I had thought that York was going to be my last road race of the year, and I'd be "playing" more off-road but sometimes plans change last minute and you have to make the best of the situation.
I hadn't done quite enough races to count in Dumfries Running Club's Grand Prix for 2017 and it suddenly seemed feasible to take part it the Heart of Eden half marathon (the last counting race that I could make) on Sunday. I had been told that it was a really tough hilly course, so there would be no pressure to run a fast time - it was just a case of getting round to score some Grand Prix points, which was a bonus considering what I've ruin recently (yes, I know that most people step up their race distance, but I was breaking the trend and decreasing mine).
Carsharing made it a sociable trip down to Appleby - and it was fun to catch up with various friends at registration - the location of the race meaning that people had travelled both from the North East and the North West. As well as it being a Grand prix race for DRC, it was also part of the Eden Runners' Grand Prix and so they had a really good turnout (and I know several of them well).
Unknown to me, my garmin had also been drawn in to taking away the "pressure to perform" as it had broken that morning, and so a clubmate lent me a simple stopwatch to give me some idea of time, although I'd then have to do mental arithmetic to work out my running pace! It was a very low key start with people milling around for club photos, a gathering of the rabble in the road and then we were off.
The start was a steep descent and so some people hared off down it. One of my clubmates Niall did this, as we all knew he would. It doesn't matter how many races he does, he's never quite got the hang of sensible pacing and so started off leading the whole race, whereas I deliberately hung back with some of my (more senior) clubmates. As soon as we turned a corner and hit the first (of many) climbs, runners started to go backwards. I don't think I changed my effort level to any noticeable extent yet I seemed to be moving right up to the business end of the field.
From there on in the route was an undulating one (though a lot more up than down to the halfway point) round the countryside of the North Pennines. I'd sometimes see people ahead of me on the road, but at other times I'd appear to be all alone as I neared corners, ran through trees, headed up hill and down dale. Although the weather wasn't the finest (with some brief patches of rain) there were still some great views on occasion and so I really enjoyed the "testing" course.
It was interesting to see the race unfold ahead of me (when I could).....apart from the race winner who headed off and was never seen again by the rest of us mere mortals. As expected Niall faded somewhat and was overtaken by Alan (another of my clubmates) after about 4.5miles. This was a significant event as Alan and Niall are direct rivals for the lead of the club men's Grand Prix. Alan looked to be moving slightly away from me and catching the guy in front of him, who was actually second in the race.
I passed another couple of men (on the uphills) and then realised that I was almost up to Niall. I was enjoying my run and had the breath to spare to thanks the marshals as we passed them, but I didn't think it would be very PC to comment on Niall's pacing strategy as I passed him so I just moseyed quietly on past. I didn't know what pace I was running, and although at times I did feel like just stopping (this seems to be a frequent thought in races these days.....note to self...work on mental toughness) the gap to the guys in front started shrinking.
|No prizes, but nice trophies!|
We headed under a bridge, turned a sharp corner and were suddenly right at the starting point (arriving via a minor road and so completely missing out the hill). I was gutted as this gave me no chance of chicking the guys with their sprint finishes, and so I settled for 4s behind Alan who was just behind second place himself. Still....not a bad run for me considering the recent few weeks, so I felt that I'd earnt my soup and shower!!