March was a productive month of racing, though I had hoped to have put up a better performance in the Bath Half Marathon. As there’s not a lot to say about it, I felt there was no need to dedicate a full article on it. It’s a great event and the conditions were good, but I certainly didn’t help myself with my pace judgement; I ran the first mile as if I was chasing someone stealing my Smiths LP’s! My pace soon subsided after that 4:47 opening split, covering four miles in 20:04. I then had a rough spell up to around seven miles and was paying the price for trying to chase after runners I shouldn’t have. Thankfully I had managed to hold my position of 8th, so it wasn’t all bad, with quality runners such as James Connor and Steve Way still behind me. I saw one of the Team Run-Fast Kenyans ahead in the distance at around the 11th mile; he was clearly having a bit of a shocker, as I still wasn’t running much faster than marathon pace. In the end he managed to hold on and I couldn’t quite run him down – if only I had another half-mile further; that was one of those rare instances I’d have happily seen another long stretch of road instead of the finish line! So I was 8th and the time was 68:25, not good enough really; I felt I was capable of sub 67.
As I have reiterated before; no dwelling on races this year. Next up was Darwen Half Marathon and being a local Darrener (as we’re called!) this had a personal significance to me; the race is on roads I have run on for nearly 20 years. I used to regularly run a similar route as the race, after doing a shift at the Old Rosins pub and restaurant in Hoddlesden. I used it as a long run, which was about 15 miles, and at the ages of 18-21 that was far enough! More recently, I used to go that way on occasion, as a long run from Manchester; I’d run to Bury, then up through Tottington, before reaching Edgworth. The distance was 19.5 miles and it was a killer!!!
I was confident of having a good race; I was running well and I know the course inside-out. Still, there was a bit of pressure, mainly from my own expectations, and I knew that my family and Hannah, my fiancée would be coming down to watch. I had the luxury of living less than half-a-mile away from the start and finish, so I jogged over to collect my number and then jogged back home; no worrying about leaving your bag, busy portaloo’s or having somewhere to change. I could even have a decent brew and stick a Morrissey record on before heading out; perfect!
With about 20 minutes to go, I made my way to the start. The conditions were quite favourable, just a bit of a breeze. I got a good start and by the first mile, it was myself and local Blackburn Road Runner, David Birtwistle contesting the lead. I got away shortly afterwards during the climb out of Darwen, which is deceptively tough, as my two-mile split of 11:40 indicated. After 2 ½ miles the course settles down and the majority of the route is downhill to the 6th mile, which I reached in 32:38. A steady climb over a distance of around two miles followed, but my left leg was giving me a bit of trouble, thankfully it subsided during a gentle descent that followed. There’s some very tough climbs between 8½ to 10½ miles, but I coped with these quite well and was able to hammer it down the final section of the course, which is all downhill to the finish. The route involves over 1200 feet of climbing, so I was happy to cross the line in 72:40, winning by a margin of about seven minutes. A special mention goes to club-mate Paul Guinan, who is still going strong at 47, and finished well in third place.
Darwen Dashers did a superb job of organising this race; it was really well marshalled with clear mile-markers, the water stations were well manned and the support along the route was fantastic. It was a pleasure to be a part of it and it was also great that Up & Running Clitheroe was one of the sponsors. After the race I bumped into people I hadn’t seen for years; Mr Rigby, who taught History when I was at secondary school (I was certainly no runner back then!) and Phil Dean, who taught me at Blackburn College.
After a 20 year hiatus, I hope the race is back to stay.