It’s been a funny old year, 2016. So much going on in the world, not much of it that good. I find it bittersweet that, sporting wise, I probably had my most successful ever year. I may not have bagged any PBs but I won races and prizes, represented my country at a World Championships, and had several other strong events.
The flip side was that I also had some pretty bad races and some really tough times during training. Around half as many bad experiences as good.
So here, are my top 10 best experiences of 2016 and my worst 5 …:
- The 2016 Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon was quite simply the best, most exciting race I have ever taken part in, made all the more special as it was my home race and because until the morning of the race, I genuinely thought that injury would prevent me from taking part.
2. If you asked me at the beginning of 2015 if, 18 months later, I would be taking part in the ITU World Duathlon Championships, I would have laughed at you. That I took part was amazing. That I wound up seventh in my Age Group was almost unbelievable. A most pleasing performance, especially given the pre-race dramas with the dreaded cramping.
3. I didn’t write about it for some reason, but on Wednesday 4th May I was honoured to take part in Ben Smith’s 247th consecutive marathon. We visited 19 schools around Grantham, receiving a heroes welcome at each of them. Spellbinding stuff! He is a true legend. A day I will never forget.
4. Not an event nor a race, my three week summer holiday was the best I’ve ever had. One of the joys of the road trip was the near daily dose of near 10 mile runs and the photo opportunities that entailed. Aside from one parkrun there was no competitive bent to the running, just enjoying getting out and savouring the many delights Britain has to offer.
5. The race itself was not that exciting. Nor was it the biggest nor most prestigious. But I will forever remember the Stilton Stumble 24K race as the first and, to date, only road race I have ever won.
6. The race itself was not that exciting. Nor was it the biggest nor most prestigious. But I will forever remember the Holdenby Duathlon (standard distance) as the first and, to date, only duathlon I have ever won. Two golden weeks in October!
7. 2016 was the year I got serious about cycling. Once I’d qualified for the World Duathlon Championships, I knew I needed a proper time trial bike, so I got one. Then I got myself a proper decent racing bike. I used that bike one weekend in July when I decided to take part in two sportives in two days. 100 miles on ride one, a mere 76 on the second, but featuring the best (worst) hills that the Cotswolds can throw at you. Sportives aren’t races, but I was pleased to be in the top 5 fastest times on day one and possibly as high as third on day two.
8. I’ve not cycled as much as I would have liked, but 2016 has seen me cycle more miles than ever before. Probably my favourite ride came early on in the year at one of Witham Wheelers’ Reliability Rides. No winners, no prizes, just the satisfaction of riding with and climbing alongside some of the best riders in the area and not disgracing myself.
9. I hate cross country running. I try my best to avoid it. But there is something unique about the National Cross Country Championships that inspired me to go buy some cross country spikes and take part. I didn’t have a particularly great race, I didn’t enjoy a lot of it – far too muddy for my liking – but it marked my last team outing in a Kenilworth Runners’ vest before switching first claim allegiance to Grantham Running Club. For that reason it was a special race.
10. The notable part of the Robin Hood Half Marathon was that I wound up finishing as third Veteran. Not a particularly remarkable achievement but the race had the honour of calling itself the National Half Marathon Championships and so technically I am the third best Veteran half marathon runner in the country. This is, of course, nonsense, but I was £50 richer for the experience.
- I trained hard and well for the London Marathon. It was to be my first appearance as a Championship entrant. I was in the form of my life. Then the 7-10 days before the race I suffered the leg cramps, that had previously afflicted me seemingly randomly, on pretty much each training run before the race. I went in nervous that they would hit me in the race. All was good until six miles then I got the first dreaded symptom and I knew my day was done. At the end I vowed my marathon days were over. Like so many who have uttered those words before, they proved to be short lived promises…
2. The day I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The Rockingham Duathlon will forever be remembered as the day I wished I could count…
3. If you ignore the minute or so I spent walking as I tried to get myself going after suffering stitch, there would have been a 10K PB at the Summer Solstice 10K. As it stands it became a race best forgotten (But I can’t…)
4. The Dambuster Duathlon shouldn’t really feature in the worst events of the year as it proved to be the race that qualified me for the World Duathlon Championships. At the time though it was one of the least enjoyable, most poorly executed, and miserable races I had ever taken part in. Part of me is glad it may have been the last ever incarnation of the race (although it is actually a bit of a tragedy the organisers appear to have given up on it).
5. For nearly eighteen months I’d been suffering what I called random cramps in my quads, hips, and glutes. I put up with it until I took part in the Thunder Run 24 Hour Race. I knew something was amiss before I even began running and, sure enough, the hip flexors began cramping just a mile into my one and only leg (I was working that weekend). Bloody mindedly I put up with the increasing discomfort, pain, and then agony for seventeen more miles before finally calling it quits after three laps.
The positive to come from this was it was the event that made me revisit my GP and insist that something be done about it and fears of some weird chemical imbalance put to rest. Touching wood, a trip to Loughborough and some great physio since has meant I’ve barely had a sniff of any issue since October.
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Let’s hope it’s better than 2016!