My Club North Shields Poly have always had a good tradition of taking part in local, regional and National relay events. As we’ve become veterans we’ve traveled all over the country picking up relay and team medals in British Master Championship events. However the Durham Relays always proves some of our toughest races and stiffest competition. This area has some real talent and you have to be in good shape to win.
The last few weeks as you all know I’ve been getting back into doing sessions again. Things have been progressing nicely, I’m now feeling good while training, I feel as though I’m running well and I feel as though I’m running fast, but my times don’t reflect this. So as the Relays approached I started to feel less confident of running well, but there was no way I was going to miss the race, I missed too many races through last year, this isn’t going to happen again.
Sunday morning was beautiful, it was cold, crisp and still, perfect conditions for racing. As I started getting ready I started getting excited, not nervous, just excited, giddy and buzzing. I had my usual race day preparations of getting up early, having my breakfast and getting my kit ready. I couldn’t wait to get going.
I was so keen to get there I was one of the first to arrive, which is good as I do stress about being late and not having long enough to warm up properly. We have a new recruit in our club, Chris Waite, we were good friends at school, but I haven’t seen him since I was sixteen, he was at the race. We had a chat and warmed up together, it was good to catch up and the banter helped me keep calm.
I’ve been away from the racing scene for a long while now, so it was good to catch up with a lot of my friends, but as the start time neared, I slipped off away from the crowds and got myself ready for the race. I was running third leg, I like last leg, I like it when you’re down and have runners to chase, I also enjoy taking over in the lead and holding onto it, I like the thought that I’m hanging on and have to fight to hold on. Either way I always run flat out, relays aren’t the place for tactical races, relays are all about seconds and every second counts. If every runner run’s for every second, then those seconds add up and that’s how relays are won. These thoughts were going through my head as I warmed up.
The race started and the Vets took off towards the river banks, I was warmed up now and just keeping moving, doing a few strides, jogging and believe it or not a little dancing and skipping keeping loose, but always keeping an eye on the race.
Phil Coulson was leading with Guy just about hanging on, looking strong but with a chasing group on his heels. By the time they were on their way back along the river Guy was starting to reel Phil in nicely and by the time they came into the finish Guy handed over to Gary Moore in first place and a short lead.
Gary is Mr Reliable, a great team mate who always pulls out a cracking run, it’s not easy leading a race out, but Gary not only did that but he also extended our lead. By the time he handed over to me I didn’t have much to do, all I had to do really is run around at a good pace and we should win. But that’s not me!!
The sensible thing to do when you’re not fit is to start steady and try to save something for the last lap, well that’s not in my nature. I set off hard and felt bloody fantastic!! The adrenaline was pumping.
As I turned at the furthest point (Durham city rowing club) and started heading back I started to receive a lot of cheers from spectators, friends and rivals. I’m guessing that a lot of people who read this blog were also on the course too so thanks for the shouts, it was amazing and really helped a lot. I still felt good turning onto the cricket pitches but as I was going through the start finish line it was starting to hurt and doubts over my fitness started kicking in.
I was now going outward towards the turning point again, there were a few dips in the ground and my legs buckled as I miss judged them, but that helped get some focus back. My mind was saying, this hurts, but it’s got to hurt, you don’t need to run so fast, yes I do, I’m going well and every second counts. People were cheering I was getting a lift, I’m still going well, I might be on for a fast time. I passed my friend Neil Wilkinson warming down, he shouted “go for a time”. I entered the cricket pitch and spotted Vaughan Hemy ahead of me, great a target, I pushed on, come on! Every second!
This was hurting, but it was nothing compared to when I stopped. The first few seconds after you cross the line is agony, it’s like all the pain of the race washes over you in a few seconds, I often see spots and flashing lights, my head spins and my legs buckle, but I always manage to stay on my feet and keep from being sick. I staggered over to where Clare was standing with the stopwatch, 8.41, she had Guy as 8.42! Every second counts!