LFR paints Milton Keynes red, black and white

The first weekend in May was one that will have been circled on many an LFR member’s 2022 calendar, as it was the weekend that racing of all distances came to the mighty metropolis of Milton Keynes. Whether you wanted to take on a flat full marathon, add a half to your resume or to exploit the PB potential of the Rocket 5K, the chances are there is a distance for you.

Before we head to MK, though, there have been a couple of races elsewhere, not least in the new town of Northstowe, which is a new and developing town not far north west of Cambridge. On 24 April it paid host to its first ever half marathon, which was attended by by our own Paul Thomas. “I finished in 2hr 33min,” he says. “Not bad for an oldie with a gammy foot. I was first in the M70-79 age group. Granted I was number 1 of 1 but if you don’t enter…!”

Nice one Paul! Now we hear from Coach Matt, who managed to find one of only a few races taking place over the Easter weekend…

Race Reports compiled by Tom Webster

Leicestershire 10K – 17 April 2022

 

The race started and finished at Prestwold Hall near Loughborough. I’d chosen the race due to it being only 20 minutes’ drive from my in-laws’ village where we were staying for Easter. The plan was I could race and be back in time to watch the now traditional challenges for chocolate being set by my sister in law.

The race is organised by Run Through who organise lots of events throughout the country. I’ve run their events before and they’re usually well organised and decent value.

The race started in front of the hall (on gravel!) after which there was a short hill and then around 6k of the run on an old airfield, which although almost flat seemed to be harder work than I’d thought it would be!

There was around 2k down a country lane and then we headed back down to the hall. At this point I’d gone well, but was developing a stitch and thought I might throw up! Fortunately, I managed to hang on and managed a sort of sprint in the last 50-100m (on the gravel again!) to finish in 40:37. I’m really pleased with the time as it was another improvement on my last 10k and getting (slowly) back to PB form.

The medal was nice and there were plenty of post-race snacks on offer. Oh and I made it back for the chocolate challenges.

The Rocket 5K – 1 May 2022

The Rocket 5K is taken by some as a leg-loosener for another longer race over the MK Marathon weekend, by others as a chance to pick up more medalware and by some as a chance to nail a 5K PB. As a largely downhill and straight course, Rushmere parkrun it certainly is not!

This event saw loads of LFRs take part, including (deep breath…) Paddy Ashton, Will Langdon, Kevin Hare, Bob Nichol, Gavin Prechner, Wayne Walker, Steve Molyneaux, Heidi Buck, Keith Phillips, Heather Johnson, Dawn Kennedy, Tasmyn Simpkins, Celia Walker, Jenny Hogan, Deborah Macpherson, Joanne Green, Nicki Atkinson, Christine Yeates, Amanda Godden and Paula Cousins. Oh, and Captain Emily, who wasn’t down as running for LFR. Tut tut, skipper!

There were some stunning performances, with some marathon runners turning in some impressively fast times. Over to Heidi, who had a specific and speedy goal in mind…

By Heidi Buck

Since getting back into running during lockdown and joining LFR, one of my main goals has been to get my 5km time back under 25 minutes. Lots of club members had mentioned that the Rocket Run could be a good opportunity to do this so I thought I would book on and see what all the hype was about.

It was great to meet fellow club members at the start and it helped to calm the pre-race nerves. Before I knew it, we were off! I hadn’t anticipated quite how long the hill at the start was going to feel but knew that it was going to be downhill all the way after, and the course did not disappoint.

My mind didn’t have much time to wander and the demons that usually set in at around the 3km mark and tell me to slow down stayed away and before I knew it the stadium was in sight. I heard my little boy shout, “Go Mummy!” and saw the rest of my family on the corner which helped me to find a little something extra in the tank.

A quick glance at my watch told me it was going to be tight, so I tried my best to sprint towards the finish and managed to cross the line in 24:44 (Garmin time) and my chip time was later confirmed as 24:59. I’m not sure why there was such a big-time difference but I was still very pleased to have hit my target of sub 25 minutes!

I would thoroughly recommend the race to anyone looking to improve on their 5km PB or to just have a great time running down hill (largely!). All the LFR achievements from over the weekend have definitely inspired me to want to enter more races.

 

MK Half Marathon – 2 May 2022

By Ian Bisby

Have you ever thought about being a race pacer?

Me neither, not until JK asked me after last year’s Dirt Half. Andy Hully, former LFR member and race organiser at the MK marathon weekend and other events, was looking for a pacer.

The conversation went something like this:

“You could do a decent half in 1:40?”

“I guess so”

“Shall I send Andy your details”

“Why not?”

Two things to remember… Have you already signed up to race for LFR on the same day? (Sorry Captain, but the relay team seemed to do OK without me.) Secondly, running the Brighton Marathon just three weeks beforehand gives great training, but recovery is important and three weeks really isn’t very long at all to recover and get ready for another race.

As race day came, the benefits of being a pacer became more noticeable. Free entry to the race was a good start. I got a priority parking space, use of a VIP room in the stadium to prepare for the run ahead with plenty of pre-race snacks (and post-race lunch) no need to use the bag drop and a queue-free loo to use.

It was great to be able to meet up for the LFR team picture, then at 9:45 I made my way to the start line, not really sure of where I needed to be, so I figured that somewhere between the 1:35 and 1:45 pacer made sense!

There must have been at least 10 runners come to me and ask how I was going to run the race? I hadn’t considered anything other than set my watch to “Average Pace” and aim for 7.40-minute miles. This was my marathon pace, so I knew it was possible.

The other questions posed included:

“Are you aiming for negative splits?”

“Do you feel nervous when you pace races?” (This was my first time…)

“You must have run loads of races?” (This was my fourth official half marathon in 15 years.)

It was at this point I considered the upcoming 1:40-worth of running and had the dawning sensation that this run, more than any other, mattered. It wasn’t about me, it wasn’t about an XC race for LFR and it wasn’t like a leg in a relay. I had a job to do to get others to realise their potential, get a PB or run at a pace in preparation for another event. Nothing like a bit of pressure then!

The race began with the usual shuffle off as the start headed out of the stadium and towards the shopping centre, but the pace was good with mile 1 coming in at 7:39. That’s it, 12 more of those and we’ll be ok.

Mile 2: 7:36 ✅

Mile 3: 7:40✅

As we settled into a rhythm the group around me seemed to settle, there was a little difference in people’s watches but I was happy I was on track.

Mile 10: 7:42 ✅ Still doing OK and “just a park run to go” and my focus changed. The time was reading 1:17 on the watch and then I summoned my inner Carol Vorderman (or Rachel Riley for more recent Countdown fans. Ed). “Just 23 minutes for a parkrun” I called to the team.

The strange thing is there were never that many people in front of me, but around 20 runners lined out behind me, some hanging on, some drifting back, but a core that had been there on the start line.

Mile 11: 7:42 ✅ I’m now thinking I may have a chance at our Watchless 5 later in the month, but we all know this sport can take away as much as it gives!

Mile 12: 7:55 Oops, I was starting to struggle. Had the Brighton marathon caught up with me? Had my recovery weeks taken something away that I now needed? I couldn’t let these people down. I had to dig quite deep as we started running past some runners who were struggling. “Come on guys last mile – let’s go!”

Mile 13 7:16 and into the stadium and I willed as many of the 1:40’s past me to the finish line and stopped my watch at 1:40:11. Job done and it felt so satisfying!

What I hadn’t figured out back in November was how much that run would mean to others. Caroline with a 10-minute PB. A man who finished a minute or so behind and crossed the finish line in an emotional mess, fell into his wife’s arms at the finish with his PB, wanted a picture taken and couldn’t have been more thankful.

So, would I do it again? Absolutely, and if you ever get the chance I’d say grab the opportunity with both hands, it was so rewarding!

The Half also saw some excellent efforts from LFR runners, with Debbie Elborn, Ian Bickers, Will Burchell, Duncan Watson, Lee Garnell, Nicky Moore, Adam Carter, Andy Heale and Matt Gilbert all taking part. Special Kudos to Lee, who took three minutes off his PB to break through the two hour mark.

Nicky also made it through the two hour barrier for the first time, taking a huge 12 minutes off her previous best. Well done all!

MK Marathon – 2 May 2022

By Gavin Prechner

A Bank Holiday in most people’s eyes is the opportunity for a lie in or a chance to get away. Then, there’s people who voluntarily sign up for a marathon AND pay for the privilege. I was one of the five LFRs to join the start line on Monday for the longest race of the MK Marathon weekend. The weather was just about perfect, no wind, no rain, not too cold, not too warm. So that meant nobody could blame the weather for a slower than hoped time – not that we would do this would we?

The early morning start allowed for mingling with the other LFRs who had decided to enter far more sensible races such as the half marathon or relay race, or even more sensible still, volunteering themselves as a half marathon pacer (kudos to Ian Bisby here – lovely thing to do).

Photos and pleasantries complete we headed to the start and attempted to get into the various staring waves – always tricky. Shortly after 10am I crossed over the line. 26.2 miles to go then…

The first couple of miles is a gentle uphill on V6 into MK city centre for a few loops around the city which is an ideal time to get into a rhythm and for everyone to spread out. It’s also a good way to see fellow runners in all races as the course loops back on itself. It was lovely to see Jim Buttleman supporting and making the most of the looping in the city to catch us all a couple of times cruising round.

LFR spotting complete, the course dips onto a redway towards Woughton. Feeling settled and on track, mile six clicks over and the first LFR volunteers creep into view. Cue Chris Stenner and Junior Stenner – Jess assisting at the mile marker – lovely to see you and a real boost.

Just after mile seven the course splits. Half marathoners go right, marathon straight ahead. Having done this course a number of times now, the urge to ‘go right’ is quite overwhelming but ‘straight ahead’ was really the only option if I wanted to achieve legend status, so straight on it was.

The miles steadily clicked on and the pace felt comfortable. Could I do this the whole way? Time will tell. Mile 14 and the first glimpse of my own support crew. Miss P, as instructed, dutifully passed me my Aldi fruit smoothie pouch (other fruit-based kids’ smoothies are available). This was a welcome intake of energy and a change from the gels I had consumed already. Mile 18 and once again my support crew give me a welcome boost before the long slog across the ‘top’ of Milton Keynes along a disused railway line, pretty flat but quite monotonous, which doesn’t help the miles go by.

Once again, my lovely support crew appeared at Mile 21 where I took on some sweets, at which felt amazing at the time! The course then starts to head south through the green spaces of MK. I passed the concrete cows apparently, I don’t remember seeing them though. At mile 22, the energy levels are starting to flag dramatically and so the offer of a sports drink seemed like a great idea. Sports drink taken on, I keep going.

It is well known that the back end of the marathon is pretty tough as the route drops down and up almost constantly for the next three miles or so, at mile 24 there is a hideous collection of underpasses that to any normal person would be inconsequential but today they feel like mountains. I can honestly say that I felt my worst of any race at mile 24 and the gel/smoothie/sweets/sports drink combo was desperate to exit my internals in dramatic fashion.

Lots of gulping air and deep breaths contained the contents of my innards and along came mile 25. My first glimpse of the mile marker was unmistakable, a smiling cheering James Smith. I confess to using a rude word when James asked me how I was, sorry James. I reserved my pleasantries for Kath, who was at the bottom of the hill. Running the show at mile 25 was Annis who I spotted coming out of the bush… I am not going to speculate what Annis was doing but cheer she did! Thanks guys!

At this point, there’s not far to go and for those of you who did the Rocket on Sunday will know that it is all downhill from here. A stern talking to myself convinced my legs to keep turning over, a PB is there for the taking. With about half a mile to go, JK and Steph (part two of team Turner) come into view, perfect place guys, it was lovely to have you cheer us in.

The final blast brings you into the stadium and there was a distinct cacophony of noise coming from one section of the stands, no surprise then that when my eyes looked up for a moment to see where the noise was coming from, my blurry dysfunctional vision focused on some red, white and black. Brain computed – that’ll be LFR then!

The din coming from the stand pushed me over the line in a time of 3:43:00 – mission accomplished! Waiting for me was Kevin Hare in an amazing time of 3:42:33. We shared our war stories and a photo before staggering off for medals and water. Next home for his second ever marathon was Will Langdon in 4:07:01, which is an incredible time for a second attempt. Next home was Lesley ‘Wes’ Barnard in a time of 5:16:30 for her 95th marathon – bonkers! Then came Dawn Kennedy with a time of 5:30:52. Impressive stuff especially as the previous two days had been spent moving house! Amazing!

So that’s wrap until next year – tempted anyone…?

MK Marathon Relay – 2 May 2022

By Dougie

“Here it goes: I sped. I followed too closely. I ran a stop sign. I almost hit a Chevy. I sped some more. I failed to yield at a crosswalk. I changed lanes at an intersection. I changed lanes without signalling while running a red light and SPEEDING!” Quite a famous Jim Carrey line, but he now needs to add “LFR ROCKS” to his vocal repertoire, going by the efforts of the MK Marathon relay team “LFR Race Ventura” (LFRRV) that took to the start line on Monday 2 May.

The LFR relay event was booked almost two years ago, postponed sadly due to Covid, but now had some name changes to the team finally ready to perform. A team of four runners, with an almost equal split distance, run the marathon route: approximately 10km each. Team LFRRV was joined by the overly modestly named LFR Team B, comprising Dan Green, Matt Ma and Tom Ellerton, who teamed up with former LFRer Steve Harrison.

An early start was begun by Captain Emily McClelland, Calum Holmes, Gavin Prechner and Dougie. After a secret exclusive spot for parking was secured commercially by Calum, the LFR bad-asses took the long and dangerous walk from Asda to the Dons stadium. Gavin parted ways to prepare for his latest solo marathon, and the relay team was then complete by meeting Will Ellis and team pilot Ruby Lee. Ruby had kindly offered her Sunday to ferry the group around for the day – this was really appreciated, thank you Ruby.

Ready for the off

Alongside the usual race numbers was a chipped baton and LFR’s nerves of steel. LFRRV then met the rest of the LFR runners for the inaugural team race photos. Some warmups, back packing and water consumption, the team was ready to go.

The first leg was performed by Mr Calum Holmes. He began the team effort with all the other runners of the Relay, Half and Marathon. The LFRRV team screamed and cheered his name as he ran through the crowds. A great start here by Mr H, especially off the back of an injury, and on what appeared to be the most elevated route.

The team quickly boarded the Ruby-mobile to head to the first checkpoint. Perfectly positioned next to a pub, the team anxiously awaited LFRRV. On the last 300m downhill, they saw half marathoners Coach Matt Gilbert, Thom Smith, Sagar Kharab and Calum’s baton appear. After a swift exchange, Will Ellis sped off into the distance for Leg two, and it was back in the car.

Taking a wrong turn

At checkpoint two, there was a facepalm moment, as Doug realised he had accidentally bought sparkling bottled water, instead of still. But this was soon forgotten about, as Calum spotted some friends from another team, and joined them for a well-earned Birra Moretti. The team waited with some concern as Will hadn’t appeared to the time planned and was a few minutes late. A relived team and over excited Dougie saw him on the final stretch and exchange two was complete.

It turned out a marshal had temporarily gone AWOL and was not at his post on the route, causing a handful of runners to go the wrong way. Although this was quickly rectified, it did mean that Will and others had actually ran the longest leg of the day (face palm again).

With brass bands and jelly-baby donating strangers, Dougie came in quick (3s off a 10k PB) to make the final exchange with the Captain at checkpoint number three.

Carefully calculating the positions, times and competition, they raced back in the car to the MK Dons stadium, where the team were met by some LFR Half Marathon runners, and they eagerly awaited Emily’s return on the final stretch. The recognisable sports sunglasses appeared in the distance, and the remaining three boys joined her to finish the race. This went around the outside of the stadium, and inside for a lap of the pitch. The crowd were loud and positive, and the branded four posed over the finish line.

High fives and fist bumps galore, as they finished 10th out of 95 teams, and took a podium finish, coming 3rd in the mixed category. Team LFR B finished an excellent third in the overall competition, thanks to a fantastic combined time of 2hr 45min 06secs. Sweet treats were then consumed as they gathered their medals, T-shirts, and goody bags, enjoying the arrival of some marathon runners, including Kevin Hare and Gavin Prechner.

 

 

This was a ruddy good event. It is very rare to enjoy both sides of races. You are either running, or spectating – this had both. A great team effort and bonding day, and one not to be missed or forgotten. The good news from this race prompted a lot of congratulations and positivity from the LFR Facebook group, prompting team encouragement for next year. Can we get three teams next year? Four? A mixed team? Women’s team? Yes, we can!!! Who’s up for it?

London Vitality 10K – 2 May 2022

By Nolan Johnson

As well as all the fun in MK, Bank Holiday Monday, 2 May, also saw LFR members Nolan Johnson, Ria Pugh, Emma Hibbins, Steve Molyneaux, Kelly Doyle, Gina Gurney, Laura Goss, Debbie McMillan and former LFR member Chloe Smith (who has since become a current LFR member!) take on the London Vitality 10km.

It’s a flat fast course that starts outside Buckingham Palace (no better starting point for the UK’s best 10km right?!) and cuts through the heart of the City, moving through the West End, Holborn, up to the Bank of England and back again. It’s kinda like a mini London marathon without the pain, and the support around the course is fantastic!

It was my fifth time of doing the course, with course veterans Laura and Kelly also having taken part previously. It was Ria’s first ever race and she smashed out a sub-one-hour time, as did Debbie – great running by both ladies! Gina and Emma knocked an amazing five minutes off their time from last month’s Leighton Buzzard 10km to get new personal bests. AMAZING!

The day was marked by controversy when I was unsure how to do the Emu pose for the camera and Steve disappeared, meaning he had to be replaced in the team photo by a stickman, digitally added later.

To add further drama, Ria stole Debbie’s medal, only to later fess up to avoid police involvement (actually, Debbie had accidentally put it in Ria’s bag!) Laura and Kelly managed to put LFR on the national map when their infectious and ever enthusiastic smiles were captured on BBC TV.

A couple of quotes from this year’s runners:

Gina:

“It was such a fun fantastic day, the support from the spectators on the route was amazing, and the support from fellow LFR members both before and on the day made it even more special. I can’t wait to do it again.”

Chloe:

“I’m looking forward to coming back, the run made me realised how much I missed races and the club.”

?. Same again next year? You betcha!