Like a Spitfire coming out of the sun.

Stablemate Mark Watts smashed out a fantastic, five-minute plus PB at the Farnborough Winter Half-Marathon … on a warm and humid British summer’s day. (No irony here, kids—read on.)

The footie-mad Englishman, with a love for Chicago-style deep dish pizzas, completed the course in 1:36:09 (down from the 1:41:33 earned on the same course in January 2020), and placed 132/770 overall—45/159 in his age category. 

The Stable News’ cheerleader, Ally Smith, was tasked with getting a hold of Mark after the race, but before he’d “get on the beers, son” for the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. We did not tell him to put on a phoney London accent so Mark could understand him—honest. 🙂

“Alright, Marko, my son! Congratulations on the massive PB. Tell me all about it then, geezer.”

“Farnborough is a great season opener in the south of England, as it’s normally in January and cold. It’s not a hilly course but does have some inclines, declines, and a switchback to keep you honest.

In terms of my own performance, I’m really happy with how it went. I did feel that I was uncomfortably comfortable from about mile four and had to have many a word with myself around the course to get the best result possible.

Csíkszentmihályi flow.

Also noted was the difference running a time trial format at the sharper end of the field (relative to me) makes. In previous mass start races, there were always plenty of people to overtake, but in this format you really need to focus on yourself and your own race—you can’t just pick one runner off after another. A fellow runner went past me at around mile 12, and I thought he was gone. But as the finish line got closer, he started to sandbag, and a finishing straight shoot-out ensued. Of course, I won with a trademark sprint finish, which gave me immense pride!

The strike home.

I’ve had a really good last nine weeks of consistent training, and I’m glad to cap it off with a race and a PB. It sets me up nicely for the autumn. I was in much the same shape last year, but COVID meant I never got to cover myself in glory by racing and gaining a PB. An annoying foot injury at the start of the year, and a couple of months of really light running, makes this comeback feel even sweeter; especially as I’m someone that tends to add a few kg when I’m not training consistently. Some people think I like to have a balanced diet by putting pineapple on pizza!”

“Get in there, Marko! Pineapple on pizza is the dog’s b*ll*cks. Enjoy the footy, geez.”

Once Ally had finished talking to Marko, he clocked off and got straight down the pub for the final. So it was up to us to get a hold of Coach Stazza, who just happened to be picking Aoife’s Ireland kit up from the dry cleaners: “Pineapple on pizza? Hmm, that debate may need to be banned in The Stable, along with religion, politics, and diet, hee- hee. Congrats on the 5’ PB, Mark; as sweet as some juicy pineapple and Parma ham on a pizza.”

Already halfway through his second pint before Ally left, Mark added: “I’ve got the London Marathon in October … no faffing about in the summer doing daft local races. I’m going for a big PB … hold that front page for me then, Ally boy!”

OK, Mark. We’ll keep our side of the bargain … no pressure.