I’ve prided myself on being a lot better at sensibly pacing races over the past year or so. 

It was always a running joke with Sportlink owner, Neil Featherby, that we would discuss race tactics in the knowledge we were probably wasting each other’s time. Inevitably, I would always start races too quickly and end up paying for it in the latter stages. 

The penny eventually dropped, and I normally have a pretty good idea of where my fitness is and the kind of time I can aim for. 

However, with marathon training kicking up a gear over the past few weeks, I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to feel on Sunday... I wanted to find out. 

I decided in the couple of days beforehand that I was going to commit, back myself in the early stages of the race and see if I could sustain it. 

I kept myself in check for the first couple of hundred metres up the hill at the start and then I went. I tried to weave my way through and find a position where I could run at the pace I wanted to. 

By the second kilometre I was amongst a group of runners running at a pace that felt the right side of uncomfortable. 

There was a little bit of wind on this section, and I tried to tuck in as much as I could and just stay on the heels of the runners in front of me. 

When they increased the pace at certain sections I stayed with them to try and get the benefit of running in a group. 

By the fourth kilometre it was starting to feel hard, but I remained calm in the knowledge that there was a drinks station at the 5K mark, offering a chance to reset for the second half of the race. 

I didn’t slow down in the drinks station, and I smashed a cup out of a poor marshal’s hand – sincere apologies. However, there was just about enough of a dribble remaining in the cup to wet my whistle and offer the mental restart I needed. 

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A check of the watch saw that I had gone through 5K in just over 19 minutes – 5K PB pace. The imposter in my head was telling me that I couldn’t sustain this but I quickly dismissed it. My brain was just trying to keep me safe and from severe discomfort. 

‘Thank you... but I’m a very different runner to when that PB was set.’ 

I ploughed on and felt very in control of my pace from 5K to 7K, focusing on a Wymondham AC clubmate 10-15m ahead of me. I was just telling myself to get to the notorious downhill section of the course and re-evaluate again. 

I negotiated the puddles and thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t turn my ankle in any of them. 

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Upon reaching the downhill, I let my legs go and gunned it down, trying to use my quads to control my direction rather than braking. 

With less than 2K to go I could feel a group of runners behind me closing in and I was starting to struggle a little. I knew it was going to be a very gradual climb from here and I was prepared for it to pinch. 

The group drew alongside me, and we pushed each other on.  

There were more and more supporters now on the side of the road – the smell of the finish line was drawing nearer – soon this severe discomfort would be over. 

One last push up the hill into Easton College and the group I had run with for about a kilometre pushed past me; I didn’t have anything in my legs to go with them.  

I didn’t beat myself up too much; it meant I had got the pacing about right.  

Upon crossing the finish line, I dipped out to the left to try and regather my senses; a glance down at my watch confirmed what I had hoped for: 38:25 – a new personal best and an improvement of over a minute from the Ely 10K on New Year’s Eve (in very different conditions admittedly). 

I had all of 30 seconds before my son, Logan, found me not to offer his congratulations but show me some very wet, mouldy pine cones he had found and now wanted me to hold. 

Brought back down to earth with a bump. 

Hopefully, the Valentine’s 10K shows my training is heading in the right direction. The next few weeks will see more marathon miles piled into the legs before a brief interlude for the Cambridge Half Marathon. 

All thoughts will then turn to Manchester; whether I have the bravery to commit myself to the pain cave for a marathon is another matter.