Rich Brawn and Sanjai Sharma prepare to take on the Bramley 20

As part of their London Marathon training, Rich Brawn and Sanjai Sharma took part in the Bramley 20, looking to gage where their fitness is at the current stage

For anyone training for London or any Spring marathon really, the Bramley 20 race can provide a good early indicator of where you’re at with your training and how hard you need to work over the next couple of  months in order to achieve your target time.

For several years now Sanjai Sharma has competed at the Bramley 20. His usual strategy is to approach it as a progressive training run where he looks to crank up the pace every five miles.

Usually he does the race with Graeme Miller but Graeme has been suffering from some injury problems of late so isn’t really doing much running.

However, there were still two Bournemouth AC representatives taking part as Rich Brawn stepped up to give it a go as part of his training for London.

Originally he was planning on executing a similar strategy to Sanjai and running the race in progressive blocks of five. It does require quite a lot of discipline though to start off a moderate pace so he wasn’t sure if it would end up that way but the idea was there.

Just before the race started Rich bumped into Ania Gabb, a friend from his former running club Dacorum & Tring. There wasn’t much time to hang around and chat though as the start was imminent so they said hello and then went off to finish their last minute preparations before getting underway.

Rich found Sanjai on the start line and they began the race together. As the flurry of runners rushed to get away quickly, Sanjai held back knowing if he got swept along by the crowd his ran plan would be in jeopardy.

Rich wasn’t quite so disciplined though and started off at a fairly quick pace. He then saw Ania just in front of him and went to chat to her. He asked whether she was racing it or doing it as a training run and she said she was racing it really and looking to run it at around sub-three hour marathon pace.

Although it wasn’t what he had originally planned to do, the pace she was intending to go at was the pace that his run would have averaged out at theoretically so he thought he would try running with Ania for a bit and see how it goes.

They were going a bit faster than they needed to for the first four miles but they were just chatting away most of the time and weren’t really paying too much attention to the pace. Rich figured, since it was just supposed to be a training run anyway, he’d just run with Ania and enjoy it rather than going for any specific time or pace.

Sanjai, on the other hand, was a lot more disciplined. He had held back for the first five miles and gone at a really comfortable pace and had then begun to move through the gears for his second block of five.

At around the six or seven mile point Sanjai overtook Rich and Ania and it was clear that his steady start was beginning to pay dividends. As the hills began to kick in, Rich and Ania started to slow down and Sanjai began to drift away from them.

Sanjai Sharma strides out in the Bramley 20

Sanjai kept to a steady pace for the first five miles and then began to move up the gears for the second five miles

They weren’t really expecting so many slight inclines on the course and it was becoming difficult to main their early pace. Rich knew as well from speaking to Sanjai about the course that there were a couple of significant hills on mile 6 and mile 8.

Sure enough, the hills were pretty steep and once they’d made it to the top, the thought of having to go up them again on the second lap, since it was a two lap course, scared Rich and Ania a bit.

There wasn’t much in the way of downhill recovery either and when they got to the 9th mile, Rich was getting a little worried about how tired his legs were feeling. He thought perhaps he would drop it into the conversation in the hope that Ania was feeling the same, and luckily she was, so they soldiered on.

As he reached the 10 mile point, the runners that were doing the 10 mile race were arriving into the finish. Sanjai was filtered into the right-hand lane though where he would continue on his second lap. It was then time to up the pace again for his third block of five.

A couple of minutes later Rich and Ania arrived at that point and they then set off on their second lap, still chatting away to each other and entertaining others around them at the same time.

Ania Gabb and Rich Brawn runnign together at the Bramley 20

Rich and Ania ran together quite comfortably for the first 10-mile loop and were chatting away throughout

For the next five miles, Sanjai continued on strongly managing to run at an even faster pace than he was going before. Rich and Ania were okay as well for the next four miles. On mile 15 the hills started to come again though and they knew they were in for a tough last six miles.

This was also the point where Sanjai began to struggle as well and it then became a case of just battling through to the finish rather than attempting to up the pace any further.

As they reached the last five miles, the mood began to change slightly for Rich and Ania. They became a little less talkative and a little less jovial. It was now time to dig in and push on through the pain.

For the first time in the race, their pace dropped to over 7 minutes per mile. It wasn’t ideal and it meant that they weren’t going to hit the sub-three marathon pace they were hoping for. There was nothing they could do about it though. The hills had got the better of them.

Although his pace had dropped a touch, Sanjai remained strong right through the end of the race, crossing the line in 53rd place in a time of 2:14:33. It was a couple of minutes off the time he did at the Bramley 20 last year but he’s behind where he was in his training at this stage last year so that was to be expected.

Sanjai Sharma ran well in the Bramley 20

Although it was a tough last five miles, Sanjai stayed strong throughout the run to finish in a time of 2:14:33

All things considered, it was a very good run from Sanjai and he had every reason to be pleased with his efforts on a day when there was also a noticeable cross wind on certain sections of the course.

Rich and Ania battled hard over the last four miles of the course doing everything they could to keep the pace respectable. It was tough though and the last few hills really took it out of them.

They were determined though and managed to push on through until the welcome sight of the finish line arrived in view. They’d done it and it was a great feeling to cross the line. And what was more, they did it together, helping each other through the trials and tribulations.

They finished in 83rd and 84th places, with Ania’s time being clocked at 2:18:20 and Rich‘s at 2:18:21. That gave them an average pace of 6:53 minutes per mile, meaning they were around 5 seconds a mile off where they needed to be for sub-three marathon pace.

Ania and Rich had to dig in over the last four miles

Ania and Rich had to work hard to negotiate the hills in the last four miles but finished in a respectable time of 2:18:20

On such a hilly course though, that wasn’t too much of a bad result for Rich and Ania and they know they have plenty of time yet to improve on their fitness, strength and endurance over the coming months. Ania is taking part in the Manchester Marathon in early April so she’ll be hoping to be in prime condition when that comes around.

As for Rich, he was pleased with the run and, although it wasn’t the strategy he had planned on doing, it was an enjoyable run and certainly much faster than he would have been able to do in a training run so that was good enough for him.

Plus he kind of felt like, since Ania usually runs with her headphones in and music on and for this race she wasn’t allowed it, it was his duty to keep her entertained throughout the race so she didn’t get bored.

Afterwards quite a few people came up to them and remarked on how they’d been listening to their conversation and it had helped take their mind off the race for a bit so it was seemingly a welcome distraction for some of the other runners as well.

Rich Brawn and Sanjai Sharma at the Brmaley 20

When all was said and done it was a positive exercise for Rich and Sanjai and they will certainly take some benefits out of the Bramley 20 race to help them on the road ahead