The training run following the Great Eastern Run two weeks prior to Worksop very nearly spelled disaster! Leading a Grantham Running Club evening run, I was paying more attention to keeping pace with my watch and chatting to friends then looking at what was heading towards me. I saw the railings protecting a pedestrian crossing too late to avert hitting them full on and with unabated speed (Around 8-9 mph). I missed squashing the boys in the barrack by about a centimetre, instead the pubic bone took the full brunt of the blow. A bit stunned it took a minute or two to regain composure. Sensing nothing was broken but plenty was very sore I continued the run, hoping to run off the injury. Nothing seemed totally amiss but things became increasingly painful in the right hip and thigh, and the left knee (which I think took a glancing blow) as I ran the six miles or so back to the Meres Leisure Centre.
A few minutes inactivity stiffened things up considerably. Thankfully one of the runners offered me a lift home rather than having to run another two miles; he had done something very similar on a identical set of railing some weeks earlier so could empathise with my discomfort.
When I woke the next morning I knew running was out of the question for a few days. The inflammation meant I could lift my leg more than a few inches. Luckily I was able to cycle with a minimum of discomfort and took solace in Zwift for a few days, testing the leg with a brick mile on the Friday with no ill effects.
The next day however and I was pretty sure I was feeling ill with something, a suspected chest infection was the reason why a reasonably routine 10 mile run on the Saturday felt like a slog and a 12 mile run the next day felt particularly arduous. The family and I were heading to Carsington Water on the Monday, I felt too lethargic to consider running. On the Tuesday I forced myself out for a lap of the man-made lake. The eight mile loop was particularly undulating but the return of the quad cramps early on in the run, becoming too severe to run by the end, were surely a sign of feeling unwell rather than unfit. I took the Wednesday off to allow me to run around the water again (this time in a clockwise direction) on Thursday morning before we left back for home). The relatively laboured pace (7:19 per mile) was exactly the same as Tuesday’s; the cramps coming on again but this time less intensely.
Friday saw a 10K effort which, to paraphrase my Strava entry, would have been easy were I not feeling so wheezy. I took Saturday off with the half on the Sunday in mind. Working on the Mexican Grand Prix meant working some late evenings, although the clocks going back on the Saturday night meant I could enjoy a fairly fully night’s sleep. Before drifting off I sensed as if the malaise that had enveloped the body for the past week may just have left the building.
I woke on Sunday morning just after 6 am and made myself breakfast, experimenting with peanut butter and banana on toast after the bad experience with cereal and milk at Peterborough. I left not long after 7 for the 50 minute or so journey to Worksop, finding the same car park I found 12 months earlier and enjoying the same 10 minute walk to the start venue that served to loosen the legs a touch.
I was happy to see on arriving that the race organisers Worksop Harriers AC had clearly listened to some of the criticisms of the race village setup and acted on them in an almost wholly positive manner. The school that they used had been converted into a one way system to avoid all the bottlenecks and congestion with number collection and baggage drop that delayed the start of the 2017 race. In particular the baggage had been moved outside and streamlined and this did wonders in minimising the congestion as best you can with around 2000 runners confined in a relatively small space.
I changed slowly into my running kit at the tables in the canteen, stretched, dropped off my bag and headed for a warm up of just over 1.5 miles. It was an unspectacular warm up – the legs felt okay, I was coughing a fair amount but didn’t feel any of the wheeziness or lethargy of previous runs in the week. Off the back of this I decided that for the race I would take a cautious approach, not going off too hard and seeing how I felt as the race progressed.
Warm up done and with 40 minutes to the start I made one last trip to the toilet which is the only area where I still feel this race could improve, there not being anywhere near enough toilets (But then again I would levee this criticism at almost every race). I ended up using the ones in the men’s changing rooms, queuing for around 10 minutes, which wasn’t too bad. Slowly exiting the school building, I lined up at the start with ten minutes to go and thanked the weather gods that the temperatures were perfect for racing. Indeed, aside from a breeze that was on the moderate side of gentle, the conditions were nigh on perfect with weak autumn sunshine and temperatures around 10 Celsius.
We had a minute’s silence before the start of the race, if memory serves me correctly, for a former chairman (perhaps President) of Worksop Harriers who had recently passed away. After a short countdown we were off. I made a comfortable start, not feeling particularly good for the first mile and sitting well outside the top 20 as we soon hit the first climb less than a mile into the race. I really took it easy up here, the effort made less hard by the steady breeze blowing into our backs.
Mile 1 was clocked at 6:01, which was five seconds down on my opening mile in 2017. The rest of the opening 5k is on the undulating B6034 taking us towards Clumber Park. Mile 2 was 5:51 which was six second slower than in 2017 but mile 3 saw me begin to come to life, 5:36 pretty quick, even if it was wind aided, and three seconds quicker than 2017.
Mile 4 saw us turn left off the main road and head through Carburton. I was beginning to pick off runners now, only in ones and twos as the field was pretty well spread. 5:39 for mile 4 matched my 2017 split. Mile 5 is mostly uphill and was possibly the hardest mile of the race – 6:00 one whole second slower than in 2017. Mile 6 is the first half of the fish as it appears on the Strava map and inevitable Strava segment. This mile saw me tuck in behind a runner for most of this section – the scenery stunning in autumn as we headed into the heart of Clumber Park, the going underfoot a little tricky in places with significant leaf fall.
5:45 for mile six was three seconds slower than a year earlier but I remember feeling particularly good at this stage back then. Mile 7 has the first of two long uphill drags – I felt sorry for the wheelchair competitor I passed who was really struggling at this stage. 5:55 was six seconds slower than in 2017, but I turned things around in mile 8, which was again mostly uphill, 6:02 was four seconds up on 2017 and I passed two or three more runners in this section.
Mile 9 is my favourite of the race, mostly downhill and as we approach a totally unnecessary sponge station (surely an in house joke from the organisers?!) we are bombarded with a plethora of amusing signs, many of them fresh for 2018 and indicative of the clear love and passion that the organisers have for putting on a really good race. As in 2017 I found myself feeling really strong, my 5:36 mile just one second down. Mile 10 had the last real hill of the race and as such I slowed to 6:00 (matching the 2017 mile) but was still catching and passing runners. It was here I saw in the distance the distinctive tri-suit of a runner that looked familiar. Approaching him I realised it was Tom Marshall, the triathlete who had beaten me in September’s Stathern Duathlon.
Catching and passing him gave me renewed enthusiasm, as did my watch which was predicting a finishing time very similar to what I achieved in 2017. Considering I had felt so poor in the build up was greatly encouraging and, feeling relaxed and pain free, I pushed on. Mile 11 was 5:42, five seconds quicker than 2017, mile 12 through Worksop College was three seconds slower at 5:49 but I was running now into a headwind which we didn’t have twelve months ago. This made the slight uphill drag out of the college particularly tough, but I had time to make things look easier for the Mick Hall photographer who I knew would be in the same spot as in previous years.
The thirteenth and final mile is mostly downhill, albeit tempered with a headwind this time around, which made 5:34 four seconds slower than in 2017. Turning the corner into the Outwood Academy Portland and sprinting to the finish I knew from my watch it was going to be a very similar time to last year. I finished matching my time of 2017 to the second, the official results gave it as one second quicker in 1:16:23, the difference being this year my Garmin measured the course 0.05 mile shorter and so the final yards took 23 seconds less.
Whereas in 2017 I finished fifth overall I knew this year I hadn’t done quite so well. The results were not long in being published and I was eleventh and not first V40, despite just about bettering my 2017 time. I was partly relieved as I didn’t feel obliged to hang around for the presentations and after seeing a few club mates after they finished, I headed home to begin work on the Mexican GP.
It wasn’t until a day or two later I realised that, such is the generosity of the race organisers, they offer prizes for the first three in the younger veterans’ categories. I was third V40 and, a couple of weeks later, I received a Lincolnshire Runner voucher in the post for £20, which is £5 more than they had quoted in the prize list, which just about summed the race up!
Shy of a few toilets I cannot praise this race enough. They had worked really hard to iron out the issues pre and post race. They worked really well: I had goose bumps as I received warm applause as I walked through the gymnasium to collect my goodie bag, and t-shirt to add to the funky Halloween themed medal I had already received. The good weather helped, but standing around at the finish with cake stalls, coffee stands, music from the local radio station, gave the impression that this was a race put on by professionals rather than a large number of volunteers. I have heard they make very little money out of the race, which makes it all the more praiseworthy. It is one of the cheapest half marathons in the region, and certainly one of the best.
I didn’t have too long to recover for it was the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K in just seven days time!