Ben Collins in the Surrey Half

Ben was going in search of a very good time at the Surrey Half

When you’ve trained really hard for a specific event and the day of the race comes around, you have to pray that everything falls into place and that the conditions are right for you to achieve your true potential. That was how it was for Simon Hearn and Ben Collins when they travelled up to Woking for the Surrey Half. For them, this was a target race and they had both worked hard to get themselves in the best possible shape they could.

A regular at the Bournemouth AC training nights, Ben had been making extremely good progress and was usually right up at the front in the interval sessions. He’d also been putting on some decent long runs on the weekends as well which had served to add endurance to his game to complement the speed injection he possesses.

The last time he properly targeted a race was when he did the Great South Run in October and that went pretty well. He ended up recording a tremendous PB of 57:30 that day.

It’s a bit different for Simon Hearn because he coaches the juniors on Tuesday and Thursday nights so can’t join in with the road runners training group at all. Hence, he does most of his training on his own. His approach though is to find a training plan that is different to any he’s done previously and then work to that over a 12 week period. That’s what he’s been doing for years and for the most part, it’s been successful.

Simon set his half marathon PB of 1:27:12 just over a year ago so as far as he was concerned, that was the time he was looking to beat. Ben didn’t really have a target time in mind but he had a rough idea of what sort of pace he might be able to sustain for the full distance.

Big Ben powers up the hill in the Surrey Half

Ben was determined to make his mark and do himself justice

Starting off with a very quick mile of 5:39 pace, Ben had gone out fairly hard. He then settled into a 5:43 for his next mile and then a 5:41 for his third mile. It was quite a quick first 5k but Ben was in such good form that it wasn’t unrealistic that he could keep it going.

Ben Collins digging in in the Surrey Half

Ben was prepared to dig deep into his resolve to get the job done

For the next six miles he was at around 5:45 to 5:50 pace which was still very solid and in the right sort of ballpark. The 10th mile was the main pace disruptor. It was a gradual incline and had a hairpin bend so that made it a slowest mile of the course. For that one Ben went out to just over 6 minutes for the mile.

Ben Collins in action at the Surrey Half

Ben’s pace was consistently fast throughout the race

After that though, it was a slight downhill all the way which made it easy to close out the final 5k, even though Ben was hurting a lot by that point. Posting a 5:44 and a 5:45 for his 11th and 12th miles, he then managed a 5:41 for his 13th mile, leaving him with a short run into the finish.

That culminated in a fabulous finishing time of 1:15:55, putting him in 28th place overall and giving him an average pace of 5:46. It really was an impressive showing of strength from Ben and the consistency of his splits showed he’d got his pacing right.

Ben reaches the finish of the Surrey Half

Ben crosses the line to record an incredible time of 1:15:55

It was really pleasing to see Ben get the result that he so richly deserved from all the hard training he’d been putting in.

Simon sorting his watch out in the Surrey Half

Simon Hearn was also in the hunt for a half marathon PB

When Simon does races, he tends to user the virtual pacer on his watch and set it to whatever pace he’d trained for. On this occasion though, something went wrong with his watch and the pace became inaccurate.

Simon Hearn in the Surrey Half

Simon was having some troubles with the virtual pacer on his watch

That was a something that in the old days he might have panicked about. This time though, he stayed calm and worked off his mile splits instead. Getting to the line in a remarkable time of 1:26:13, Simon had smashed his PB by a minute!

Simon Hearn in action at the Surrey Half

Simon stayed strong throughout the race, sticking to his planned pace well

Again, it was fantastic to Simon get the reward that all the hard work he’d put in deserved. That put him 192nd overall on gun time out of 2,637 runners and 10th out of 182 in the V50 category.

Simon crosses the finish line in the Surrey Half

Simon reaches the line to record a huge new PB

The race was won by Ed Shepherd of Woodford Green in a time of 1:06:49 and that was over two minutes quicker than his nearest rival, Patrick Martin who finished in 1:08:54. Ollie Garrod took 3rd place in 1:09:07.

Seven men finished in under 1 hour 10 minutes, showing what a high standard field it was at the sharp end. New Poole AC man Thomas Corbin got round in 1:12:20 which was a terrific performance.

Amazingly, Bournemouth AC’s Ben was only the fourth placed Ben in the race, with three amongst the 27 runners who finished ahead of him. They were Ben Findlay of Winchester & District who was 11th and got round in 1:11:52, Ben Harrison who was 13th in 1:12:48 and Ben Howard of Epson who was 17th in 1:14:24.

Ruby Woolfe of Thames Hare and Hounds was 1st female, completing the course in 1:17:29 which put her in 46th place overall. Eliza Hawthorn was 2nd woman in 1:18:14 which put her in 58th place overall. Then it was Sarah Holt of The Stragglers who got round in 1:18:23, putting her in 60th place overall. She was also 1st V40 woman.

Dave Hicks of Poole AC was running as well and he finished 65th in a time of 1:18:39 and that put him 2nd in the V50 category. Scott Blakeway of Littledown Harriers also took part, crossing the line in 1:23:49 which put him 145th overall.

There was also a 5k race on and that was won by Stephen Blake of Aldershot Farnham & District in a time of 15:44. Martha Collings of Woking was 1st female and 5th overall in 17:52.

Simon is really enjoying his running at the moment and is doing incredibly well to still be progressing and nailing new PBs at the age of 55. In fact, that’s probably what keeps him looking so young!

The weekend after Surrey Half he was back in action at the the New Forest Off-Road Half Marathon event held at Hinton Admiral. He was taking part in the 15k race there though so a chance to just have a bit of fun with the pressure off now he has achieved his target goal.

Next weekend he’ll be tacking the Reading Half Marathon where he’ll be looking to eclipse his Surrey Half time by going for a 1:25.

Ben’s next target race is yet to be determined but he’ll no doubt be touted for some of the forthcoming league races as the club continue to fight on two fronts with the Dorset and Hampshire Road Race League fixtures coming thick and fast in April and May.