The hardest rule of running is that it takes ages to gain fitness and a moment to lose it. One day I was sat in the 35 degree heat of a Greek beach feeling fit - the next I was running alongside the Corus factory in Teeside feeling fat and knackered.
|Tata Steel - different to a Kefalonian landscape|
After negotiating a dog that snarled towards us as we walked across a piece of waste land we carried on to the start. According to the owner, the dog was "as daft as a brush" but I took no chances as I dropped my bag between my ankles and the dogs teeth. The start of this year's Redcar race had been moved further along the beach front because of works to the coastal path. The Redcar race is a good opportunity to catch up with the Whittingham family, friends from university. Paul "Whitty" Whittigham had managed, despite a trip to the Riverside the day before, to keep a handle on alcohol intake and arrived at the start feeling fresher than previous years. Whitty's race prospects looked relatively better than mine. I knew I would feel the affect of a two week break in Kefalonia including lots of Mythos ale, kebabs and very little running. My new Grantham running club vest also had its first outing at Redcar.
The conditions were good as we set off in a Northerly direction along a dual carriageway adjacent to the North East coast. In the first few miles I noticed flags on the local Vauxhall dealership flapping vigorously in the wind and a slight turn in the road led runners straight against it. The wind carried on in gusts as the race field ran towards the turn point at mile five. I began feeling better than I should have done given the lack of recent activity but by the roundabout which took us back towards Tees Valley Leisure Centre I was tiring and it was clear I was going to have to use mental strength to zone out and plod on. I was grateful for the stillness as the wind subsided after the turn. It was so still that I questioned if it was possible for the wind to now be behind me or if it had stopped altogether. I noticed a couple of "grafters" who were stood behind the Corus factory gates and had come out to support. The factory is massive and bleak and runs the entire length of the first few miles of the race course. I understand that most of the inhabitants of "Redker" are employed there and the factory was recently bought by a Japanese company, Tata saving the company from administration and saving the "Redker" grafters too.
By the time I arrived back at the Leisure Centre I was having a hard race. I had a dodgy stomach and thought about a pit stop at the Leisure Centre but decided to carry on, nothing more than a lack of race fitness. The new route was better for spectators as runners passed the start/finish three times during the race. I waved to Tracy, Becki, Lucy and Emily as I passed. The next section through to ten miles was a straight run along the coast road. The North sea was clearly visible alongside and I glanced occasionally to look at the pipes, ships and wind farms which interrupted the view.
The coast road took its toll. I noticed a grey stone toilet block adjacent to the road and decided to have a pit stop after all. Less than a minute later I was back on the course, I can't remember stopping during a race before and was a bit miffed about it. I ran on towards the next turn at ten miles. It seemed to take ages to arrive and I was grateful to do a 180 degree turn to run the final three miles back to the start/finish at the leisure centre. It was apparent that the wind hadn't stopped and I was now, once more, running flat against it. At some point during the final few miles Whitty ran past on the opposite side of the road smiling and waving. I was surprised that he looked so fresh and as he wasn't far behind I thought he might do a PB.
The crowds which flanked the final mile took my mind off the race pain and eventually I saw the finish funnel, phew. I finished in 1 hour 30 minutes 53 seconds I had hoped to get under 90 minutes but the holiday excesses seemed to have taken their toll. This was a hard race and I hope the difficult miles are enough to freshen me up for the next outing wherever that might be.
Whitty came back to a cheering duo of daughters in a time of 1 hour 51 minutes and 43 seconds almost a PB and time that inspired the confidence to "take it seriously next time". We retired to receive post race gifts. This year no t-shirt but a 'buff' instead to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the well organised race. The day finished with a trip to "Starters" for a "strider" (or a restaurant in Yarm for a burger) and a few celebratory pints. Thank you the Whittingham's for another good trip to Boro.