So, let the racing recommence! Thankfully the injury has cleared up and I’ve spent most of June working on getting my form back and… I think I’m nearly there!!!
I toyed with the idea of doing Freckleton Half Marathon as my first race back; I had two weeks of training behind me, but I was undecided right up until the penultimate day. I went out for a run at around the same time of the race and I could only think how horrible it would have been to race in that heat! I think I made the right decision not to compete; the aim prior to the injury was to have a right good go at this one and run a fast time, which was never going to happen after a non-existent May.
I decided to make a low-key return to racing by doing an event few would have expected me to do; a fell race of all things. It was Aggie’s Staircase in Darwen, a local race that I’ve never won. The course is similar to the one I knew back when I first did it in 1998, though some of the paths over the moors have certainly deteriorated over the years, especially the section we locals refer to as “Jacob’s Ladder”, where it’s almost impossible to ascertain where the actual path is! It was a hot evening and the race got underway at 7:15pm, I noticed Nick Leigh of Horwich Harriers at the start and knew he would be a formidable opponent, as we’ve had many good battles over the years. It wasn’t Nick that took the initial lead however, it was a young Rossendale runner whom I didn’t know (a very promising runner Ben Forrest, who’s less than half my age!). I got in front after about half-a-mile and was able to gradually increase my advantage, despite seeming to struggle to get any rhythm going up Jacob’s Ladder, I guess everyone else had the same problem. The last climb is Aggie’s Staircase and again, this path is rather worse for wear and I seemed to climb this like a typical road runner; badly! I may have lost some time here, but I still had a safe gap and just focused on tackling the descent back to the finish, which I reached in 28:20, about 30 seconds ahead of a strong finishing Nick Leigh, with Ben Forrest putting up a brave effort only a further 15 seconds adrift. I wouldn’t call this a return to fell racing by any stretch, but I did enjoy it and will do the odd one every now and then. Having said that, my legs were really stiff for three days, even walking downstairs was hard work; I recover from marathons quicker!
I spent the next couple of weeks focusing on training and track sessions, as I am determined to get that speed back that I had earlier in the year. Having Tim Raynes, Joe Monk and Jack Hindle pushing me has certainly been really good for my running these past 12 months. The next race, or races, were at the Northern League Division 2 match at Bebington, our team was quite depleted so I volunteered to do an 800m and 3,000m steeplechase along with the 5,000m. The 800m has always been a tough one to pace, as I’m not fast enough to blast off at the start, nor able to pull out a blistering sprint finish at the end. I was in the B race and we got off to a steady start, covering the first lap in 63 seconds (it felt faster), I was lying just behind in third and I made my move on the back straight; clearly the speed sessions have been paying off and I opened up a lead of two seconds in the last 250 metres and crossed the line in 2:03. Out of all the distance events, the steeplechase is the one I least like, my hurdling skills leave a lot to be desired! I was able to run very well between the barriers and was ambling my way through the race in second, but I was losing a couple of yards on each lap behind the leader, James Wignall, who gracefully hurdled each barrier, in notable contrast to my efforts! Still, I was happy to finish second in 9:53, nine seconds adrift, which is my fastest time in about 7-8 years. I was back in familiar territory with the 5,000m and I was happy to take the lead from the start gradually increasing the gap to over 30 seconds by the end of the race. My time was 15:12, nothing spectacular, but given the previous racing and hot conditions I was very happy with that. Perhaps less satisfactory though is the club’s current standing in the league; we’re in danger of being relegated to Northern Division 3, which would be our lowest standing in all the time I’ve been with the club. Our last match is at home at Witton Park, so hopefully we can do the business there.
My next focus as far as my own racing is concerned will be the BMC & English 10,000m Championships at Stretford on the 19th August. Aside from that I’ll still try to nail a pb in the 3,000m before the season’s out.