After a busy Summer of changing jobs, taking on a role as Manager at Up & Running in their new store in Clitheroe, I got some frequent racing in, though with mixed success. I missed out on a sub 15 minutes in the Podium 5k to finish 3rd, though only a few seconds off the winner, Horwich’s Chris Farrell. It could be the first year I have never run under 15 minutes for 5k (road or track) since 2002! One more chance at Podium 5k in November, so not given up yet! Despite this, my running is in a good place at the moment and it has made a big difference having the horrors of my previous job well behind me.
I was hoping the improvement in my personal outlook, along with some solid consistent training, would lead to a decent half marathon performance at Lake Vyrnwy in September. I was up against some serious opposition in the form of Andrew Davies, I rather expected him to beat me convincingly. I decided just to run my own race and go out hard, expecting it just to be a battle between the two of us, so I was quite surprised to have a 50 yard gap after a mile. I had an inkling that he might be using it as a training run prior to a big marathon, which I was convinced of as the gap increased over the next few miles. I was running solidly and at eight miles I was looking good for a time around 67 mins or less. I started struggling after ten miles and conceded over half of my advantage to Davies, finishing in 67:54, just 20 seconds ahead. I was happy to win, but disappointed with the performance; it’s a sober thought, but my half marathon race pace is barely any faster than Davies’ marathon pace.
The next outing was the Northern Road Relays and I was hoping to put in a really fast run to propel Blackburn Harriers into the top 10. Again, I was not quite firing on all cylinders and my time of 20:41 for the 4-mile leg was below my expectations. We finished 14th and I’m sure there’s more to come, Karl Billington has matured into a consistent high level performer who’s track times have surpassed mine. We’ve also got young talent coming through in Joe Monk, Tim Raynes and Jack Hindle to name a few.
A week later was the Robin Hood Nottingham marathon, organised by Sweatshop. There’s not a lot to say about this race; I was awful and felt terrible. My legs were really stiff, which just didn’t make sense as my last three weeks mileage was 100, 86, 53. After 12 miles I decided enough was enough, when I last looked at my watch it was 62:30ish for 11 miles; I’ve run faster over that distance between Manchester and Bolton with my backpack on!!! The race seemed to sum up my experience of working at Sweatshop in the last 12 months. Perhaps I allowed these things to get the better of me on the day, who knows.
After the DNF at Nottingham I wasn’t in high spirits for the Chester Marathon; I tried a couple of hard runs at marathon pace in the week leading into it and I wasn’t convinced I could put up a competitive performance. The favourite for the race was one of the Run Fast guys, who boasted a half marathon pb a good two minutes quicker than myself. As far as I was concerned I wasn’t going to entertain the thought of taking him on and figured it would be a battle between myself and Preston’s David Rigby, that’s if I could run anything reasonable of course. The race went as planned; I was running roughly five and-a-half minutes per mile alongside Rigby, quite some way behind the leader. Five miles was passed in 27:42 and we passed ten miles in 54:48. By this stage the race was taking a surprising turn; the leader was starting to come back to us, which was odd at such an early stage for a runner of that calibre. Halfway was reached in 71:55 and I passed the leader shortly after with Rigby closely following, we gradually eased away and I couldn’t believe my luck that we were now in a position to contest the win. My luck didn’t last out for long however, I decided to take my gel just after the 15th mile (1hr 22:08), it caused me some immediate discomfort, which has never happened before. I had to slow down a little, hoping I would settle, I was still running alongside David, but after another mile I had to answer natures call. In dashing off behind some hedges I lost precious time, when I got back on the road, I was third, 20 seconds behind the Run Fast athlete. I cursed my luck and then forgot about it, just focusing on running hard to put myself back into contention. I soon moved into second place and I could see I had closed the gap to Rigby and was about 200 yards behind. I was going strong, passing through 20 miles in 1hr 50:20ish, almost back on a five-and-a-half minute per miles average. I was getting the gap down to around 20 seconds, but at 22 miles the effort was starting to take its toll; I was hoping David might crack, but to his credit he was still hammering out a decent pace and he was starting to move further away. I was really having difficulty with less than three miles to go; I could only hope I’d run well enough to have a sizeable advantage over those behind me. Coming up to the 25th mile, Daniel Chan passed me effortlessly and I could only hope no-one else was near him. The last mile seemed to take forever and just before reaching the Racecourse, one of the spectators I knew shouted out fourth was 20 seconds behind me. I tried to muster up every last dredge of energy to hold him off, which was enough, but only just by about three seconds!
Had I been asked before the race; I would have taken 3rd with 2hr 27:48. But what made it so frustrating was that I was going well throughout the majority of the race and it was something out of my control that affected it. There’s no doubt that David Rigby would have won though, as I don’t think I’d have broke 2hr 25 (David won in 2hr 24:45, a new Preston Harriers record), but I’m quite certain I would have been over a minute quicker, as well as feeling better in the closing miles.
I’m thoroughly looking forward to the next challenges over the Winter and I still have the belief and determination to put up my best performances over the coming months and years. In the words of Liverpool FC; “We go again”.