August was a pretty decent month of racing, I ran well at the Horwich Jubilee 5, winning in a slightly slower time than the previous month in 25:40. I was still happy with that, especially given the hold up when the course was blocked by a couple of horse riders only a minute or so into the start of the race. Quite how this occurred is anyone’s guess, the horse riders were made well aware of the race and start time, not to mention the fact this race has been going for over 30 years. But, why let such trivial things like a road race get in the way of a leisurely trot eh??? Thankfully nobody got stamped or kicked and the race carried on without any other mishap. Fellow club-mates Chris Davies, Ben Costello and Mark Lord put in great runs to clinch the team title as well. Numbers were sadly quite low again and the series will no longer have an August race in the future, as it will reduce to three races in May, June & July.
After the mid-week blow out my next race was the BMC/English 10,000m race at Stretford on the Saturday. I felt good leading up to the race and knew I’d have to be on my mettle as I was up against some of the best runners in the country, including the great Chris Thompson. Being lapped by Thompson was an almost certainty, the biggest question would be, will I get lapped by others, or heaven forbid, would he even manage to lap me twice?! If I ran what I was hoping; about 30 minute or less, then I should finish in the top half of the field and get lapped just once. It was a late balmy evening and the we got underway at around 9pm. The race soon established it’s pattern, with 5-6 runners going with Thompson and the pacemaker at around 68 seconds-per-lap pace. I soon settled into a large group running 71’s. By 3km the group was drifting off pace and I pushed on slightly ahead to keep on at a sub 30 minute schedule. I could hear the commentator on the PA calling out the pace Chris Thompson was running; he was now out on his own and reached 5km in 14:07, so I knew I would be getting lapped within the next few laps. I hit halfway in around 14:58, which was fine had it not been for the fact that it was beginning to feel hard work and there was still some way to go. Sure enough, Chris Thompson came past me as expected and I tried to use his momentum to try and keep my fading hopes of a sub 30 minute result alive. I kept near him for 600m or so and ran a couple of decent laps, but I was still a tad off the pace and hit 8km in 24:09. I was also caught by the group I tried to move away from earlier in the race and my main focus was to hang in. I got through those last few laps okay and finished in a respectable 30:14 for 10th place; it wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I feel like I’m getting close to my best.
Unfortunately the track season was coming to an end and I was running out of races just as I felt I could run something decent. The last track outing for 2017 was the 3,000m at Trafford on the 29th August, which turned out to be my best track race for a good few years. I went off at a steadier pace and refrained from taking the lead early on, I spent the first kilometre at the back of the lead pack with Tom Cornthwaite. I started moving up through the group in the middle stages and I could hear the lap times being called out at 68’s, which was good enough for me. 2km was reached in 5:41 and it was now a two horse race between myself and Euan Gilchrist. I went to the front in a bid to steal a few yards but he stuck right with me and swept past with 300m to go. I had to dig deep to keep at his heels; on the home straight it was eyeballs out and we were neck and neck right to the line and I wasn’t sure whether I’d won. It was only afterwards when the results sheet went up that I knew; we both ran 8:27.41, but I had got the nod, winning by the length of my brylcreemed quiff!!! It was my fastest time since 2008 and it was only the second time I’d won this race, the previous one dating way back to August 2001; a time when the word “blogging” was barely known, yahoo messenger was the only form of social media and GPS watches were something you’d have read about in a sci-fi novel. I suppose there’s quite a few things that haven’t changed much since then; notably Liverpool FC’s failure to win the title, much to my constant disappointment!
Now the track season is over, it’s time to hit the road again and my first race of the Autumn/Winter campaign was the Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon, one of the fastest and most scenic courses in the UK. My running seems to have completely turned around from this stage last year where I continued a poor 2016 with a dreadful 69:56 in this race. I was quite sure I’d be a lot quicker this time around and I’d certainly need to be, as Jonny Mellor was entered in the race and I’d be in for quite a battering if I wasn’t at my best. Conditions weren’t looking great on the forecast, but thankfully the three-hour trip on my Royal Enfield motorbike wasn’t as bad as I expected, it only started to rain a bit once I got close to Lake Vyrnwy. I actually quite enjoy this weather for racing and the course is quite well sheltered from the wind. We were off promptly at 1pm, immediately Jonny Mellor took the initiative with a brisk pace and I wondered whether he was just going to leave us all well behind by the first mile! I was lagging behind by 10-20 yards, but gradually got back level with Mellor after a couple miles. The race carried on in this fashion for the next six miles and we were both running just inside 5 minutes-per-mile pace. Mellor started turning the screw slightly after the 8th mile and I was having to battle hard to hang on. I was still going at a good pace and hit 10 miles in 49:52, but he was starting to get away and after another mile he was well clear. My pace dropped slightly and it was a tough final couple of miles, but I was very satisfied with my time of 65:52, another sub 66 minute half marathon and a whopping four minutes quicker than last year. Jonny Mellor looked in terrific form, running smoothly right to the end, crossing the line in 64:57. Tipton’s Stuart Hawkes was 3rd with a much improved pb from last year with 68:39. I think those results do some justice to the course, as it’s much faster than people might think and I would certainly recommend this to anyone who wants to run a good half marathon in September. It’s a very good alternative to the Great North Run, a race I’ve done quite a few times, and if it could have a bit more depth at the top end I think the elite runners would run faster times here.