The winter grind is well and truly underway. After enjoying some time off, I threw myself back into the deep end with some races! Although it was a shock to the system, I love to race. It forces me into a competitive mindset and helps me to switch off from holiday mode.
First up was a mile race in Biella, Italy followed by the prestigious road race – Giro Podistico di Pettinengo. It was a little unusual doing two races back to back, but I was excited by the challenge and looked forward to seeing what my body could do after some time off! The distances were a little strange too – a mile on the Saturday followed by a 4k race on the Sunday.
Meandering around the beautifully pristine streets of Biella, I managed to take 2nd place behind the Kenyan athlete. My time wasn’t anything outstanding but it felt great to get the legs firing again and warmed up for the international race the following day. Pettinengo is situated at a very slight altitude of 1800m which meant that most of the route was extremely hilly – a stark difference to the flat tracks I had become accustomed to!
The atmosphere was brilliant; it felt as though the entire town had come out to watch. With previous winners such as Sonia O’Sullivan and Haile Gebresellasie standing beside me on the start line I felt in good company. We set off FAST. Much faster than I anticipated. I ran my own race and picked people off over the last mile. Coming into the final 100m there was a mad sprint between myself and the two Ugandan ladies. The Kenyan athlete from the day before took another win but there was a real battle for the other podium places. A little rusty, I left things a little too late. Finishing like a train, I almost caught two girls on the line but unfortunately just missed out, taking fourth place with less than 0.2 of a second between us all.
Heading home that evening, I couldn’t wait to get stuck into winter training. I was ready. There is a vast difference in training over the winter months to the summer racing season. The repetitions are much longer and the recoveries much shorter with the main focus being to build on endurance rather than quality racing speed. Due to previous injuries, cross country had not been in my plans but we scheduled in a few road races after all to keep that competitive edge and to build my leg strength.
Next up was the Leeds Abbey Dash and with only three weeks of training behind me I was looking forward to testing myself over a 10k. It was my third time racing at the Leeds Abbey Dash and so I was keen to see what sort of shape I was in compared to last year. I set off far too hard, getting a bit carried away running amongst the elite men. With a 4.55 minute first mile, I was worried my legs wouldn’t make it to the finish! Surprisingly, I felt much better than I had expected and apart from a little blip on the third mile, I was running much faster than last year. Clipping along I felt strong, running negative splits over the last half of the race. Crossing the line in just over 32 minutes, finishing exactly a minute faster than last year and a course record by ten seconds! It was made even more special due to the fact the previous record was set, 26 years ago in 1990 (the year I was born!).
For now, it’s time to continue my winter build up. It’s by far the hardest training phase of the entire year but I thrive off hard work and enjoy seeing my fitness increase with every step. There are a few more road races planned before I head out to Qatar for Christmas. It will be a chance to get some faster quality training done in the sunshine under the guidance of my coach but more importantly, it will be a chance to spend some quality time with my family. Although it’s strange having Christmas in the sun without an ounce of snow, I’ll be with my younger siblings and that’s what really makes Christmas special.