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Rhayader Round the Lakes 20
Saturday 19th March 2011
Dave Mail

A Perfect Day at the Races
(alternatively entitled “The FlatLander Takes on the Welsh Hills and Beats Them Again”)

Went to Wales again on Saturday for my annual Welsh hills 20 miles race for the 6th time. I usually run this very hilly course in around 2hr 52 min, although I’ve shaved off about 30 seconds in each successive year. Training’s gone well in the last 3 months (lots of leave from work!), running strongly thanks to lots of hill work up the Castle Hill area, although not particularly quickly (long runs only about 8:40 pace on the flat) so I was hoping to just nip under 2hr 50m for the first time.

Arrived in Wales on a beautiful day …..

What a lovely day. I’m so glad to be here despite what lays in store, and I’m wonderfully relaxed and totally focussed, so off we go.

At 5 miles, I got to the top of the 3 miles long hill having overtaken lots of runners as usual in just under my normal time of about 45 minutes, enjoyed the downhill with stupendously beautiful scenery bathed in glorious sunshine in front of me with a huge smile on my face, and then reached halfway in just over 83 minutes. Hang on, what’s happened? I haven’t got to this point before in less than 89 minutes! I can’t really be ahead of my normal schedule by 6 minutes. Has my watch stopped?

Shortly afterwards, I passed some supporters who had adopted me (I’d befriended some local Welsh people, letting them know about the revised start) who gave me a tremendous cheer as I went by – more huge smiles! I can now vouch for the lift that such support gives you. A bit further on, I passed an Ely Runner – “Hello fellow Fen runner”. Lots of chats between me and other runners giving each other mutual encouragement, “have a good run” etc.

Normally, I wait until the 15 miles point before I make my finishing effort, but at the 10 miles point I was already running so quickly that I just kept going. In the last 5 miles, I’ve previously overtaken lots of tiring runners, but this year I was so much further up the field that they were very spread out and going faster, but I stilled reeled in a few. Over the tricky hill at 18 miles and then up into Rhayader for the finish.

2:40:12! A course PB by a whole 11½ minutes. At my age I’m supposed to be getting seriously slower, not smashing a course PB by such a huge margin. Take heart all you youngsters!

Missed out by only 2m30s on a 20 miles PB which was set at the flat (comparatively) Oakley 20 a couple of years ago. More than makes up for the awful marathon that I had at Abingdon last year due to too much work interruption. On a flat marathon course this run would have comfortably been a sub 3h15m time (automatic qualification for London). Anyone know of a fast marathon in the next few weeks?

What a day! Glorious weather, beautiful scenery, such friendliness between runners and running “in the zone”. The perfect race day. Running doesn’t get any better than this.

A still shocked Dave (anyone know of any relaxation exercises to get rid of silly grins?). Can’t wait to recover and get running again.

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