There’s not many Christmas themed races that you can stake claim to having taken part in twice in one year, but the Keyworth Turkey Trot Half Marathon is one such race that I and, I assume plenty of others, can claim to have done in 2018. The 2017 race was postponed to February due to snow/threat of snow in the region and I took part in the rescheduled event, finishing 6th overall in 1:18:06 and recipient of a hamper for my efforts.
I went into the 2018 proper version of the race feeling distinctly jaded and glad it was to be my final event of the year. With that said I didn’t make a bad start to the race, with opening miles of 5:42, 5:41 and 5:54 before hitting the first big climb of the race which saw me drop to a 6:04 before recovering with a pleasant 5:36 on a quick section of the race.
The race, for me, was a fairly dull affair. I never found myself in a group, for the most part running alone, never being passed by another runner and the only interaction with other competitors when I passed the occasional athlete who was beginning to struggle. I made a point of trying to stick to around 5:50 miles which I was able to do until the second wave of stiff climbs at mile 11 on a constantly undulating course, which saw the pace dip to 6:14, then 6:08 for mile 12.
I did though catch a couple of younger runners at this point. My presence seemed to spur them into life for they drifted away again on the downhill drop back into Keyworth before I closed in on them again on the deceptively tough last half or mile or so back to the school and the finish line. Alas any hopes of picking off a couple of young scalps receded quickly as they both put in a sprint finish I had no hope of matching and didn’t really attempt. It was the end of the year, I wasn’t fighting for a place or a prize and I was pretty jaded.
I crossed the line annoyingly just outside the top ten (11th – I did have something to fight for). The time was 1:17:27, just under 40 seconds quicker than I ran in February and the second fastest trot for me. Maybe it was another underwhelming post race memento (Magnetic race pins – soon lost) or the instant realisation I’d not won a turkey (third V40) but I felt very little emotion after the race other than I was glad it was the last of the year. I could have done with a month’s rest or so but, alas, as I was now down to be running the Manchester Marathon (April 7th) rather than the London Marathon (April 28th), downtime was going to be minimal before the whole process began again.
Thanks to a lovely kind gesture by GRC champion of age grade Julie we did have a Keyworth turkey for Christmas dinner! She had won the V65 category but had already planned on something else for Christmas dinner. So it was that a week or so later a trade was made and I had turkey!
This Thursday evening 5K race on Victoria Embankment was very much entered on a whim a week or so before the race took place. There was no real need to run it other than I fancied taking a look at a fairly new 5K race that had been established in the summer and was continuing with a four round winter series taking place monthly from November through to February. There were also a fair few runners from Grantham Running Club taking part that were looking to get an end of year quick time to try and boost their best age grade performance of the year either for our GP Series or for our race standard certificates that are handed out in February at a Presentation Evening.
I arrived with club mate Penny around 45 minutes before the start, far less than I’d normally allow for a race, but sufficient in this instance for an event that I was approaching with less vigour than a parkrun on any given Saturday. Being a small race I was able to park pretty much at the start line where the registration desk was to collect our number and timing chip. After clarifying where the course went I commenced pretty swiftly on a 2 3/4 mile warm up which basically consisted of running the majority of the course.
Although pancake flat it was soon evident that the limiting factor for blazing quick times was the requirement to negotiate three U turns on a footpath not that wide, which would cost several seconds each. There was also a large volume of detritus in the form of leaves and more concerning twigs and branches courtesy of some hefty winds sweeping through the area. I actually stopped several times to stop and clear the worst of the debris from the course, not particularly wanting to turn my ankle on an errant stick, which were none too visible with the street lighting set to economy barely lit romantic. The low lux levels also meant that the numerous tree roots that were lifting the pavement in places were hard to spot, all in all making the desire to run full pelt unattractive. A saving grace was that the breezy conditions were as a result of some mild air blowing in, making the December race feel more like a September evening run, albeit with the constant threat of rain with the ominous looking clouds covering the sky.
Once the warm up was done there was a short briefing which mainly appealed to those taking part to be aware that runners would be heading along the course in both directions and to stick to the right hand side of the path. We lined up and with the minimum of fanfare was set off on our way. Despite not going full gas from the gun I found myself in the lead and within a couple of hundred metres had just two sitting on my tail.
Less than half a mile into the race we made the first U turn and headed back towards the start line. Things got a little hairy here for a fair few of the 100 or so racing had clearly not heard or decided not to heed the advice to stay on the right side of the path and I had to get a bit animated to implore them to move out of the way or risk a head on collision…. Once past the start line this became less of an issue, although we did have regular pedestrians and non racing runners to contend with at times.
I went through the opening mile in 5:31 and made the second U turn to head back past the start line and further out along Victoria Embankment (As far as you can go before needing to cross a road). By now even though we were only a third of the way through the race it was very much a two horse affair. It was abundantly clear that my shadow Patrick Townsend was totally unwilling to help with the pace and was quite happy to stick right behind me. At another race on a different day I may well have employed some classic tactics to encourage my opponent to share the load – slowing down, speeding up, weaving from side to side, coming to a stop (this happened to me once!) verbal abuse encouragement etc. I did consider this but given that the path was narrow, the conditions underfoot were not great, and I wasn’t actually that bothered about the outcome of the race, I decided to suck it and lead the race out, giving Patrick a free ride in my slipstream.
The second mile was a bit slower (5:36) partly due to it being mostly into the wind. It wasn’t long before we made our final U turn and headed for the near mile long drag to the finish. I was spurred on somewhat by passing club mates coming in the other direction, offering encouragement aware that I was leading the race. I continued to lead the race until there was around 300 meters to go when Patrick meekly moved out from my backside and onto my shoulder.
He accelerated hard and he disappeared into the distance. I offered absolutely no resistance – I had no interest in sprinting hard for victory, especially as I was running the Keyworth Turkey Trot in under 72 hours time. I just about saw him cross the finish line, arms aloft in 17:01. I came in fifteen seconds later having run 5:34 for the final mile, content with second place and a reasonable finishing time.
I quickly went back to the course to cheer home all the GRC finishers. I eschewed the warm down for the picking up of two bottles of wine at the presentation of prizes – the first for finishing second and the other for winning the team competition. We also received some of the most ridiculously oversized medals in relation to the size of race we had just taken part in. It makes my London Marathon medal look tiny in comparison!
With that it was time to drive home, happy to have raced and finished second, not overly disappointed that I hadn’t signed up to take part in the remaining two races in the series.
Race number 12 of the year done, just one more to go!
Flushed from the ‘success’ of a top five finish at the Lincs League XC I headed to Shipley Country Park near Heanor on Saturday 1st December for the third race of the North Midlands Cross Counrty League and my only participation in the 2018-19 series.
The trip to the park west of Nottingham was nearly as arduous as the race itself, the roads packed with Christmas shoppers on what is apparently the busiest shopping weekend of the year. It meant that I arrived pretty late, struggling to find anywhere to park within half a mile of the venue. The jog from the car park to where GRC were kind of meeting up was my warm up – most of the rest of it was spent queuing for the toilet (note the singular…). Perhaps due to the length of the toilet queue – women’s especially, the timetable was running quite a few minutes late. I think there were more women in the toilet queue than on the start line when they were meant to be departing!
The weather was threatening rain (the previous round had seen a near biblical storm at the start which produced a front cover photo winning rainbow) , but mercifully the clouds did not open and apart from a noticeable breeze the conditions were pretty good, certainly not that cold. The going underfoot was certainly not for trainers though. Having experimented with cross country spikes I reverted to my tried and tested Walshes, showing signs of wear and tear being 11 years old but still giving up plenty of grip in all but the muddiest of conditions.
My traditional tardy start bit me hard at Shipley Park. As many XC races do the course narrowed not long after the start. This race really narrowed to little more than single file, and I found myself stuck definitely outside the top 100 and behind most of my GRC club mates taking part. I was a bit annoyed but I didn’t panic, I knew that there would be opportunities to make up places later in the race.
That opportunity didn’t take too long, under half a mile into the race the path opened up and I was able to make up a considerable number of places, including all the GRC runners taking part. After that opening drama the race was fairly uneventful for me. I worked my way through the field – I don’t think anyone passed me which I was pleased with. I worked fairly hard but was limited by my lack of prowess on the muddy stuff especially. The course was honest XC, the two lap course featured some short sharp hills, some twists and turns and variety in terrain.
My mile splits don’t make for exciting reading – the opening was a 6:21, mile 3 was the quickest at 6:06, and the slowest mile was the fourth at 6:34 (This was also the hilliest). I finished 51st overall (8th in my age category) which I was pleased with given how much this is not my cup of tea. I met at the finish occasional training partner Jake Richardson who I was pleased to see won the race (and was pleased to have won the race) averaging 5:29 a mile – which is…. impressive. I could only manage a paltry 6:22. There were others who I have battled over the course of the year ahead of me too – Will Tucker of GAC and Luke Montgomery of Corby, who I beat to win the Two Counties Half Marathon. Both comfortably better than me once you take me off the road. Still I was glad to have taken part in a proper decent XC League race, well organised and with good levels of competition.