The Alsager 5 is a classic five-mile race near Crewe. The course profile is very flat and consists of two laps on quiet country roads around the village, finishing next to the local school and leisure centre. I haven’t done this race since 2008 (only seemed like yesterday!) and have kept meaning to go back and race again. Thanks to Brooks, who now sponsor the race, I had a guaranteed entry. The quality of runners here is always very high, my best position was 11th and my personal best over this distance was set here in 2007 with 24:24, which was well behind the winner Jermaine Mays, who I think ran a very rapid time around 23:30 or something.
The event incorporates an inter-region match and I had the honour of representing the North of England in a strong team with Matt Barnes, Antony Ford and Ben Riddell. The race starts in a quiet residential area with quite a narrow road, so getting near the front and getting a good start is essential. There was certainly plenty of runners for me to look out for, with the Midlands team fronted by Phil Nicholls and Phil Wylie, as well as other entrants such as Patrick Martin, Matt Hynes, Ben Livesey and Sean Connolly. The conditions were very good, there was a slight wind and some rain, maybe not as great for spectators, but bob on for running!
The race got off with a fast start and I managed to get myself up in the mix with Nicholls, Ford, Martin, Hynes, Wylie and Riddell. The first mile was covered in around 4:48 – 4:50, which felt quick enough for me, but the pace remained steady and I was able keep around the front, sometimes leading for brief periods. I checked my watch at 9:37 for 2 miles which had me well on target for a new pb. The pack was then starting to thin out and by half-way there was five of us at the front and after three miles a small gap was opening up from Nicholls leaving just Patrick Martin, Matt Hynes and myself at the front. Patrick was really forcing the pace moving strongly and it was getting tough hanging in there, we came through the fourth mile in 19:09 and there was a chance we could all break 24 mins. I just needed to be able to hold it together as I was at my limit trying to maintain contact with the other two. With about half a mile to go I tried to get up alongside them until Hynes then made his move with Martin and myself in hot pursuit, as we turned into the final straight (roughly 150m) I pulled away from Patrick but couldn’t make any impact on the few yards Hynes had on me. Hynes crossed the line in 23:57 and I was a second behind with Patrick just missing out on a sub 24 with 24:01.
It was a very pleasing race for me, I was confident of getting a pb, but to get under 24 minutes and finish as high as 2nd was a real bonus. Hynes ran a perfect race and really blasted the last quarter-mile to seal victory. After his exploits in the Northern Cross Country Champs last week, Patrick had a great run and if this race hadn’t been so soon after, I reckon he would have been able to set an even faster pace when he pressed on after the half-way mark. Despite good runs for the North team (Barnes 8th, Ford 11th, Riddell 16th), we were narrowly beaten by the Midlands in the inter-region team match.
Full results can be found here.