Tuesday, 3 April 2012
A major step forward
The morning of the race was a bit of a chilly one, but soon warmed up from about 8 degrees C to nearer 14 thanks to the emergence of the sun. James and I went for a jog around the last mile and a bit of the course, as I had done almost a year ago in cold conditions. The course was exactly the same; 5.7 miles (just over 9 km) and fairly flat with some obvious inclines and Roman cobblestone bridges - three in fact - which were placed in the middle of an off-road section which was about a kilometre in length.
As the temperature started to rise and the race approached, it was time to get ready. With my green Adizero Adios I waited to start, unsure what to expect with my last race being the Helsby half. There was no gun as such, so we had to make do with a guy shouting 'go!'. Times are obviously hard.
Within about a mile I heard shout of encouragement to my rival junior male. Knowing he was just on my shoulder would make it an interesting race. He slowly opened up a gap ahead of me, as we went through the first mile in about 5:30. Still feeling comfortable, I decided to go with the leading 30 or so runners as we broke into two packs.
At about 2.5 miles I was closing the gap. Catching up with them just before 3 I saw him and another runner fighting over position. I let them race for a bit, and then overtook, facing some resistance from the other guy. Pushing on again I waited for him to respond again before putting in a quick 100 m to jump in front and get some clear air. Just before the off-road section I took the chance to get ahead of another runner to allow me a clean run on the narrow paths and bridges.
I maintained the same level of effort and made another push between bridges, to get a buffer coming onto the road again. Using the applause from a marshal as guidance, I seemed to have 4-5 seconds on the next runner. I tried to get my average pace down for the last part as people were slowing, which allowed me to catch a few guys in front. One of them had narrowly beaten me a few races ago at Tattenhall, but didn't put up a fight. I then closed in on another, and then reached one of Tattenhall's runners, who was maintaining a decent pace.
With about 300 m to go I got in front to ensure a clear run, as the right turn into the club is sharp and gravelly. About 100 m separated me from the finish and I pushed without losing my form to manage 22nd place, my highest Borders League finish yet, in 32:49. I knocked 2:36 off last year's performance, which was 35:25.
All in all a pleasing race, showing that my training has paid off. I went through 5 miles in 29:03, with 29:06 my current unofficial best. Now I have to rest and look ahead to the Chester Spring 5 Mile on Wednesday, which will hopefully be a big PB. My average pace was 5:48, so running 5:41 would give me a sub-28:30 finish. It would be a big PB and a major step forward too. Luckily, I now have the confidence to go for it, with a guaranteed official PB (my current one is 30:52, from a 200 m long Spring 5 course last year).
Onwards and upwards, I say.