At 7:15am on a bitterly cold Sunday morning I was on a bus with the rest of the DH Runners which was en-route to Inskip.
This had been a race which had been a long time coming for me.
The first year of entering (2015) I managed to sleep in and miss the bus after an up and down night with our newborn daughter.
The second year of entering (2016) saw snow, ice and bad road conditions which led to the race cancellation.
So here I was in 2017 finally on my way down to take part. As the saying goes, third time lucky?
I’m definitely not a morning person but my mood had been dragged down even further by the fact that I had temporarily lost my hearing in my left ear. This had been going on for three days and had led to a little bit of dizziness, headaches and much mumbling on my part as I couldn’t gauge how loud I was talking. So tired, and a feeling a little sorry for myself, I retreated into listening to some podcasts (in mono) and closing my eyes while everyone else was having a good chat.
I’d not been overly confident going into Inskip. Training hadn’t gone well and my speed seemed to have disappeared somewhat. I’d been told that the course was flat with a couple of really slight inclines so there was every opportunity for a PB if my previous form returned on the day.
We arrived at Inskip with about 45 minutes before the start at 10:30 so there was plenty of time to get registered, stretched, warmed up etc.
Registration was possibly the quickest I’d ever had. Literally two seconds after I entered the tent I was back out of it with my number in my hand. I’m a big fan of efficiency and not having to queue so that was a big two thumbs up from me.
Tony and I decided to have a quick run out to stretch the legs before the start. In doing so we also managed to take in the final quarter of a mile stretch to the finish.
My plan was the same as the Brampton to Carlisle 10 miler in that I was going to stick with Tony for as long as my legs allowed. He’d said previously that he was aiming for about 7:15 pace for the mile which would put us on for a 1 hour 35 minute half marathon which sounded good to me.
At 10:30 we were off, we’d ended right up front at the start so we got carried away with the faster runners for a good half a mile which is probably what led to our first mile being 6:42. Our pacing group for the first few miles consisted of myself, Tony, Michael and Brian. We were running as a little pack which was good as we were pushing each other on in the first half. Our first four miles were all sub 7 minutes and, with the cold air, I was starting to struggle with my breathing. I knew though that if I could dig in until six miles then things usually started to get alright for me. We managed to hit the first 10k in sub 42 minutes which bodes well for a PB in any future 10k’s that I’ve got planned.
Breathing started to get better as the cold air lifted a little and we’d even gotten to a point where we’d started overtaking people.
Around 8 miles in we saw Andrew in the distance and the next mile saw the pace increase in a bid to catch him up. I was still surprised that my legs were allowing me to run this fast after the lack of speed I’ve managed to muster in training but while they were letting me do it I wasn’t going to back off.
I caught Andrew up not long after nine miles and not long after we ended up in a pack which seemed to be dragging everyone along. As is usual in a race someone would make a break for it at points and the pack would either let them go or try to keep up. With about two miles to go it was acutally us that were making the break for it and dragging one or two runners with us in the process.
I genuinely didn’t think I could sustain the pace we were running at for the next two miles but I decided that I was going to zip my man suit up and get a shift on. I hadn’t looked at my watch much other than to check my mile splits but I’d checked it at this point and I knew that if I could maintain the pace then I was on for a good time.
Tony also reappeared at this point which managed to drag both myself and Andrew over the next two miles.
There was a stretch of road leading to the 13 mile marker where you could see everyone in front of you. There weren’t many runners ahead of us but it was at this point that those behind us started to make a break for the finish. I was determined that I wasn’t going to lose a place and, if possible, I was going to gain at least one or two. Two runners made a break for it with about 600 metres to the finish but it seemed they’d gone too fast too soon because as soon as they upped their pace they slowed down again. I managed to overtake them again by the 13 mile marker and then overtook one more runner just after that. With only 200 metres to go I was confident that my sprint finish was enough to ensure that no-one would overtake me. And so it was, with Tony within spitting distance I’d managed to finish just behind him and, having checked the clock as I crossed the line, I knew for sure that I’d just bagged over a two minute PB.
I headed out for the next ten-fifteen minutes to stretch the legs and encourage some of my fellow DH Runners to the finish before heading to the food van for some brilliant veg hotpot.
I couldn’t commend the race or the organisation of it enough. Add into the fact that there were so many DH Runners in attendance as well as in support that we were actively encouraging each other throughout the race and dragging each other along made for a pleasant racing experience. There were PB’s aplenty from our group and everyone seemed happy with the race on the whole.
I’d managed to finish in position 115 with a time of 1:33.18, which was indeed a new half marathon PB by 2 minutes and 21 seconds.
Andrew also bought me a lovely hat for my birthday, and to celebrate my PB, called The Flying Dutchman. I pulled the look off quite well, even if I do say so myself.
I know that the PB’s are going to stop coming at some point and I’ve been going in to races wondering if this is the one where the streak comes to an end but while they keep coming I’m going to enjoy them.
Next up for me is the Great North West Half Marathon in Blackpool. After last year I vowed to give it a miss this year but like the criminal in a heist movie being called back for one last job something keeps reeling me back in.
Until then training continues unabated for a better outing at Manchester Marathon to finally lay to rest the ghosts of the last two attempts.
I really hate training in Winter, but it’s definitely a necessity.
As the saying goes…Winter Miles bring Summer Smiles.