Back when I entered this race in November I believe the plan was always to target breaking 1:30, representing sub-6 minute miling, for the 15 mile race. In the week or so building up for the race I swayed a little on whether to treat it more as a training run; I relented by Thursday and went back to plan A, resting up on the Saturday to leave the legs fresh for race day.
Waking at seven am, I was allowing myself plenty of time to prepare ahead of the race which kicked off at 11am. My pre-race routine, especially what to have for breakfast, has varied over the years – currently the thing that works for me is a cup of coffee with three cheap and cheerful cereal bars around three hours before a race, followed by a Sugar Free Red Bull (Actually Lidl’s near as dammit the same rip off) and a Snickers (Again Lidl’s Mr Choco finest) around 45 minutes before the off. Touch wood, this has minimalised any tummy trouble I have been somewhat prone to during a race.
I left home at 8:30am, filled the car with diesel, and made the 50 minute journey to Folksworth, a small village just south of Peterborough, made very easy with a quiet A1 taking me 98% of the way there. The early morning rain cleared during the journey down, by the time I arrived the conditions were near perfect for racing – 7C, partly sunny and just a gentle breeze. The wind wreaked havoc with the race last year apparently, so I was most pleased to see this would not be a factor this year.
We were parked over a mile from the start, thankfully a shuttle car service provided a lift to race HQ and I found myself with an hour and a quarter to kill before the start of the race. I duly changed into my running gear, ate my pre race snack and made small talk with some Grantham Running Club team mates. Nowadays I normally do a two mile warm-up before a race, but as this was a little longer than usual I made it just a mile and a quarter – leaving it quite late so as to minimise time spent at the start. The legs felt good during the warm-up and as I made my way forwards to the front of the field at the start line, I was hopeful of good things.
The race began promptly at 11 and we were running pretty quickly from the off, mostly because the start was slightly downhill. I settled into a group containing the lead ladies for the opening mile or so, already the race winner Aaron Scott of Notts AC had disappeared into the distance en route to clocking 1:18:18 – breaking his own course record. 5:54 was a quick first mile, but I felt comfortable and didn’t worry over it being a little fast.
The second and third miles contained the two biggest climbs on the course. On the first climb I pulled clear of the ladies group to sit eleventh and made up the gap to the next small group, passing a couple of runners. On the next climb I think I passed another to find myself eighth and some way down on the next two runners – although they were, crucially, within sight. Miles four and five were a bit of a grind – although they were mostly on the flat plateau, the headwind made going a little tough. Wanting to practice my gel intake for the marathon, I took the first of three gels at 4 miles, taking as much water as I could from the paper cup without spilling most of it all over me.
Thankfully the sixth mile saw us take a left turn with a flat to downhill mile and a tailwind, which allowed me to post my second fastest mile split of the race (5:36). I made no inroads into the pair ahead (who were running together) on this section, but did on a stiff little climb at around seven miles, which gave me hope for overhauling them on the second lap.
Completing the end of the first lap I had a near disaster when I came to a junction and I shouted to the marshals ahead which way I should go. They both pointed in the same direction, so I duly went that way, only to hear plenty of shouts from them and a small crowd saying I’d made a wrong turn! It transpired they had both beckoned an approaching car to stop and give way, which I misunderstood for me to go in that direction. Thankfully any seconds lost with that mishap were compensated by the sudden rush of adrenaline and increase in pace to make up for the perceived loss of time.
I completed the first lap with my 6:00 Garmin Virtual Partner showing I was around 30 seconds up on schedule – a big improvement on around 4 miles when I was around 20 seconds down. I was feeling strong but knew I had to put the work in over the next few miles if I was to pass the pair ahead of me.
As I’d hoped I reeled the pair of them slowly on the first climb, but they were still around 10 seconds ahead as we plunged down the steepest downhill section on the course. The second climb – which I found to be the longest and hardest of the three climbs per lap – saw me close the gap to the seventh placed runner to just a couple of seconds. On the following plateau section – into the headwind – I seized my opportunity, closing and passing, then putting a surge on to make sure he didn’t take my slipstream.
This surge saw me rapidly close on the sixth placed runner and I wasted no time in passing him and continuing the push. I took on my last gel at 11 miles and continued to work hard to try to make the gap as big as possible before the left hand turn and the flat/downhill section. It was mission accomplished as a 5:45 mile meant I put around 15 seconds on the pair of them – with the runner I passed first taking the opportunity to put his move on the fading seventh placed runner.
As I turned the corner and felt the welcome breeze push me along, I encountered my only trouble of the race in the form of a tight abductor in the right leg causing some discomfort near the knee for a mile or so. This is still a legacy of the Christmas Eve run incident, and is something I need to address soon. Despite this worry I put in my fastest mile of the race, through mile 14 in 5:30.
Comfortable in my sixth place with no opportunity of catching anyone in front of me, I paced myself up the final climb, before pushing on for the final half mile down a slight descent into the finish. Crossing the finish line I was delighted to see I’d clocked 1:28:39 – eighty seconds or so faster than I’d planned, and aside from the slight issue with the right leg, feeling relatively comfortable throughout. I beamed as I had my chip removed, collected my bright orange technical T-Shirt (definitely the vogue colour for races at the moment) and set about getting changed before seeing my club mates come home.
There was then a long old wait before the prize giving ceremony, there was a slim chance that, depending on how the rules were interpreted, I could have taken a prize for fifth male. It turned out I wasn’t to receive that honour – hence first of the losers. However, as the recipients took home wine glasses of varying quality I didn’t get too upset by missing out. Indeed I was somewhat relieved as some of the prize winners seemed pretty concerned about how they were going to get their glass wear home. They were though presented by the widow of a man who tragically died racing the Folksworth 15 ten years ago. In his memory the award to the first V60 is presented first – a genuinely touching gesture for one of those impressively efficient club races, their efforts into producing a slick, well run event, put a lot of larger, more professional operations to shame.
So the race done, it was a simple matter of walking back to the car park, watching the final finisher slowly, but determinedly make her way towards the finish line. For me, a good day in the office. Hopefully the right leg will see itself right in the coming weeks and continued progress will be made.
Pictures: © and Courtesy of Paul Rushworth
1) 1m – 5:54(5:54/m) 149/168bpm 68cal
2) 1m – 6:06(6:06/m) 164/173bpm 97cal
3) 1m – 6:13(6:13/m) 167/173bpm 100cal
4) 1m – 5:57(5:57/m) 166/170bpm 95cal
5) 1m – 5:55(5:55/m) 168/171bpm 95cal
6) 1m – 5:36(5:36/m) 162/166bpm 86cal
7) 1m – 5:59(5:59/m) 166/171bpm 94cal
8) 1m – 5:44(5:44/m) 165/170bpm 90cal
9) 1m – 5:55(5:55/m) 165/168bpm 92cal
10) 1m – 6:04(6:04/m) 165/171bpm 93cal
11) 1m – 6:16(6:16/m) 167/171bpm 100cal
12) 1m – 5:45(5:45/m) 171/173bpm 94cal
13) 1m – 5:52(5:52/m) 169/171bpm 94cal
14) 1m – 5:30(5:30/m) 165/167bpm 82cal
15) 1m – 5:51(5:51/m) 170/173bpm 94cal