Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Just Like Starting Over

When I first started running I had no concept of how fast I could go, so I always started too fast. Luckily my original focus was the 800m, so when I started to struggle that horrible feeling of pain didn’t last too long, though I do have recollections of my first 800m race and that pounding in my head that just wouldn’t stop. When I started running longer distances I’d learnt my lesson and so I would start the races more cautiously. As I had no ambitions to win these longer races I never felt like I was missing out by not being involved in the tussles at the front, but the benefit I received was that as the race progressed so did I, passing numerous people as they started to suffer. It was a great feeling and very encouraging too, for me not those I passed.

As I became a better runner I could no longer afford to take the cautious approach, if I wanted to win I had to get in the mix from the off, even so I’ve been continuously surprised by a number of people who’s ambitions far exceeded their ability, particularly the man in full tracksuit who led the Derby 10k for 200m and then finished about 20 minutes behind me, perhaps the photographers stationed at 180m had something to do with that.

Getting older has meant I’m no longer in that position where I’m fighting for out and out race wins, even if I sometimes surprise myself, so my starts have been a bit more sedate, often I’m well back in the field before over exuberance takes effect and I leave a trail of youngsters in my wake as the race progresses. But, having just started back with two parkruns since my achilles injury, I find myself back where I was 24 years ago. Starting slowly and coming through the field.

It’s not that my heart and lungs can’t go any quicker, nor any lack of ambition on my behalf, it’s just that the ankle area is particularly stiff at the start of a race, perhaps a rolling start behind a safety car or bike might help. It takes me a few minutes before the joint eases up and I start to run normally, rather than limping along, and by the time I’ve got into my stride the head of the field is well away.

This situation won’t last forever, every day I’m able to run faster for longer, the pain in my ankle area gets less and less and my fitness levels increase. But while I’m in this situation I’m enjoying passing people in races, perhaps if I was running 10ks rather than 5ks I might pass more people. One day I hope to be back challenging at the front of the field, particularly against my age group peers, but until that day watch out for a barely out of breath Rog coming past you, just when you thought you’d banished him to the archives.

Last weekend it was the Hollins Green 5k, one of my favourite races, where I’ve always featured highly in the results, since I first ran it in 2010. It was too soon in my racing recovery to put myself on the start line for that, but I notice the Green brothers, from Warrington, had good runs, particularly Andy who finished 1st M50 in a sub 16 clocking. Instead I chose to try out the Delamere parkrun, where I finished 5th in 18:39. Still a long way off my best but a 46 second advance on the much easier Edinburgh parkrun I ran the previous week, admittedly I wasn’t encumbered with any kind of costume or carrying a wand this time. The better news was that my ankle survived an uneven course and I was able to train at sub 7 minute mile pace the following day.

Speaking of costumes, my old New Zealand pal, Paul Coughlan, ran a half marathon last week, dressed as a giraffe. I always thought it possible Paul had issues with his height, perhaps that’s why he’s so loud, but this might be taking things a bit far.

Recently I’ve been advising other runners by phone, email, text and by providing training schedules. I have allowed myself to run with some of my slower clients and jogged with Lee on his recoveries, but tonight I’m ready to throw my hat into the ring and venture out on my first training session, for months, with Ray. At last I feel I will be able to keep up with him and justify my place alongside him. Shortly I’ll be running my first proper race, don’t expect any miracles but I’m looking forward to wearing the Salford red & white with pride.    

Written by Roger Alsop

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