Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Friskney Half Marathon 2012

Friskney Half Marthon 2012 - The Silence of the Lands

You're a star
Friskney is in the middle of nowhere. It's in the far east, the far east of England, perhaps 20 miles from the glorious resort of Skegness. When I took my brother in law out to similar parts of the fen he described expecting to see a child by the road side with a straw hat playing the banjo. The further east you travel from Grantham the less there is but the featureless terrain has a definite charm of its own. Miles and miles of flat arable farm land stretches out as far as the eye can see only permeated every now and again by a ram shackle barn or a scarecrow blowing in the breeze.

The Friskney Half Marathon is organised by Boston and District athletic club. I had heard the race was across a fast course. This time last year I had run the Belvoir Half Marathon but I was reliably informed that the Friskney race was cheaper and so I decided to head out east for a new experience. The race car park was in a farm yard, a big commercial farmyard full of pallets and vegetable remains. We had been held up on the A52 behind a tractor and trailer and we couldn't understand how the same tractor and its load of cauliflowers had arrived in the car park ahead of us. It was also a coincidence that we had both arrived at the same destination.  

Ahead of the start of the race I chatted to a few other athletes from Grantham AC. It was my intention to have an easy run today but I was encouraged by my running comrades to try and PB the course. I was reminded that the course was flat and fast and I was London marathon fit, perhaps as fit as I might ever be, I shouldn't let the chance go begging, perhaps I should 'have a go'! Such encouragement is dangerous.  My informal mentor Mcardle suggested that I was about as fit as I could hope to be ahead of London "it's all about fine tuning now" I was told. I was offered an energy gel to take with me. I wouldn't have normally carried an energy gel across a half marathon but I was grateful for the gift and accepted knowing that there was no obligation to use it. I like to think I'm a bit of purest  runner. There is no doubt that you can only go so far as your energy reserves will let you and there is no doubt that energy out depends on food put in but there is also no doubt that the running market has become saturated with all manner of gels, beans, cakes, biscuits, shot blocs, powders and other supplements. I'm a natural sceptic, perhaps sometimes ignorantly so. Ahead of the start I witnessed the not unusual sight of a runner with a belt containing several gels, and a bottle of drink. The same runner was clad in tight fitting technical Lycra and his calves were even encased in socks made of a heavy wet suit type material. Each to their own but I couldn't help wondering if the discomfort of the runners gear would outweigh any benefit, perhaps I should be grateful that I can run minimal and not take fast times for granted. 

John Ellerby - Grantham AC
The race started at 11am. No need for road closures in these parts. the route is a lap of mainly single track rural roads adjacent to the vast fields of crops which are beginning to look lively in anticipation of summer and no doubt aided by the recent spell of rain that engulfed Lincolnshire not a day after a hose pipe ban came into effect. I ran off fast, perhaps too fast. I was trying to temper my pace but I knew when I passed Arthur Short of Grantham AC that I had gone off fast, Arthur would be far ahead of me on most days, either I was going too fast or as a fellow London marathoner he was maintaining his discipline and taking things steady. I fully enjoyed the Friskney route, there was something remote about the course aided by the the vast expanse of interrupted farming land as far as the eye could see. At mile 7ish the route must have come back towards the start because the silence of the land was interrupted by a gaggle of spectators including my partner Tracy who was taking photos to illustrate this post. 

I had run the first half fast but just about within myself. I'd become involved in an ongoing tussle with a ginger haired runner. we overtook each other several times during the first 9 miles and it became a stressful battle of attrition, the kind that I try to avoid. I managed to shake him off between miles nine and ten but the extra effort had made me tire. My legs began to feel a bit heavy and negative thoughts started to creep in, "I shouldn't have gone off so fast", " I should   have stayed behind Arthur" "Why did I pick a fight with a competitor who's probably going to gazump me in the final mile". at this point I remembered the hallowed gift from mentor McArdle. My pre race opinions blew away across the fields and I reached into my pocket and pulled out the gel. With a bite of the foil i managed to negotiate a fair amount of the now warm gel into my mouth. the rest deposited stickily around my mouth and hands. At the same time the heavens opened. The conditions had been  ideal. I had been told that for all Friskney's PB potential, wind could blow savagely across the fen. Today had been cool with a slight breeze, great running weather.
The best part of a race

The gel along with the refreshing rain restored positive thoughts and  by mile 12 and I was able to push on with renewed gusto through Friskney village to finish on the grass field outside the village hall 23rd in a time of 1:24:52. about a minute outside a PB that I set at Wilmslow in 2002 but a satisfying result nonetheless. I had trialled new shoes today, the latest version of the Adidas adios racer that I had hoped to wear in London. Sadly the shoes had blistered my feet and taken skin off a toe meaning i face a tough shoe choice decision ahead of London. It's a choice between trying a fuller sock. (my Friskney socks were very thin) or using last years shoe which have by now lost most of their bounce. 
Winners inc Catherine Payne (pink) Grantham AC
 There were some great Grantham AC performances most notably Catherine Payne running second in the v45 category and (definitely) setting a pb on the way, nice run! It was good to have a post race chat with some of Grantham's experienced London marathoners including Paul Davidson who has previously run a 2:42 London marathon. I was told that back in the day the science was different. It wasn't about gels and energy potions, the science of the time was carbo loading, starving yourself of carbs two weeks before only to load up on carbs heavily the week before the race. Although I was informed it's a practice no longer recommended, I was assured, like gels and powders that it was the fashion at the time.   

I enjoyed the Friskney race. It was a good no nonsense runners event across a peaceful course with good tea at the finish. Post race we retired to Skeggy to watch Man Utd edge closer to the title followed by a great walk across Gibraltar Point an area of outstanding natural beauty (in contrast to the adjacent holiday resort). we were lucky to see seals basking on a sand bank in the distance and star fish that had been washed up on the shore. I resolved to return in better weather and run along the coast to further explore.

Results and Pics                         

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