A photo of Geoffrey Hayward

Conquering the Exeter Great West Run

And an update.

Published May 26, 2023

A group photo of the Cranbrook Running Club after the 2023 Exeter Great West Run
The Cranbrook Running Club at the 2023 Exeter Great West Run.

The Exeter Great West Run is a hilly, challenging half-marathon through my nearest city (Exeter). Being a local closed-road event, it’s kind of essential to participate. Well, it would be rude not to, right? Also, it seemed like anyone in our running club (Cranbrook Running Club) not running was still out cheering. So as you can imagine the atmosphere was fantastic and I enjoyed the event very much.

Life Happens: Balancing Commitments and Training

One of the challenges I faced in the lead-up to the Exeter Great West Run was additional unexpected commitments that consumed a significant portion of my time. Plus, a bout of a chesty cough. Dedicating consistent training to prepare for this half-marathon became difficult.

My running routine was mainly on hold for three consecutive weeks after the Manchester Marathon. Despite the setback, I refused to let the lack of training deter me from participating in the Exeter Great West Run. With only a week remaining before the event, I seized the opportunity to get out running again. I knew, done well, that every minute of training in this condensed timeframe would count, and I was determined to make the most of it.

A Week of Training: Preparing for the Exeter Great West Run

In the final week leading up to the Exeter Great West Run, I knew that every training session would be crucial to prepare myself for the half-marathon challenge. Here’s a breakdown of how I structured my training sessions during the week:

Monday: An Early Morning 10-Mile Run

The week kicked off with determination as I laced up my running shoes and hit the country lanes at 5:30 am. It was a 10-mile run, and I aimed to maintain a steady pace. I finished the run with an average pace of 5:29 per kilometre. This run set the tone for the week ahead.

Tuesday: A Cardio Session with Intensity Variations

I visited the Exeter Cardio Hub for a 50-minute cardio session on Tuesday to continue enhancing my cardiovascular endurance. The workout was structured to challenge my heart rate and help me grow my limits. It began with 10 minutes at 80% of my maximum heart rate. Then, I transitioned into 10 minutes alternating between 1-minute pushes of 90% of my maximum heart rate and then 1 minute of rest. I repeated this sequence for another 20 minutes before concluding the session with a final 10 minutes, steady 80% of my maximum heart rate. This interval-based training always pushes me out of my comfort zone but noticeably continues to improve my cardiovascular fitness.

Wednesday: A Speedy 5K Run

On Wednesday, I opted for a shorter but intense run. A 5K run around the block (including a steep hill), focusing on maintaining a swift pace. I finished the run averaging at 4:52 per kilometre. This run definitely helped me mentally prepare for the race day challenge.

Thursday: A Combination of Tennis and Cardio

I started Thursday with a 60-minute tennis hitting session. My hitting partner and I opted for a non-stop session, aiming to keep the ball in play. Later in the day, during my lunch break, I returned to the Exeter Cardio Hub and followed the same format as Tuesday’s session.

Friday: A Gentle Treadmill Run

As race day loomed closer, I prioritised active recovery and conserving energy. So on Friday, I opted for a gentle 4K run on the treadmill, allowing my body to loosen up while avoiding excessive strain. The focus was on maintaining a comfortable pace and enjoying the run rather than pushing for speed or distance.

Saturday: Rest and Recovery

Understanding the importance of rest in training, I dedicated Saturday to complete rest. It was an opportunity for my body to recover, recharge, and prepare for the physical demands of race day. The week leading up to the Exeter Great West Run was a whirlwind of intense training sessions, focus, and determination. Each session, from the long run to the cardio intervals and the speedy 5K, was vital in preparing my body and mind for the race.

Race Day: The Exeter Great West Run

I stood at the start line, secretly nervous that I didn’t have it in me. But I thought I should be fine as long as I started slowly and built up to a steady pace. So that’s what I did, and after five or so kilometres, I felt ready to start pushing the pace.

A photo of Geoffrey Hayward and other runners out running at the Great West Run.
Setting off with a slower pace.

This year’s weather was great. It was neither hot nor cold. It was just right. And the atmosphere was fantastic. Not so much through the town centre mind – people just seemed to be cheering for people they knew only, but once out of the city centre, the cheers were shared for all. And the typical closed-road race energy was alive.

Seeing my fellow running club members out cheering was a memorable boost.

As the race continued, so did my confidence that I could make it all the way around without needing to walk. But at the back of my mind, the locally notorious University hill was yet to come. So I didn’t let my confidence lead me to over-pushing the pace. And it paid off as I managed to run up University hill and all the many others to the finish line.

Geoffrey Hayward running up the University hill at the Exeter Great West Run.
Running up the University hill passing some 10K racers.

I finished around 5 minutes faster than last year at 1:45:11. Not my fastest half, but Exeter Great West Run is not a fast route. So I am delighted with this time.

Geoffrey Hayward crossing the finish line at the Exeter Great West Run.
Crossing the finish line with a sprint finish.

Beyond the Exeter Great West Run: June Challenges

So this June, I am doing the Alzheimer Research UK Plank challenge. It is a challenge to Plank throughout the month, going for a little longer each day. All support through donations are very welcome. Alzheimer Research UK do necessary research, so it is excellent to help them raise money.

At the same time, our local town is doing 26 days of 26 minutes active movement challenge. So, I will be taking part in that too. I did it last year, and it does mean no rest days as such (but luckily, a walk counts as active minutes).

So, with all this activity, I will keep my blog updated through June.

What Happened to My Old Fast 5K May Plan?

For any regular blog readers, what happened to my plan to train for a sub-20-minute 5k? That’s still planned, but it’s on hold until I feel confident enough that I have ten consecutive weeks to prepare. Watch this space.

Geoffrey Hayward holding his finishers medal.
The finishers medal.

In conclusion, the Exeter Great West Run gave me a memorable experience. It served as a reminder that with determination, adaptability, and the unwavering support of others, we can conquer both the expected and unexpected obstacles that come our way. The journey continues. Enjoy your running.

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