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This Hallowed Ground

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The Miler

Exclusively for the SOAR Milers, The Miler 001, running stories through the SOAR lens.

You can find a race report from SOAR Race Team athlete George Schweining , as she moves up to 7th on the UK all-time marathon rankings, a deep dive by Tim on his favourite products from this winter, Rob shares a look-back to a seminal UK fell race and Jacob Allen of the Race Team, who's been in great form, talks training with us.

Designer’s Product Focus

Tim Soar, Founder & CEO

The Three Peaks Fell Race, 1976 Style

Head of Marketing,  Rob Wilson

Valencia Marathon 2022

George Schwiening, SOAR Race Team Athlete

Though a great experience with no regrets, my Commonwealth Games marathon was hilly, hot and far from a PB course. I was looking forward to the flat, fast conditions of Valencia.

The day before the marathon is never fun, full of nerves, uncertainty and wondering whether you have set enough alarms for the morning. My body and brain were well aware of what I was going to ask of them, and the effect it was going to have: leaving me an apprehensive, hobbling mess.

On the morning of the race, after a breakfast of coffee, hot cross buns, and chocolate, I walked to the start with some goosebump-inducing company, including World and National record holders, and Olympians. In the call-room area, I got talking to another female runner. I love the nervous pre-race chatter - there is nothing more reassuring than being reminded that everyone is in it together. I later realised I was speaking to the legendary Catherine Bertone, who ran a Masters World Record of 2:28:34 at the age of 45 in 2017. Inspirational is too small a word. She went on to run a 2:34:14 on the day. 

After a quick jog around the car park, applying vast amounts of Vaseline, tying and retying my laces countless times, it was time to head up to the start line. My target pace, set about a week before, was intimidating (at least for me at 3:28 mins per km). Three things were clear to me in that start pen: 

It was going to be a tough day whether I held the pace or not.

I was desperate for a successful ‘cash-in’ of all my training. 

I had made the choice to do this, with all the associated risk and pain. It was both completely optional and the ultimate privilege. 

The gun went off at 8:15 am sharp. Time to run. Everything started as well as can be expected for the first kilometre, but 2 km in a dog ran into the road, heading straight towards me, stopping directly in my path. With less than a metre to spare we passed and full-panic mode was averted. I had trained for many eventualities but not for a run-in with a dog.

I got down to my target pace, checked I was drafting nicely, kept close to the racing line and ‘zoned-out’ from what was going on around me. Other than trying to avoid any stress at the water stations, I don’t remember much. I do remember crossing the halfway timing mats and feeling pleased that I was on pace. There is often some GPS error in Valencia so having concrete confirmation was a nice boost. 

I have raced Valencia several times, but I have never been relaxed enough to soak up any of the city as I ran through it. This time however, I remember seeing the beautiful buildings in the old town in the second half. It really is a great city, particularly with the lovely soundtrack of local spectators shouting “Vamos Chicas!” and the cheers from my boyfriend who was doing an interval set to spot me at least five times. 

At around 37km my mind turned to the steep ramp from the road down to the dry riverbed towards the finish line and I couldn’t help worrying that my day might be ruined by cramping up or falling over on the ramp. The last 5km involved slightly more frequent checking of my watch and being disappointed at how slowly the metres were ticking by, but significantly better than Valencia in 2019 when my confused brain thought a marathon was 41km. It was very upsetting to discover an extra kilometre hiding at the end of a maximum effort marathon.

The descent of the ramp was uneventful, and I crossed the finish line in what felt like a lifetime later, stopped my watch and immediately felt overwhelmed. I had executed what I set out to do - and that isn’t ever a given in the marathon. 

Strangely, it isn’t the finishing time that I am most pleased with but instead managing to set out at the pace that my fitness had indicated. Without having committed it would not have happened. I’m happy and relieved that I had the confidence to execute it. 

The next day I had optimistic plans of a sea-front bike ride, touring the old town, visiting museums, and perhaps making use of the hotel pool. In reality, I lowered my post-race celebration expectations and we made it to a lovely restaurant for a tuna steak and cocktails. At the finish line, I forgot to collect a race T-shirt but the race organisation are kindly posting me one all the way to sunny Cambridge. I’m very much looking forward to putting it on and never taking it off.

Record Breaker

Jacob Allen, of the SOAR Race Team and Highgate Harriers, has been in fine form of late, snatching the club record 10K recently at the Valencia 10K in 28:45. We recently caught up with him for some of his choice musings on training: 

"It is imperative to have the willingness to accept that to run your best, it may take weeks, months and yes, years"