Last week’s race in Stockport was one I’d rather have forgotten as soon as it was over, but of course that doesn’t happen, the results are out there for everybody to see. So instead I’ll embrace the fact that I sometimes have bad runs, after all it makes the good times more special. Of course mid-week that result got even worse as I was demoted to 72nd position, as three runners appeared Mr. Benn like ahead of me in the final results.
It was always my intention to race again the following Saturday, and the fact that I’d had a bad run wasn’t going to reflect on that decision. My body felt weary from the race but I felt I had something to prove, if not to anybody else then at least to myself, my training had been going well so surely I was better than the results indicated. I had a decision to make, did I ease off my training to ensure I was fresh for the race or did I continue my hard training regime focusing on getting fit for future championships. It was an easy decision to make, nothing was going to make a dramatic improvement in one week but the hard work put in now would pay dividends later in the season. So I put myself through a tough week of training, made even tougher by the gale force winds on Thursday.
Saturday approached and it was a nice dry day, a bit chilly but it is November. I managed to persuade Carole to come with me, I won’t take her along if I think the course isn’t spectator friendly but it does make that little bit of a difference having somebody there rooting for you. We arrived at the course in plenty of time, I picked up my number and went for a walk around the course, with Carole. I used to run a lap before and after the race but these days it’s hard enough racing 6 miles I can’t be bothered to add an extra 4 miles to the total, I’m not a mileage junkie, and at least this way I could spend time with Carole, she was going to have to spend long enough on her own while I raced. The course was mainly firm going, with small pockets of mud, much more to my liking than last week.
As we got back towards the start the ladies were already on their way, only three from Salford but they were running prominently and took first team. Compared to last week it was a low key turn out for the men, only four of us, more supporters than runners. Not enough for a team, it takes six, and we didn’t think we had enough for a Masters team, we thought it was four to score and although we all qualify as Masters, nationally, in this league it’s M40+ and Billy’s a mere youngster. As it turned out we only needed three so we did finish a team, coming second in that category.
After a team pic, courtesy of Sid Sacks, we were off. Normally Billy’s a fast starter so I expected to see him ahead of me, along with Paul, who’s running so confidently at the moment. But I was surprised to find myself leading the Salford Harriers. Last year I briefly led the whole race but no chance of that today, running with dented confidence and the presence of Dave Norman in the field, I was back somewhere around 20th position. All I was interested in was having a better race than last week, finishing closer to Paul (he was 51 seconds ahead of me last week) and finishing 2nd Salford.
I put in a solid first lap, but even so I was surprised I was still the leading Salford runner, at the turnaround point, as you start the next lap, I had a quick look across the field and saw Paul not far behind, only a matter of time before he caught me, I was already starting to feel I little tired. Billy was a little further back, I hoped that was a big enough gap for me. My mindset was now fixed on retaining my position as Salford leader to the end of the second lap and I ran the lap as though it was my last, with the exception of my storming finish (I’m not that daft).
I managed it but as I started the third, and final, lap Paul had closed right up on me to within 5 seconds. Billy had fallen back further so it was all about Paul and me. Clearly Paul was going to beat me, I was feeling really tired and he looked fresh and determined, still I decided that the longer I could hold him off the closer I could finish behind him. I pushed down the hill for a breathing space and even ran confidently through the muddy patch. Then we hit the open field and the wind was hitting me hard. I pushed through it but I was really beginning to feel tired now. Onto the next field and I pushed hard, trying to hold off the inevitable. Further and further into the lap and still Paul hadn’t come past me. I was getting close to the end and pushing as hard as I thought I could. Then it was onto the tricky bit through the wood, I could hear somebody catching me but I thought it was probably the young runner I’d passed earlier. As we hit the mud I heard a voice and looked around to see Paul on my shoulder. I had position so took the best line, whilst being fair and leaving space for Paul to come around me, if he wanted to. It was a tricky place and I did accelerate so we emerged from the woods still in the positions we’d entered and now we didn’t have far to go to the end, two straights and a hill to the finish. I pushed and got a little gap, I pushed again and hitting the hill I put in my final effort at the start of the hill. It was a long hill but I could sense I was going to hold off Paul, with relief and thinking we didn’t have a team I allowed a Leigh Harrier to sprint past me at the end, only to find out later that had cost me 1st M45 position. Numpty.
I was really tired afterwards, I felt quite weak on the way home, but I was much happier with my performance and I’m heading in the right direction. Plus that’s two cross country races on consecutive weekends and not a trace of a problem where my injuries had been. It was good to see my old fighting spirit showing itself and now I’ve remembered what it’s like to fight for position I’m hoping it will help me next time out.
|The Four Salfordeers - Paul, me, Billy and Albert (or Andrew as known in some circles)|
|Running confidently through the woods|
The following day I’d arranged to meet my mate Rob Tudor for a long run. I wasn’t sure if I’d be up to it but no harm in trying. We had a good run around Northwich and the woodlands, I was surprisingly springy for the first 5 miles, but I was tiring towards the end. Another week now and back to the hard work.
Written by Roger Alsop (with thanks to Sid Sacks for the pictures)