|Ho Ho Ho -A festive start finish area in mid October!|
Perhaps I did too much after the Bullock Smithy. I paid the price for the extra miles, coming down with symptoms of a cold that made me feel run down and lethargic. I decided to take my foot of the gas for three weeks and in the run up to Oldham I wondered if I'd make it to the start line. I had chosen Oldham as part of a visit to see a friend. Jeremy is fairly new to running having only a Great North run and two 10ks to his name.
As the weekend approached I began to feel better and so made the trip on the train to stay with Jeremy at his house in the mill town of Mossley. The Oldham Half Marathon is a simpler name for the official, "Milltown to Moors Half Marathon". The route is hilly, the type of hills that aren't found in Lincolnshire. On race day I was surprised to find Christmas Decorations lining the route to the start/finish area. Oldham Borough Council are obviously planning ahead.
The race begins in the heart of Oldham Town centre. It climbs miserably through the first four miles from the Milltown to the Moors around Saddleworth. The climb through the opening miles was tough. We climbed so far I half expected to meet God at the top. I would have been happy to fall to my knees but Instead at the top, there was a water station for which I was grateful and I had to carry on. During the climb a man on mountain bike pulled alongside me. He had recognised my Grantham Running Club top and he decided to ask this novice boy from the flatlands how he was coping with this stiff Northern climb. I would have explained that I'm from fell running stock having hailed from Stockport but I was far too indebted to oxygen for that. The last thing I remember him saying as he cycled merrily away was "there are some killer climbs on this route" I ran on pondering how the current hill that I was on didn't seemed to be included in his warning.
|A latent talent - Jeremy Hinks 1:46:01|
After four miles things began to improve. The uphill gradient turned downhill and I was able to pick up a rhythm. There were great views across the Pennine hills to Saddleworth Moor. The weather was dry but damp and cloudy. The undulating route ran through Mumps, Grain Bar, Delph, Ladcastle, Lydgate and Lees. The final mile or so had been re routed through Glodwick, a multi ethnic area and scene of riots in 2001. I wonder if the route had been chosen as part of a community inclusiveness strategy, either way, I can confirm that running recognises no ethnic boundaries. A young Asian looking girl stood at the roadside offering a tray of what looked like Lassi. I was tempted to stop but by now I was tired and looking forward to the final push back to Oldham town centre. I finished in 1:38:09 and given that I'd been run down for the previous three weeks I was glad to get a half under my belt and save for that initial climb I felt pretty good throughout the 13.1 miles.
I walked quickly back to the baggage area to collect my camera before returning to catch a photo of Jeremy crossing the line. Such was his impressive race I missed him. At 2 hours I was still standing camera poised beginning to get concerned when Jeremy tapped me on the shoulder from the side. It turned out he had pb'd on a tough course coming home in 1:46:01. The winner of the race was one of the country's best road runners, Andi Jones. How he ran 1:09:52 on that course I'll never know. Check out his splits - amazing.
A great day was topped with amusement. We went to watch the presentation and as the V65 prize was given out a male V75 stormed the stage demanding that the prize was due to him. The organiser asked him to stand to aside but skilfully reassured him that he would be looked after and not left out of pocket if he had a legitimate claim to a prize. I'm happy to report that the following Monday Jeremy sent me a photo from the official collection which included the V75 complainant stood sporting a broad smile arm in arm with the race organiser. Clearly he did have a legitimate claim and he hadn't been left out of pocket!
After the race we retired to the local hostelry for a pint of specially brewed Milltown to Moors ale. There was a buffet for runners included in the entry fee, you can't say fairer than that. I enjoyed my trip to Oldham and I'm sure I'll run the race gain.