Thursday, 7 June 2012

Jubilee 5k

The UK has experienced one of those weekends you only expect to experience once in your lifetime, a royal jubilee. But I’m old enough to remember the first one in the current series, back in 1977, at least I remember losing the game where you had to run across a patch of grass and put a football into a bucket, with your feet. Sadly my football skills did not match my talents as a runner and I approached the bucket first but ended up last. Oh well it’s all just a bad recurring nightmare now so time to move on. This jubilee I took the safe route by just running, keeping well away from footballs and buckets.

We’d originally considered visiting Scotland for the weekend, but that would have meant missing out on the Hollins Green 5k, one of my favourite races, which is organised by those awfully nice people at Spectrum Striders. In the end I persuaded Carole that, rather than endure hours stuck in traffic we should stick around Cheshire and do day trip stuff instead. The down side of this is that it’s been too long since we were last in Scotland and Carole’s becoming more English with every day, I’ve already spotted her trying on an England bikini and even she’s beginning to forget who Ken is. Of course the up side is that we got to do The Hollins Green 5k. The race is otherwise known as the Peter Lowe Memorial 5k, named after a Spectrum Striders club member who was killed whilst out training on the roads nearby.

I first ran Hollins Green two years ago, ideally placed in the calendar, two weeks before the BMAF 5k championship, I chose to run it to find out how I was going. This was the year I was running pretty well and I managed to come 5th in the race in 16:03, taking the 1st M45 prize. It worked a treat as two weeks later I took Silver in the BMAF champs, missing gold by 1 second, and ducking under 16 minutes, with 15:59, for the first time since I was 41. Last year I was still regaining my fitness after my long lay-off and I’d moved house the day before, but I couldn’t resist running again. A lot slower this time, 16:39, for 12th place, but I still picked up the 1st M45 prize, much to my surprise as this race attracts some good old age pensioners.

This year I feel like I’m on an upturn in my running form plus I’ve been working on my speed endurance a bit more, so I was keen to see how my time would compared with the previous years. I was also keen to try out my new racing flats I got in January.

Paulo Nutini would be proud

The last two years the race has been held on very hot days, but this time it was a British long holiday weekend, so the weather was cool and damp, thankfully not as bad as it was on the Sunday when it absolutely tipped down and ruined a number of street parties. I arrived with Carole and we met Ray there, both were also running, plus Ray had brought the family along for the fun run.

One of the nice things about this race is that it attracts a lot of the local runners I’ve become friends with, from clubs such as South Cheshire Harriers, Vale Royal and Wilmslow, as well as a few of the people who turn up at the Pennington Flash parkrun. It’s a friendly atmosphere and I enjoy having the chance to chat to my fellow competitors. It’s also quite competitive at the sharp end, which suits me too, just in case I re-discover my form of years gone by. The course is good too, pretty flat and not much traffic. Just before the start I bumped into Martin Swensson, whom I had beaten at Princes parkrun, we had a brief chat then it was off to the start point.

Ray asked me how I thought I’d do and I told him, I didn’t think I was yet in 2010 shape but I felt better than last year, so I was expecting somewhere between the two. However that morning I’d woken up with an irritated throat so was a bit worried that might affect me, I’d already been for a jog and come back coughing up.

As usual there was a mass charge for the first corner and once again I found myself back a bit on where I expected to finish, but it wasn’t long before I got into my stride and was overtaking runners. Recent training has given me confidence to run at a quicker pace and I felt comfortable going through the first 1k marker in 3:11 (ok it may not be the quick I used to do, or aspire to do again, but it’s still quicker than I’ve been doing for too long). By 2k I’d pretty much found my position in the race as there was only one person who came past me from here to the finish and I didn’t overtake anyone. It was here that Martin came up to me. I thought this was great because we could work together to maintain a strong pace, which we did for a bit, but then Martin seemed to find another gear that I couldn’t quite match. I’m not sure if it was the reluctance to push myself because of the cold or a slight lack of confidence but I let him go just enough to create a gap. Before long we’d reached the 3k marker, this race was going quickly but I had slowed a bit so needed to work a bit harder to get back up to pace. I worked hard and suddenly we were at the 4k marker. This was the point I’d jogged out to before the race and I seemed to remember that the 400m marker comes up pretty quick, in fact 600m later. I pushed hard, aiming at the guys just ahead of me, but we were all going at roughly the same pace so I didn’t catch any of them, still it stopped people from catching me, Graham McNeil was running well so I was sure he would be ready to capitalise on any weakness from me, then there was Mike Hatton in first M50 position, I wasn’t going to let an oldie but goldie beat me. I pushed all the way and finished 11th in 16:28, an improvement on last year and for the third time in a row I was 1st M45. I was happy with that, but I’ll be a lot happier when I can get back below 16 minutes.

Carole was having her first run for weeks so it was good that she was able to take part. It was great that she managed to run the whole course without stopping and, although slower than last year, she at least now has something to aim at. Ray has come back into form, we’ve been concentrating more on 5k sharpness and it showed as he went under 21 minutes for the first time, with 20:53  It was also good to catch up with an old friend and occasional training partner, from my Belgrave days, Louise Blizzard, who had a fantastic run, coming in first lady in a personal best of 18:06.

Following a cool down and a drink Carole and I went off to watch Ray and the rest of his family taking part in the fun run and then to the presentation. With a 16:30 start to the race it makes a long day of it, but I really enjoy it so I hope to be back for more.

So how did the shoes perform? There was a little slipping on the wet roads, not enough to worry me and I’m sure that’ll stop once they’ve run a couple more races. I was wearing my ultra lite, thin Hilly socks, which left the shoes feeling a little roomy. This didn’t affect me but I’ll perhaps try slightly thicker socks next time.

We now had three more days to enjoy ourselves over the weekend. Unfortunately, as I already stated, Sunday was a washout, so Carole and I went to the pictures. I’d read about Snow White and the Huntsman and thought it might be worth seeing, but I was wrong, I didn’t actually think it was that well made, script was a bit obvious and the acting wasn’t at it’s best. On Monday, my cold started to come out a bit more, I was still able to train hard, though I wasn’t able to get to a treadmill to do my planned session. After breakfast we headed over to Wildboarclough to do a 7 mile walk, incorporating the highest peak in Cheshire, and have a picnic. Tuesday my cold was worse so it was easy running. It got a bit better as the day wore on so we went on a two hour bike ride, so nice to, finally, have our bikes in working order.

Also this weekend it was interesting to read about Anthony Whiteman becoming the first man, aged over 40, to run a sub 4 minute mile, achieving 3:58.79 in Nashville, Tennessee. I remember years ago when there was a lot of talk about who would be first to break this barrier. A number of International runners, big names of the past such as; Dave Moorcroft, John Walker and Steve Scott, were, apparently, chasing the mark, but it was Eamonn Coghlan who got there first in an indoor mile event in 1993. Nobody else has gone under 4 minutes, until this weekend.    

Finally an old friend of mine, former runner and a prodigious photographer and video recorder of many running feats has been putting a number of his photos onto facebook. So I thought I’d share a couple that feature me from days gone by. With thanks to Ray O’Donoghue.

The start of my stag weekend and the start of the Surrey Road Relays 2000, Robbie James (9) came 1st, Ed Prickett (7) came 2nd and I (1) came 3rd. I handed over to Kevin Quinn, Yacin Yusuf, Graham Adams, Jim Estall and Al Stewart but we still only took silver behind a very strong South London Harriers team, with Herne Hill Harriers in bronze.

The start of the Veterans AC Championships on Wimbledon Common. My first race as a Master and a victory, only my 2nd cross country victory. That's me on the left with 2nd place Richard Holland to my right and 3rd place Bill Gristwood to his right. 

Written by Roger Alsop

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