It’s now about eight weeks since I had a good block of training done. In fact it was before Blyth 10k. Since then I’ve been tired, had illness and raced too soon after my lay off and have had lower back pain because of it. Last Sunday I was at my lowest point, I’ve managed a couple of decent sessions but each time it’s taken about a week of limping around to get over it.
On Saturday I was at work, but managed to get finished early so that I could travel through to Newcastle for the race. I traveled up with Michael Crawley, we train together whenever he’s home, which is usually a couple of times a year. Michael is also coached by Max but lives in Edinburgh. The last three months he’s been living and training in Ethiopia, so we had a good catch up as we warmed up.
Michael has always been a talented runner but because of injuries, studies and other distractions he has never had the consistency to reach his full potential. He’s had a good year of training behind him now and a long spell at altitude so tonight would be a good test for him.
As well as being one of the best races of the year and one that all club runners should look to do, it is also one of my club championship races. I’ve held the Club trophy for this for a good few years now and wanted to keep my winning streak going. The closest runner to me in my club is Guy Bracken, he’s now a vet 50 and is doing fantastic at the minute, he is one of the top Vets nationally in his age group and is getting closer to me with each race.
As I warmed up I saw lots of familar faces and I had a good catch up with friends from the local scene but also a few friends who’d traveled up to take part. The atmosphere was really good and for the first time in a while I was pain free. I did my warm up and strides, I didn’t get the feeling I do when I know I’m going well, but still, it might just come right on the night.
As we took the start line Guy was right next to me, we stood shoulder to shoulder, a position I expect him to be in only a few weeks now as he along with Stewy Bell will be my Ushers. The tape that separated the masses and the elite runners was released and I could feel the pressure behind me. The Start is very claustrophobic, with all those runners squashed up in such a narrow street, I felt as though if I didn’t have a good start I’d be flattened. The siren sounded and we were off!
Guy’s arm came across me as he started, I wasn’t going to be pushed back so I ran through it, his arm caught my number and nearly tore it off, great just what I wanted, a number flapping around getting on my nerves all race. As it worked out, it rained so heavy that my number just stuck to my vest.
I ran hard to get into my stride, but after about 60 meters I settled back into a comfortable pace and found myself surrounded by the runners I’d expect to be around. In my group I was joined by Mark McLeod, James Buis, Kevin Calvert and Tyne Bridges newest recruit all the way from Scotland Steve Cairns. Just ahead of us was Michael Dawson.
As we set off it started to rain, but the further we went the heavier it got, to the point where the water was actually running over the top of my shoes, it was actually getting hard to keep my eyes open it was that heavy. The race was going to plan and I was feeling confident of a good finish.
When I’m in full training doing high miles and 3 sessions a week I race strong and have a hunger and desire that pushes me on, I really want it and I’m prepared to dig deep. However in the last eight weeks or so I’ve managed one good session a week and barely broken 30 miles a week, my longest run being one 10 miler and the rest of my Sunday run’s have been a short eight into work. So at three miles into the race when the going got tough my legs fell off and I couldn’t find the dig to stick with the group, I think it was more a self preservation thing, if I wanted to finish then I needed to back off a little.
The group started to split and myself and Mark were left to work together for the last 2.7 miles. It was about now that I started to hear shouts of “go on Iain, go on Guy” OH NO!!! Guy was close and I was shot! Normally, that would have woke me up and I would have found another gear and stepped it up, tonight though, at this point I couldn’t care, in fact I was actually looking forward to him going past so I could back off and just run into the finish, but as long as he was behind me I would have to keep on working.
We worked our way to the marina and the out and back section of the course, this is always a good chance to see who’s behind and how close they are. The group chasing me was Guy, Lauren Howarth, Andy Lawrence, Harry Coates, Tony Carter, Gerrad Sharp and Phil Coulson. A good size group all working together, it would be hard to hold them off with about 2 mile to go.
As we got closer and closer I noticed that the shouts for Guy were also getting closer to me passing. As we joined the duel carriage way Guy went past with the group, Lauren came along side me, but was starting to struggle. Lauren’s sister Becky was a Durham student and was a good friend of mine while she was up here, I’d briefly met Lauren before so I told her to stick in as we were nearly finished.
I ran with Lauren up the flyover as the group started to splinter and get away, but as we descended I pulled a couple of them back. By now Guy was about ten meters ahead and I’d conceded to him, he was going to beat me for the first time and take the club championship.
We had a sharp left hand turn into the approach of the new finish, even though I’d pretty much given up, my last effort to see if he was catchable was to take the corner fast and tight and see if I could pull anything back, it worked, the 10 meter gap was now down to about eight. Like everyone else there, this was a new finish and I didn’t know how to pace myself, then I saw the 200 meters to go sign and something unexpected happened, something clicked in my head and I just thought, NO WAY!! NOT TODAY!! I suddenly had my hunger back and kicked. I got the jump on Guy and Andy Lawrence and kicked again. I felt as though I’d left them both behind so as I ran onto the grass I backed off a little as I didn’t want to go on my ass in front of all the supporters. Little did I know, Guy being the fierce competitor that he is had not given up and was still chasing me. I crossed the line first but he passed me as we approached the funnels, the marshal spotted this and put Guy behind me.
It had been a good race and a close call. I don’t like racing when I’m not fit, and hopefully I won’t again, but I also think that if you’re the club champion then it’s your obligation to defend your title, a title should be taken off you not handed over. Guy made me work hard for this one, my toughest race in a long time, but it has done the trick, before this race I was coming through a rough patch, I was demotivated and flat, I had lost interest and hunger. It took a close call to wake me up, I’m now looking forward to getting back to base training, I feel like I want to start from scratch, enjoy the next few weeks as the wedding approaches then work towards a couple of races towards the end of the summer.
I’ve now had time and looking at where my usual rivals were I think I was about 30 seconds down, so on reflection I think my run wasn’t as bad as I’d first thought. 30 seconds down after eight weeks of interrupted training doing almost a third of my usual mileage isn’t too bad. As for Michael, well I think he ran a blinder! He finished in 8th position and was the third non African home, he was narrowly beaten by Luke Craggs but I think that was because he probably gave him too much respect in the closing stages.
Normally I like to hang around after the race and have a catch up and post race crack with all my friends but on this occasion because of the weather I made a dash for home, so I’d like to apologize to anyone if they think I dashed off in a huff, but I’m sure everyone who was there will understand.