16 October 2016
An interesting race weekend. Curry and beer on Friday night, Dad’s taxi all day Saturday (sleepover, gymnastics, birthday party #1, birthday party #2), interspersed with an outstanding sports massage, care of my better half, and a bowl (ok two bowls…) of pre-race pasta. Who knew all of that would add up to a great race on Sunday.
Race morning. Met up with Ed and Dan before the start and we agreed on 3:30 per kay as a good pace to set off at. Dan was in the elite start and I was in the sub-elite start about 20m back. I needed to close the gap asap after the gun.
Soon it was go time and we poured over the line. I tried to stay relaxed and get into my running, not going too quickly or too slowly. Both easily achievable mistakes I make at the start of a race. I’m rubbish with pacing from the off, but once I find a pace, I can settle into it and run fairly even.
Dan was about 50m ahead of me in a pack of 5 with Peter, Joe, Orlando and Richard White. First kay clicked off in 3:21. I wasn’t concerned about them being ahead because the first kay has a decent downhill so figures are skewed. I just kept with what I was doing. Second kay in 3:24 and I was no closer to them. This was more of a concern because I was running solo and had to make a decision to put my foot down and catch them, but in doing so risk going too fast too early, or run my current pace effectively on my own with 19 of the 21 kays remaining. If I settled into the 3:30s as planned there was no way I would catch them, so in a snap decision, based on my legs feeling ok, I stuck in 2 further kays of 3:21 and 3:21.
This pulled me up to the group just as we were hitting the first water point around 3 miles, manned by the BRATs, and shortly after that the spot my support crew were waiting to cheer me on. The thought of seeing them gave me a little boost and without noticing it I edged to the front the group and led them through the next few minutes. Seeing Cath, Lal, Zac, Talullah and Abby was awesome. I gave Abs a high five as I passed. I was feeling good, I was in a tight group, we were running quick, things were going well.
At this point the route turns off Pershore road to take in a small triangle consisting of an incline out and then a downhill return to Pershore. Going up the hill, with the excitement of seeing the family now passed, the pace immediately felt too quick. Fact is it was too quick. I was digging in more than I should to stay with the group. I drifted off the back to reassess. Dan slowed to pull alongside me and said let’s just relax until we get to Bournville. I agreed and said the pack was moving too quick now anyway. Orlando, Joe, Peter and Richard pulled away from us and Dan and I ran side by side for the next few miles.
We kept things under control and turned at the uphill next to Rowheath Pavilion to begin the journey back towards the city centre. As we passed the 6 mile mark the route was starting to flatten out with a slight downhill toward Pershore. I was feeling good, being sensible for those few miles had paid off, and subconsciously I pressed the accelerator a bit. Dan told me to go if I wanted to press on, as he was struggling with his breathing.
I pulled away and set off after the group which was still in sight but a fair way ahead. Orlando had drifted off the back but was still running well and the rest of them, now down to a trio, were tightly grouped and looking strong.
Running down the other side of Pershore road is a great part of the course. You’re heading back towards town, it’s a slight downhill and there is lots of support on both sides of the road. I saw my crew shouting at me again at around the 7-8 mile mark. I was feeling good and let them know with some waving and hand gestures. Then I settled into the business of trying to bridge the gap to Orlando. I pulled alongside him as we hit the last bit of Pershore and turned towards the Edgbaston Cricket ground.
A crazy loop around the grandstands of the cricket ground and then out and into cannon hill park. Running through the cricket ground was a strange affair. The last time I ran the race this wasn’t in it, so it was my first taste. Usually when I’m here I’m a few pints to the good on a lazy summer afternoon soaking up some cricket, beer and burger in hand. Now I was trying to maintain pace, 8 and a half miles into a half marathon, and starting to suffer. Talk about mixed messages.
I found myself a few strides ahead of Orlando as we headed into cannon hill park. I figured it was all or nothing. There was no-one left to chase, the guys ahead were out of sight, and the only people I would see would be any passing me, so may as well empty the tank. Ran through Cannon Hill park, got a cheer from Hannah England on her bike, and headed out of the top gate. 10 miles came and went and still the kays were ticking by at 3:20 or thereabouts. I was hurting, but needed to maintain the pace until The Hill.
The Hill was looming and I had nothing in my legs. I had worked flat out to this point and had time on my side. I figured I would lose time but as long as I had more in the bank than I lost climbing this monster, it was all gravy. I hit the bastard and started climbing.
Leaning into it, just trying to keep the legs turning over. It was heavy going. I looked up the hill and saw the pack of three had finally been undone. Explosions on the hill. Richard was coming back to me. I didn’t know if there was enough time left in the race to reach him. I couldn’t work anything out at this point and just put my foot down when we hit Hagley road in the final mile. Whatever is in the tank gets used now.
I did catch Rich and passed him and mumbled something about digging in. Then I pinned my ears back and just went for it as hard as I could down the hill through the Fiveways underpass out and up the other side. The 400m to go sign board came and went, then the 200m board which seemed impossibly far away. I could see the finish line and the clock. It was 1hr12 something. Couldn’t make out the seconds. Let it be a low number I thought as I still had about 20 seconds to go. Sprinted across the line and stopped my watch.
A PB by 56 seconds. 15th overall and 1st V40. I couldn’t be happier, but right now was too tired to think of anything.
I collected my bag and got reunited with the crew, who had just missed me over the line in their mad rush back from the 7 mile mark. Guys you were fantastic – it was so awesome seeing you on the road. Thank you.
Dan, Orlando, Richard, Peter. We worked hard out there. Job done. Well done all.
Ps Old Father Time – you will have to wait for another race to catch me…. my legs aren’t done yet🙂.