After praying for the forecast to improve it turned out that the weatherman was spot on as I woke to pouring rain and soaking wet roads.  Now I love running in my On's but unfortunately they're just not great in wet weather, let alone heavy downpours!  Nothing I could do about it though as I sat eating my pre-race porridge looking out the window, listening to some music and downing my coffee to perk me up.  The location of my apartment was great in relation to the start line but it was far from quiet through the night, even with earplugs in!  The fact that I was woken not long after midnight by the phone ringing in the flat next door was far from ideal.  Still I was fortunate enough to be have a relaxed morning rather than drive over on race day.

 

With my bag packed and waterproofs on I made my way to the Key Theatre which was the meeting point for the "elite entries".  At least we had some shelter from the rain.  I collected my race number and pinned it on to my Notts vest.  I was a little disappointed not to be racing in a Midlands vest on my Midlands debut but unfortunately there wasn't one available . 

I had a brief chat with a few of the other runners before heading out for my warm up.  This was the start of things to come after getting soaked through.  Back into the theatre where I dried myself off and got changed into my race kit and hung around inside before we were called to the start line.  As planned I'd set my Garmin to show me the timer only so I was just running to feel and could check my time going through the mile markers instead of relying on the GPS pace of my watch.

The rain did ease up briefly but within a few hundred yards of the race starting it returned and I could already feel my feet slipping on the road.  I managed to quickly get into a rhythm amongst a small group of five or six guys all running a similar pace.  A 5:07 first mile was a bit quick but the pace settled and still feeling good working together with the group.  We went through 4 miles in 21:00, pretty much bang on 69 minute pace.  It did seem however that we had the wind and rain constantly driving towards us.  The course itself is pretty much flat with a few mild inclines.  The group went through the halfway point in 34:47, the pace had dropped off quite a bit after a fast start.  The next section though seemed to be the straightest and quickest part of the course and we were able to make some time up.  By this point though the group was starting to stretch out as three of the guys pulled away in front of me. 

For the next 3.5 miles there was just two of us as I started to feel my calves tighten up.  We went through 10 miles in 53:05, 5k to go, I told myself just a ParkRun left until the finish line.  At this point I was toing and froing with Chris Darling of Cambridge & Coleridge, with just over a mile to go he got the better of me and continued to pull away as we got closer towards the finish.  A quick glance at my watch though and I was still on for a PB.  400m to go. I told myself, just one lap of the track.  Usually those last distance markers seem to take an age to appear but the 200m to go sign quickly appeared.  One last corner to take and the finish line was in sight but the clock was still ticking.  To my amazement I saw, well heard first, my wife Madelaine standing at the side with our eldest son Theo shouting my name.  It turned out that Madelaine had planned to be there all along and managed to get Theo to keep it a secret from Daddy.  Seeing them was more than enough for me to dig that bit deeper to cross the line with a time of 1:09:32, a PB by 20 seconds.  Given the conditions I was over the moon with the time.  I managed to fight back the tears of joy as I took a slow jog over for two of the biggest rain drenched cuddles from Madelaine and Theo, still shocked that they were there! (Zack was warm and dry at home with Nanny and Grandad)

After returning from holiday seven weeks ago, in what felt like terrible shape, I thought I was a million miles away from another sub 70.  A self enforced cake ban, (meaning I had to postpone my own birthday cake, V35 now!) certainly helped matters plus the continuous belief and expert guidance from my coach Mark Perry in getting me ready for race day and of course the ongoing support from Running Form. 

With no specific target races planned for the rest of the year other than a few cross country events to "enjoy" the focus will be on keeping fit and staying injury free before starting the build up for London next year.  In the meantime though it's time to enjoy some much needed family time with Madelaine and our boys, now pass me the cake.....

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