Tuesday, 15 May 2012

What a Weekend of Sport

This was supposed to be a special weekend for me. I’m coming into some decent form and due to both; circumstances and specification, I’ve been fine tuning my training for the last month. The reason for this fine tuning was the British Masters Road Relays, which took place on Saturday. For a while, with my niggling knee and my back injury, I didn’t think I’d be able to run let alone be fit enough to make the strong Herne Hill team. I think the team had even written me off. But once my back was sorted and my knee niggle began to recede I knew I had a chance, but I’d have to be very focused in my training, not always easy when you have clients who want you to run with them at their pace.

A few week’s to go and I heard the news that we were aiming for the M45-54 6 stage race, rather than the M35-44 8 stage race that we had always run before, and been twice champions and twice runners up in the past 5 years. There were 7 good men chasing the 6 places and I knew, with no apparent form, I must be 7th man. I needed to do some racing to get noticed and force my way into the team. And that’s exactly what I did, I ran the parkrun at Pennington, coming first in 17:36 and followed this up with the Mow Cop Killer Mile, where I managed a 7:55. Now these are times that wouldn’t make most people stand up with any sense of awe, but knowing the profile of these courses I knew what good results they were and that’s step one in the comeback, they gave me the confidence that training was right and I was on my way to something good in the future. Of course it’s not down to me and I had to convince Geoff I was in good form, but Geoff know’s me well and I wouldn’t want to be in the team unless I could justify it.

Then with a week to go we were down to 6 men, no problem, all 6 were good, we had a chance. Sadly, a few days before the championship we lost another guy, and that was it, with no other man to call on we couldn’t even make a team. A disaster for the team and a personal disappointment for me, I represent a club from London and I’m not able to get down there much at all, so I don’t get many opportunities to run for them, hence why these National Championships are so important to me.

I even did some specific training during for the week and front loaded it, for the event, and told a client I couldn’t do Friday night. Then Ray suggested we tried Princes parkrun, in Liverpool. I agreed so at least had something to focus on for the weekend. I looked up the stats and the M45 course record was held by Bernie Murphy at 16:46. I thought on a good day that would be in my grasp, but what day was Saturday to be? I told Ray I was aiming for 16:45 but that I wasn’t sure of my pacing so was hoping I could just latch onto someone, though that might compromise the time.

It was easy enough to find the venue and we got to the start with about 20 minutes to spare. It was a sunny day, a bit breezy but nothing compared to the wind you sometimes get at Pennington Flash. I spoke to a couple of the, many, marshals to find out about the course, I’d looked at the map but it always looks different on a flat map. Then it was time to go. Other than Ray, and a couple of his friends he’d introduced me to, I knew nobody, but as we got ready for the off there was a sense of recognition that passed between myself and another guy, difficult to explain but I sensed something passing between our eyes. We didn’t know each other but it was the sort of recognition that we both knew that we would be opponents today. We were off and true to my eyes the other guy went into the lead, he could have been a 15 minute man for all I knew but I seized my opportunity and sat on him. I’d worked out I needed to aim for about 3:20ks if I was to get the M45 record and, unlike Pennington, there were 1k markers to assist me. Me and the other guy, Martin Swensson, reached 1k in 3:18, great I was on target and I felt pretty good. I’d taken a quick peek at my watch but Martin seemed to be looking at his a bit longer and fiddling with it. This could have meant anything but I selected ‘this pace is too fast for me’ as the likely explanation, and put my foot down. It wasn’t a big acceleration but I created a gap and I found myself in the lead. The next k was reached in another 3:18, I wasn’t looking back but I sensed the gap was still there, not growing but enough to make Martin work hard to catch me. The next k was slower and I was starting to tire a little, I could sense the course record was going to be beyond me and would have to work hard for a sub 17 clocking. At 4k I was still in the lead and it was 13:28, I knew if I could do a 3:30k it would mean the all important sub 17 clocking so I picked up my pace and pushed. I reached the finish straight and gave it everything, it was a long straight and after a glance at my watch I sensed I was definitely not going to beat the M45 record but I kept pushing all the way and crossed the line in 16:45. Wow I didn’t expect that, I’d have been happy with 16:59 but I had indeed broken the record, not only that but I’d gone top of the age graded league, something I have yet to do at Pennington, sitting a frustrating 4th on that list. With Ray and his friends also having good runs it was a good day trip for us and made up a little for not being in action at Sutton Park, where Highgate took the M35 championship with Leicester, once again, taking the M45 one.

After that my participation in sport was just down to training, I took Carole out for a run on Sunday. But I did do a little watching. I’m a big fan of Formula 1 and find this year it’s been pretty entertaining. On Saturday I watched the qualification and was glad to see Lewis Hamilton grab pole, but the warning signs were there when he pulled up during his return to the pits. I feel his penalty, disqualification from qualification and starting from the back of the field, was a step too harsh, at worst he should have been demoted to 10th but I’m not a steward so, like Lewis, have to accept that the decision was not motivated by anything other than fairness for all, in the same way that it was fair to allow Michael Schumacher get away with pulling out in front of Lewis during one of the runs. On Sunday I already thought my viewing of the race was compromised as Lewis had very little chance of winning the race, but I watched it nevertheless, and it was entertaining with another good share of the points.

This weekend Northwich was playing host to the Thundersprint, a series of races against the clock by motorcyclists of all ages on all types of machines. It does attract some very good professional motorcyclists. I watched it last year when Cal Crutchlow was taking part. This year we had other plans but I did have a wander around the display area on the Saturday and ended up next to Steve Parrish for a while, he didn’t say anything to me though, perhaps he’s as shy as me.

Football was the other big sport this weekend, with champions and relegations to be sorted out in the Premier League but more importantly the first leg of the Division 2 playoffs were taking place. Now I’m not a big football fan, when I was young I used to go to matches at Manchester United and Manchester City but I don’t support either team, which made them really interesting games for me on Sunday. As a teenager, going to school in Crewe, I started to go along to watch Crewe Alexandra, I was there the day Bruce Grobbelaar scored for them, in his last match before moving up to Liverpool. I even went down to Exeter to watch them once! But I’m not a big Crewe fan either, though I would like to see them do well, they’re in the playoffs and won the first leg, against Southend United 1-0. The second leg is tomorrow. Carole is a bit of a footy fan, she’s big into Motherwell, she even managed to drag me along to a couple of games while I was up in Scotland. She continues to try to drag me to games down here, I’ve been to the Alex twice in the last couple of years. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, it’s just there are other things I’d enjoy more. But on Sunday, Carole managed to persuade me to go to a pub to watch the football, Manchester United vs Sunderland and QPR vs Manchester City. It was going to be interesting to try to find a pub that had both games on simultaneously and also find somewhere to sit, but we managed it. Carole, for some reason that I’m yet to understand, seems to like Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra, I prefer to stay neutral, wanting to enjoy the games for the games sake. It was an interesting time, watching the fans as much as the football, but what a fantastic climax to the season, certainly from a neutral’s point of view.  

The only other sporting event I had any interest in this weekend was the Chester Half Marathon. Katy was running it, her first race since the Manchester marathon, she ran well with another solid 1:39 time. Ray’s wife, Sharon, was also running and ran a very good 2:06

Written by Roger Alsop

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