Thursday, 21 November 2013


A week away with my mother was just what the doctor ordered after Frankfurt, especially as my heel had been playing up from the morning after the race, and even walking on it could be painful. But, true to my usual weather jinx, we had floods in a country that has had many years of drought (Tenerife)!
The last race in our club's Grand Prix was the day after I returned and although I knew that both the weather and the speed would be a shock to the system, it was billed as a trail 10k, so at least it would be softer underfoot to give my heel some cushioning.

The 10K route

The race was at Drumlanrig Country Estate (not too far from Dumfries), but in the drive up there, the car thermostat was barely above zero, and lots of snow could be seen on the hills.
The sun was out, and so the Estate was beautiful, as all the trees were glorious in their shades of gold, red, russet and brown set off by the frost on the ground (!).
After observing a respectful silence for Remembrance Sunday, we were off. Starting on the road outside the main building, everybody would have started relatively fast but their initial speed was moderated by the ice underfoot on the first corner. We then negotiated a cattle grid and a few speed bumps while descending on one of the tarred estate roads. After about a kilometre a marker directed us sharply left into the woods. I was relieved to think that we were now going to be running on a nice woodland trail, but unfortunately for me and my poor foot, it was very hard and rocky underfoot. The guys in front of me seemed to disappear in and out of the trees, though it was hard to see very far in front at times due to the position of the sun in the sky. After 3k on this trail, we turned onto another estate road (unfortunately, there was no more trail for the rest of the race) and started to pass runners who had started the alternative half marathon 15 minutes in front of us. I tried to focus on reeling in the men in my race, while avoiding those in the other race.

The Drumlanrig Podium

As I passed the 9k marker, I could see my clubmates Jim and Richard up ahead in 1st and 2nd positions and they seemed to be running strongly, though I did gain on them as we climbed back up the road we'd initially run down. The castle seemed to take a long time to come back into view (probably because the race start had been moved back without altering the rest of the course, so the race was closer to 10.5k) but after another safe navigation of the cattle grid, it was just a nice run round the corner and into the finish!
Not a bad result for the club, finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd!

Taking part in the interclub masters crosscountry race in Cardiff wasn't a high priority for me this year, so instead I headed down to the Brampton-Carlisle race. This is used as the northern 10 mile championships so there is always a high quality field, and we had also decided to use it as our running club's roadrace champs.
Brampton-Carlisle is the oldest 10 mile road race in Britain, with this year's race being the 62nd edition. The race has been moved to the Sunday as the traffic has got busier and busier on Saturdays. Even so, as little of the route is closed to cars as possible, so the start is up a side road leading to a sharp downhill run, followed by a sharp hairpin bend onto the main road. Runners usually jostle at the front so that they can run off fast and get round the corner easily, but the start took me by surprise this year. My club mate Jacob and I were making our way to the start, waiting to hear a briefing and countdown, when we were warned to " watch out for the lorry in the road.......and GO!" It turns out that we were off, so we tried to ease our way down the side of the field past the masses as they shot down the hill.
By the time I reached the first mile marker, I had settled into my rhythm and caught up with a group of lads from the Border Harriers that I thought might be running a similar pace to me. My clubmate Steven was just ahead of me, and I could see a couple of ladies with blonde ponytails further up the field. For a net downhill course, there always seem to be a lot of climbing in the race, with the biggest incline to be found in the third mile. At this point, I followed Steven up the hill, having passed one of the ladies to move into second place, and the Harriers seemed to have dropped off the pace and were no longer with me.

DRC Teamwork

Turning off the main road, I was not far behind Holly (Rush). I had previously raced Holly at Comrades and knew there was no shame in finishing behind her, but as I was feeling good at the time, it seemed natural to pass her and move into the lead after the 3 mile marker. Steven and I spent the next few miles running at a very similar pace, sometimes side by side, and sometimes with one of us slightly ahead. I was surprised to be running with Steven as he's always faster than me but I seemed to be pushing him on, which gave me hope that I was going to run a fast time. I was shocked to realise that we'd passed the 5 mile sign in a faster time than I'd ever run that distance in a race (despite both of us taking turns to dodge cars that seemed to be desperate to mow us down). I thought that the end of the race might be a disaster with me suffering due to my early speed, but it was still going well as we rejoined the main road and pushed on into the last few miles. 

Top 5 DRC runners after the race

Another rise over the motorway and we could see the long stretch of road ahead towards Carlisle. Steven pushed on ahead, and so I had a quick glance at my watch. I knew this bit of the route fairly well, having lived in the vicinity a few years ago, so I made sure that I kept the focus all the way into town. A clubmate drove past me and told me I had a 14s lead on Holly, but then another passerby told me the gap was 100m so I tried not to think about it. Cresting the final hill  I knew I was going to run a PB and so I didn't mind if anyone flew past in the last stretch.

2013 Club Champions

Brampton-Carlisle is the only race I know that has difficult corners to negotiate at both the start and finish - as you cross the bridge over the River Eden, you can see a crowd gathered by some metal railings. Instead of being able to sprint for the line there, the railings actually mark another 90 degree corner into the final 20m. Luckily there was no one for me to chase down, so I was able to finish the race without any mishaps (knowing how accident-prone I am, that is quite a miracle). 
I was amazed to see the time on my watch (later confirmed in the official results) - 57:00. That's 80s off my PB and 158s off my course best, and my 7th club record of the year. To say I was happy with my run is an understatement!!! 

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