Friday, 20 May 2016


Short fast races have never been my thing, and after the heat and dehydration of WFLWR the weekend before, I wasn't exactly looking forward to the Masters' Relays this weekend. In fact, "dreading it" might have been a more accurate description. Still, I love a good club outing and the atmosphere at relay races is brilliant - we get to hang out together, cheer each other on, and everyone steps up to the plate as we're all counting on each other.
I was the odd one out on the team as the other 3 (Lisa, Sian and Hazel) are all actually Northern Irish - they tried to coach me to a good accent, but I doubt  I was the best student. We were racing in the V35 category (Hazel was team baby and so determined our age grouping) which meant that our first runner (Lisa) had to start a couple of minutes ahead of all of the other age groups (though she was not running alone as there were 42 teams in the V35 competition).
Team DRC
Sian was in the "holding pen" for the next runner so Hazel and I went out onto the course to cheer Lisa on. She had a great run and came round in 3rd position which, although it set us up well, certainly put the pressure on the rest of us - I felt even more nervous about running the anchor leg now! I managed to cheer Sian on as she came past on Leg 2 but then it was my turn to go into the pen. I hate being enclosed like that, and it's awful not knowing how your teammates are getting on. My anxiety level rose as the first few leg 3 runners made it home, but there were also a lot of ladies being lapped so it was important to look for the lap letter on the end of each bib. Sian had handed over to Hazel in 8th place and Hazel maintained this on her lap. It felt natural to stand on the start line and watch Hazel run up the bank, but I was ticked off a good few times for not looking forward and "straightening up". The official starter would place his hand on your shoulder and then lift it when it was time for you to set off.
After the first few metres straight down a slope, most of the first mile was a long drag uphill. I overtook quite a few ladies (but they all had the letter C on their numbers and hence weren't on the same lap as me) and so worried that adrenaline (ie the fear of letting my teammates down!) had made me go off too fast. The second mile contained a long switchback so I managed to see the race leaders and count my position in the field. We were in 8th place but the next lady wearing a "D" seemed a long way away.
I managed to keep working away, gradually reeling people in (and spurred on by the cheers of my teammates) even in the last 200m sprint uphill to the finish, but there was too much work to do. I overtook 19 ladies on my lap, but unfortunately only one of them was a 4th leg runner, so although I managed to record the second fastest time on that lap, we still finished in 7th place. Still, we were all happy with our results - not too shabby for an ageing bunch of distance runners - and enjoyed a lovely team day out in the process!
The town crier
The next day brought a different race - the Chester Half Marathon. In order to earn a certificate of recognition for  achieving a certain standard of running over the year, there are certain time targets you must meet over 3 different distance categories. I had achieved the "Gold Plus" targets for a LV40 but my goal was to meet the criteria in the Open category rather than be limited by my age. I had missed the time in a HM by 20s (although admittedly I was still injured at the time and probably shouldn't have run at all).
I wouldn't say that Chester is the fastest course around, being net uphill, but it was one I hadn't run before. The town crier started us off at 9am on the racecourse and the first mile took the runners up and into the old town. It was nice to run along some of the old streets and through arches under the walls.
I still head off to avoid any trampling!
The main part of the race was out in the countryside, along quiet leafy roads, though it did get rather hot in the sun. Everyone said that it was important to "hold something back" for the final mile as it was uphill back into town to finish outside the Town Hall, but I really had nothing left after the previous day's race. The one thing I can say for certain (well I can say it now as I didn't have the energy at the time) is that there is nothing more disheartening than having your watch beep to tell you that you've covered 13miles, you round a corner (still going slightly uphill), and see an official sign stating "400m to go"!! I nearly cried!!
What a goodie bag!!
Luckily the finish gantry soon came into view and I could see from the clock that I was safe, even if crawled those final few metres. Although nowhere near my PB, I'd dipped under my target time by over a minute and actually had run the second half of the race faster than the first, despite that last mile. The goodie bag made the trip even more worthwhile as it was full of haribo, chocolate and other edible treats....exactly my kind of reward!!!
To finally finish me off, I ended up heading down to Carlisle with some clubmates on Wednesday night. I had really enjoyed the Urban Trial Race the year before - so although I was not expecting any heroics (my poor legs didn't know what had hit them with 3 races within 5 days), it was another good evening out. The sun was out and 18 of us made the trip down from Dumfries to run. A couple of ladies shot off and so I was happy to settle into 3rd position, but by the time we climbed up the steps onto the bridge over the main road, I had caught them and passed them. After running the first km chatting to my clubmate Jim, he pushed on ahead and so the rest of the race was run solo. When I say "solo", I gradually worked my way up the men's field.
Chatting/running with Jim
I could see Jim running strongly ahead of me - finishing 3rd overall - and while I managed to almost catch the young lad in 4th place, his legs were definitely stronger than mine in the final few metres, but I was genuinely surprised to have finished without my legs/body giving up on me in protest! Haribo must be in favour just now as there were many packets available on the finish line - and another club mate and I did enter into a further competition so see how many of recovery jaffa cakes we could polish off afterwards! What better way to spend a Wednesday night than running round town and country with your mates, finishing off with sweeties and jaffa cakes!!??

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