A fun event hosted by Grantham Running Club, who invite members of Grantham Athletics Club to take part in a 10k Handicap Race. The idea is simple – all the runners are set off at different intervals with the intention of them, based on recent race performances, all coming home at exactly the same time. The winner is the runner who finishes furthest ahead of their predicted time.
With my 35:36 set at the Sumer Solstice used as my handicap time, I was due off last, around 50 seconds after the penultimate runner to set off, the incorrectly assigned #1 road runner in the Grantham postcode Josh Lord. No offence intended to young Josh, who is more sprightly than I’ll ever be over 800 meters and more impressively the 3000m steeplechase (where my hips wince in the mere anticipation of clearing a hurdle), but ‘We Are Road Running’ RunBritain have declared him #1 in Grantham when he has a 17:30 parkrun and a slow 10k run a couple of years ago as a 15 year old to fill his road running palmares. Although I had little intention of running this as a full blown race, a little bit of me at least wanted to run a little bit quicker than young Josh.
There was always a bit of uncertainty as to whether I’d actually make it to the start in time, coming on the Thursday of the Italian GP weekend. Thankfully paddock activities ended sufficiently early for me to hot foot it to Long Bennington in time for at least half of my intended warm up. Not for the first time in recent times I had issues with my intended footwear for the race – the new Lunar Racers again feeling as though they would inflict some blistering on the Achilles. Deciding it was not worth risking days of pain for a club race, I reverted again to the trusted Nike Frees, which with over 800 miles of road running in them, are beginning to feel distinctly second hand. The last time they were used in anger though they helped deliver a 5k PB so I thought they’d be good for one last race.
Essentially using the same course as the Summer Solstice, with only the start and run into the finish slightly different, much of the course would be fairly familiar having raced here a couple of months earlier and also having taken part in the same handicap race a year earlier. On that day I had a surprisingly good run to clock 35:53; I was hoping for something similar this year, but was going into the race with the intention of running it at half marathon HR and more or less perceived effort for the half marathon.
Setting off alone on what was essentially a time trial, the immediate difference between this event and a normal road race was apparent. Pacing is hard when alone, keeping motivation up when you cannot see anyone is tough. It took around a mile before I began to get Josh into my sights. I went through the first mile in 5:41, which is roughly what I want to be doing in the half marathon. I then began to struggle a touch, tiredness in the legs from plenty of miles of training and a tough strength and conditioning session in the morning. The second mile was 5:48, the next mile a second quicker. By now I had caught Josh. We ran together for a bit, but turning left into the Col de la Staunton In the Vale, as it is known on the Strava segment, I was able to ease ahead, thanks in part to setting a Strava CR on that slight rise.
Thereafter it was a case of keeping the effort in check as I began to pass more and more runners. The final 400 meters or so saw a more concerted effort as I reckoned it may be worth practicing a race finish. No quicker had the race finished and I was off on a mile warm down. The final time was 36:09 a little down on time and, based on respective HR, a little down on performance from last year. A little downbeat initially, I had to remind myself that training has been heavy recently and that one slightly slower than planned race does not end a career. Plus I put over 90 seconds on second quickest finisher Josh. Whether RunBritain will use this as evidence to change their stance on who is the #1 runner in Grantham, time will tell, but it was nice nonetheless to set fastest time on the night.
Slower though than my handicap time, which was always going to be the case, I wasn’t the winner of the Handicap. That though was never going to happen, I would have had to run 30 minutes on the night, which had I done so, would see me elevated to top 100 in the country. Instead I’d contend myself with a moderately pleasing performance which will hopefully help me on the pursuit of the half marathon PB in a few weeks time.