"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Rose Inn 4 - August 2022 - Redwick, Magor

A couple of niggles after the Bewl 15 put paid to my marathon plans for a while (postponed, definitely not cancelled) and then a change of plans led to me not heading to New York for our August Celebrations. Lockdown aside, Kokila and I have both been every year since 1994 but this year the lingering effects of Long Covid meant she was not able to travel, so we reluctantly opted to stay in the UK and have our own personal Sri Chinmoy Birth Anniversary Celebs. As best we could.

I always enjoy the races at Celebrations, from 2-milers to ultra-walks or marathons, whether I'm taking part or doing the scoreboard or lap count, so I looked for races in August closer to home. There wasn't a lot on the Bristol calendar but plenty was going on over the bridge in South Wales, where I was once - in my mind at least - part of the racing scene.

Usually the Rose Inn 4 clashes with our Sri Chinmoy race series in Bristol but as we finished with our relay event in July and The Rose carried on into August there was one last race in their series I could make. I had some great runs here back in the early noughties, nipping under 24 mins for the 4 miles when I was 40, but I was in no shape for peak performance after a month off. I eased myself back into training a week and a half before the race and threw in some sessions at 85-90% (short intervals) then set myself the target of running "twenty seven something" which felt testing but not out of reach.

On race day as ever I was there well early - I'd stopped on the way at the Severn Bridge Peace Plaque where a short peace meditation on the sky reflected beautifully in the waters of the estuary had lifted my mood to a very peaceful plane. Maybe that was why I didn't feel inspired to catch up with the people I recognised after more than a decade - I spotted a lot of people I used to race with and maybe they half-recognised me, but I was there to run and somehow didn't feel like chatting - also lockdown-mind might have been playing a part, like a lot of people I've probably forgotten how to socialise! Anyway I focussed on warm-up, walking quite a way in the lanes then jogging a full lap of the 2-mile loop with a few strides before stretching in the bus shelter near the start (it has a handy wall at waist-height to rest your outstretched leg on for the hamstring stretch). The phrase warm-up was pretty apt as the temperature was around 27 celcius - we were in the second official heat-wave of the incredibly long and hot summer of 2022 - so even after that jog of 2 miles in super slow-mo pace I was feeling the heat.

The atmosphere at the start was as I remembered, a very happy and welcoming event with runners who simply love a good burn-up gathered expectantly. I think every single runner I saw was in a club vest of some description, mostly from Cardiff and the valleys, but with many runners from the hosts, Chepstow Harriers. I eased up to race pace and kept a close eye on my heart rate so as not to commit the usual error of going off too fast. I was consciously holding back. The course is perfectly flat and very peaceful - Redwick is a tiny village and apart from the pub and the church and a few houses on the stretches of the course nearest to the start, it's all fields and hedgerows, evening sun and serene sky. I felt as if I should be able to keep up with some of the other vets up ahead, but I let the HR monitor dictate the pace, running at around 90% and occasionally letting myself drift up a little higher. Mile 1 flashed up pretty close to the mile marker and tod me I was running at 6.39 pace with an HR of 163. That meant I might break 27 minutes but the one-mile time in a 4 miler can just be down to an over-optimistic start. I stayed cautious, tried not to compete with the runners around me but stick at a steady pace, then found myself at the half way mark with 13.36 on the clock. 27 mins looked less likely, but I could feel I was running about right for my fitness level. A photographer with a long lens reeled off several shots of each runner as we passed and I later found out this was the man known on Flickr as Les Stills - a great name! Superb in-focus portraits of every runner were later available and that's where the photos on this page come from - MANY THANKS!

Lap 2 had seen my HR creep up to 174, and although I felt I was accelarating into the 3rd mile, letting myself off the leesh just a little, I came through the next marker in 20.28 having run 6.53 at 177 bpm. Before this race I was sure my max HR was 178 as that was the highest I'd recorded in races or riding hills on the bike, but at the end of this 4-miler I had hit something significantly higher. I really was giving it maximum effort in the last mile, which clocked 6.38 at HR of 182. Guess that's my max after all!

All in all I was well happy with my time of 27:10, 77th out of 170 odd so in the top half of the results. I know I can improve on that though, so while my main focus this month is on preparing for my first ever swim race (the Dart 10k marathon-swim) I'll try and get some interval sessions into my running and see if I can build back up to race-fitness. It felt good to be back at the Rose - in a really intense and serious but also fun and light-hearted race. Everyone there was united by one thing - the joy of running it hard. Hope I can make it back next season.

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