley 20 Miler and it was also the first time I had run 20 miles since I ran the Berlin Marathon in September last year! However, my stubborn nature prevailed and I couldn’t resist the allure of travelling to Bramley with four of my fellow Ealing Eagles!
I should disclose that Sunday was not the first time I have run the Bramley Race. I previously ran the Bramley 10 and for the eagle eyed among you, you may have realised that I actually ran my 10 Mile PB on this same course! I remember being ecstatic because it was the first time I had realised that I could run and maintain an 8 m/m pace! Since I ran a PB on the course I was certain in my mind that it was a flat course and had communicated the same to my fellow Eagles before the race. I assured them that if I didn’t remember the hills (as a hill hater) they didn’t exist, notwithstanding the fact that there were murmurings from other runners pre-race about how it wasn’t a PB course and it wasn’t exactly flat. I ignored these comments, imagining that these runners were total wimps. Hmmmmm, well they do say that pride goes before a fall!
I didn’t really have any kind of carefully considered race strategy for the race, all I knew was that my hip was likely to start hurting more the slower I ran and clearly the longer I was on my feet, the more damage would be done and the more it would hurt. On the basis of how easy my 8:30 m/m pace had felt for the Great Bentley Half Marathon the week before, I figured I could aim for between 8:00-8:30 pace knowing full well that I was not going to have the endurance to sustain this for the entire 20 miles (but also blissfully imagining that this was a flat 20 mile course)!
Well…. it wasn’t! The course was unbelievably hilly! To be precise, it was more constantly undulating, there were probably about 4 inclines that were steep enough to be called a hill but the rest of the course was constantly upwards and there didn’t seem to be nearly enough downward stretches to compensate! The 20 mile race was 2 laps of the 10 mile course so the terrible thing was knowing that when you were struggling to get up a hill in the first lap, you would be having the same fun again on the next lap. I found this incredibly mentally challenging and my mind was telling me to quit after the first lap.
Of course I didn’t! I was surprised to realise that my hip wasn’t really hurting and one of my fellow Eagles who had caught up with me at the halfway point told me that my form going up the hill was perfect ( I have a tendency to adopt REALLY bad form if I am in pain)! You only need to ask my coach about my sloping form when doing hill repeats when I first hurt my hip or my exhausted sprinting on the track! However, running up all the hills fairly quickly (for me) in the first lap had taken everything out of my legs and I reluctantly accepted that there was no way in hell that I was going to keep up with my Eagle Comrade!
I slowed down by about 1 minute per mile in the second lap and the reality was I felt like I was dying. I am guilty of really negative thinking when I am doing long distance running and I kept saying to myself “I hate this, I hate running for such a long time, I hate marathons, why am I training for one”. From mile 14 onwards the race felt exactly like how I have always felt in the last 6.2 miles of a marathon – in excrutiating pain, nothing specific just my whole body hurting with every step.
I felt like I was running like a turtle as I got overtaken by a lot of runners, but try as I might my legs simply wouldn’t move any faster! I tried the Tergat mantra “can you give more?!” and the answer was no this time!
HOWEVER, I was so determined to keep running (after my disasterous muscle tear and walking in Marrakech 2014 I vowed to myself never to ever walk again in a race). A lot of people around me started walking up the hills and it clearly re-vitalised some people as they then went sprinting ahead of me. BUT for one thing I knew my hip was dodgy and if I stopped it might not be possible to start again and I was determined to run the entire 20 miles!
I made it – in 3:01:02 – I told myself I wanted to run it in less than 3 hours, so i’m happy with that! I’ve actually never run a 20 mile race before so that is a PB 🙂 It works out at 9 m/m pace which for 20 miles and off the back of a hip injury and months of asthma dragging me down I am really pleased about.
In terms of the race details, the toilet provision before the race was really good, no long wait for toilets and all of the portaloos i used had toilet paper in them – these small mercies!
We waited in the warmth of the school hall before the race started and it didn’t feel too congested. Baggage drop was well organised.
Water stations were fairly regular on the course but annoyingly water was provided in cups. I hate cups! Its impossible (without massively slowing down) to get more than a gulp of water at a time. There were three “glucose drink stations” at mile 5, mile 10 and mile 15. This was also in cups and seemed to be a dextrose type water soluble power drink.
I know from a horrendous previous experience that this form of energy drink does not agree with my stomach at all! However, I had heeded the advice of some other members of my running club about not unnecessarily running with my lucozade filled camelbak if they had a glucose drink on the course. Unfortunately, no one in the school hall pre race was able to confirm the type of sports drink so I left my camelbak in the baggage drop (my only source of fuel as I don’t use gels) and got to the stage where I literally had to try the glucose drink at mile 10 and had a couple of uncomfortable miles where my stomach felt VERY dodgy! Thankfully, I got over it and there were no horrendous moments!
The Marshals at Bramley were friendly and encouraging (particularly when doing the 20 miler). However, I remember one point when a marshall told me we had just run up the last hill, from my perspective this was untrue (though I guess maybe there is some debate as to how you define a “hill”!
We didn’t get a medal – we got a small silver plate/ large medal type thing that was not on a string – it was certainly different. I would have preferred a medal and it didn’t have the year on it either and didn’t distinguish between whether you had run the 10 or 20 miles – which when you have run the 20 miles seems like a VERY important distinction ;)!
Would I do the race again? Yep, its convenient to get to, well-organised and comes at a good time in a spring marathon training schedule. I’d certainly prefer to do the 10 mile race again though rather than the 20 miles!!