The big 2-0 on the training plan is a daunting prospect to even the most seasoned marathon runner. Not only is it a very long way, but it’s as much a mental challenge as a physical one. It’s also the run that can give you the confidence that a marathon is actually achievable – if I can just get to 20 miles in training the last 10k will be fine…right?
Of course, it doesn’t actually work that way in real life because during last 10k of a marathon things can either miraculously come together, or spectacularly fall apart! I’ve definitely experienced the latter more than the former but it doesn’t stop the 20 miler giving me some confidence before race day.
On Sunday the Clapham Chasers hosted their annual Thames Riverside 20 mile ‘race or pace’ event (TR20) which is geared up with Spring marathoners in mind. We offer pacers from sub 7mm to 10mm so it’s the perfect training run to check you’re on track. For me, I just love the fact that I can focus on running with my friends around me rather than worrying about the distance.
A sunny race HQ in Bishops Park at 7.30am
It’s an out and back route from Putney Bridge to Richmond along the towpath which means you get to see some friendly faces as people start turning around and a friendly face can offer the same pick-me-up as a caffeinated salted caramel gel!
I find participating in an event like this really beneficial for several reasons:
- There’s emotional strength to be found in not running alone. Even if you don’t know the runners around you, even if you don’t speak, they’re right there and going through the same thing you are (unless you’re Nathan who won the race in a new course record with a full 7 minute lead…but he’s pretty amazing).
- Plenty of water stations mean you don’t have to carry your own
- There are marshals all along the course to offer encouragement and a smile (and maybe a high-5 if you’re lucky)
- When you’re wearing a race number other pedestrians seem more willing to let you past
- If anything happens help is never far away
- If it’s the TR20 there’s guaranteed to be a whole lot of cake at the finish!
Chaser Pacers, a happy Garmin & an almost empty cake table!
I went off in the 9mm wave not really sure if I’d be able to hold it but, with Laura and Gemma by my side having a good ol chat, it felt surprisingly easy. We were a bit ahead of target which worried me, but I managed to hold the pace even though we split up on the way back – I made friends with some South London Harriers instead!
As I rounded the corner to the finish line I was greeted by the Chaser Cheering Squad shouting my name and cheering, I couldn’t help but finish with a little sprint and a big smile!
The best thing about the TR20 is that all I had to concentrate on was getting out of bed (at 5.45am!) and getting to the start rather than planning a route, carrying fluids and being mentally strong on my own.
Maybe sharing a 20 mile run won’t make it any shorter, but it’ll sure make it happier. I’ve got 18 miles to knock out this weekend and I’m more than grateful to have some Chaser ladies lined up to share it with!
Laura & I looking surprisingly perky post run.