17 Mar 2013

Race Report: The Finchley 20

The Finchley 20 is a bit of an institution among London long distance runners, having been founded in 1933. That first year 22 runners participated and the winner Vic Sellars finished the race in 2:09.01. Fast forward to 2013 and it's now the longest running 20 mile race, attracting 700 runners to take on 4 laps of the 5 mile course.

Today I took on that course. I was up at 6am as I needed to get on the first westbound Central Line train to get to the race in time and the combination of being tired and nervous made it  hard to eat breakfast. Having spent most of yesterday worrying about the weather (and what to wear!) my worst fears came true - heavy rain and just a few degrees over freezing was the weather out in London today. Now, this is something new to me as I've only ever run races where it's been warm/HOT and sunny and as someone who's got no circulation in my hands or feet I was a bit apprehensive. I ended up wearing my favourite Craft tights (i.e. the mystery tights), a merino wool base layer shirt and another long sleeved shirt as I don't have a waterproof running jacket. On my hands I put my thin Gore running gloves but I also brought with me a hand warmer in case my hands got terribly cold.

The race kicked off at 9am sharp but I was so far back in the field that I didn't pass the starting line until a minute or so after the race had started. I had decided to treat the race as normal long run and not push myself too much and I set off at a comfortable pace. As it is a smallish race the roads weren't closed off so you had to keep your wits with you and I was glad I'd decided not to run with my iPod. The first lap was all very comfortable with just a little drizzly rain but during the second lap the heavy rain set in. During the third lap my hands got proper cold but with my little emergency hand warmer they soon got pretty toasty and although my legs got a bit stiff from the cold rain I managed to keep my pace. During that lap I finished of the Shot Blok I'd brought with me which helped when I had a little bit of an energy dip at mile 14. The fourth lap was a bit strenuous, my right shoulder felt stiff, as did my legs, but I soldiered on and kept my pace. With 1 mile left I passed the lovely lady marshalling the mile 4 (9/14/19) mark for the third time and as on the prvious laps she gave me that last bit of energy to finish off the race. I finished on 2:59.10, with water running down my body and probably a slight case of hypothermia hence heading off to quickly get changed and go home to a hot shower.

So what about the course? On the website it was described as 'undulating' and indeed it was. The hills weren't scarily steep but fairly long and there were almost no completely flat parts which took its toll on your legs. There were 2 water stations and at the mile 3 mark they gave out Jelly Babies. The marshals were helpful and encouraging and the Hillingdon AC club house provided warm changing areas (and showers for those who wanted to shower post race). I got a medal and a goodie bag with some edibles. All in all it was a good race, I did 20 good miles alongside some other very nice runners - not to mention I got to practice running in cold and wet conditions. That said, I do hope for sunshine during my marathon in April...


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