Sunday, 11 December 2011

Stockport 10

I once asked a friend how another friend's marathon training was going. "He's doing really well", I was told "He's running through his hangovers and everything". If running through a hangover is a good measure of performance I'm pleased to say after the Stockport 10 I'm performing well. If the race time is the indicator 1 hour 12 minutes is disappointing. That'll teach me not to go to a Shakin Stevens gig followed by the pub before race day. For the record Shaky's still got it (although his voice failed in the second half of the show and after gargling mouthwash he could only stagger to the end of his set) he is 63 now though.
200ish m to go

And so it was back to my home town for the Stockport 10. The race which runs from Woodbank Park has built its reputation on the strength and secrecy of its goody bag this year, in addition to a quality long sleeved technical top the bag included, some salt and pepper pots, lollipops, a note pad, two pens, a £5 voucher for sweat shop, some lo salt, moisturiser and best of all, some soap on a rope with the title "Stockport stench remover".
The contents of 'that goody bag'

The race is very good value, attracts many quality runners and even has a celebrity starter, Tony Audenshaw (Bob Hope, Emmerdale) who also doubled as the race commentator, dressed in a sheepskin coat and round glasses he played the part of John 'Motty' Motson convincingly. Tony is also a top runner an accomlished London Marathoner and even a few Bullock Smithy's to his name.  The race started at 10am and passed through residential streets in Offerton before heading down a country track towards Brookside Garden Centre. The first water station was just before mile five. The race organisers had put the tables out at 9am including a couple of water carriers. By 9.30am they had been stolen! A witness had apparently seen a couple of men in a van pull up and take the provisions shortly after they had been laid out. By the time I passed the organisers had thankfully managed to get some reserve water to the track and I was grateful, possibly dehydrated after too much swinging to Shaky the previous Friday night. The first and worst hill comes at mile five as runners climb Otterspool turning left just before the Spread Eagle public house. The hill continues through a housing estate before runners race on towards Harrytown. I just got into a rhythm and carried on putting one foot in front of the other. It was good to be back running amongst recognisable faces from the South Manchester scene and is was good to take in local sites. I had last run the Stockport 10 in 2002 finishing in 1 hour 05 minutes.  It was surprising how my memory of the route had lapsed.
£1.50 each - bargain!

There is another nasty hill which at mile 9 arrives at a time when you least need it but I managed to keep a good pace to the top and into Woodbank Park. A final mile through the park and runners enter the track for the final 200 metres to the finish. I was glad to finish today, it was raining and cold and I'd had enough.

I took a hot shower at the finish before retiring to a busy club house for a plate of hot pot. At £1.50 a plate I had to take advantage, in fact I bought two plates, saved twice my money and treated my partner in the process. It was good to eat with a couple of friends from Macclesfield Harriers one of whom had taken the Macclesfield V65 record finishing in 1hour 08 minutes. The winner Matt Barnes of Altrincham AC came home in 50 minutes 55 an amazing time over a hilly course in wet conditions. The Stockport 10 is a great race in my opinion. A good race with a festive feel, great food at the finish, hot showers and of course that good value goody bag. I'm not running with a hangover again though, a measure of good performance or not!



Sunday, 4 December 2011

Nene Valley 10

I picked up a cold after the Rutland Water Marathon which got in the way of my plans for the Six Dales Circuit and so I was happy to be able to enter the Nene Valley 10 as an unplanned race before Christmas. Many pre-Christmas races fill up early so it was good to be able to enter the Nene Valley 10 on the day of the race. The race HQ is at Peterborough Lions Rugby Club, a mish mash of temporary buildings including a large marquee and toilets. The showers are housed in portacabins. The race start is some five minutes away adjacent to a retail park in Bretton. The sun was out but it was cold, I warmed up jogging by the side of the retail park with other members of Grantham AC.  

Lots of colourful runners
At approximately 10.30 am the race director struggled to sound the horn and we set off along a ten mile urban route of  roughly two laps of five miles. The race is flat and fast but speed is tempered by many twists, turns and switchbacks. Runners race through housing estates, woods, alongside and over dual carriageways, through underpasses and over bridges. I set off fast and felt good with plenty of bounce in my legs. Stuart Sinclair of Grantham AC was just ahead and I decided to keep him in sight. My race plan was to get into a stride which I hoped to hold until 8 miles, after that I would assess how much I had left and hoped to able to push to the finish. Sometime during the first lap I passed Stuart who had stopped to tie a shoe lace. Only seconds later Stuart was back on my shoulder and went on to pass me almost tripping over a wandering  dog in the process. I was still feeling good at the end of the first lap but struggled to keep with Stuart as he ran on strong. The second lap was a version of the first and I was grateful to arrive at the 8 mile marker.
I was pretty tired by this point but managed to stagger on passing a couple of competitors in the final mile to finish in 1:06:19. A funny sequence of events happened at the finish. An 'old boy' with a wheeled shopping bag objected to runners using the footpath and so seemed to decide to walk across the approach to the finish with his chariot trying to trip runners up. We watched as a rather tall marshall 'guided' him out of the way. Some minutes later he returned and the situation began to look ugly. The fracas ended with both marshall and 'shopping man' trying to take photos of each other with their mobile phones perhaps to support a complaint to the relevant authority. It can't be any fun running to the finish of a ten mile race to find that you get taken out by a shopping bag on wheels 10 meters from the finish!
A strong finish by Robert McArdle
In addition to Stuart Sinclair and I, there was a good turn out of Grantham runners. Ever present, Arthur Short showed his class to finish in a super fast 1 hour 20 secs in 23rd position. Stuart stormed round the route and finished well ahead of me in 1:05:05 avenging my gazump at the Worksop Half Marathon.  Ben Hatherley finished just behind me in 1:07:01 another fast performance which will give confidence as part of his early London Marathon training. Club stalwart Robert McArdle finished strong in 1:14:02. Phil Hall 1:16:29, Crispin Read 1:31:54, Lucy Roberts 1:31:57 and Bill Lord 1:34:47 completed a good team performance (sorry if I missed anyone). 

After the race I retired to the temporary marquee and benefited from a bacon sandwich (£1) and a sausage sandwich for just 50p! what better excuse would you need to get out of bed early on a December Sunday morning to run the Nene Valley 10. A good no frills race over a slightly frustrating route but with good value food at the finish. The showers in the portacabins didn't work but showers were available at the nearby football pavillion.