Ten miles came and went satisfyingly quickly yesterday at the 2012 Flying Fox 10 mile race. The air was a chilly four degrees and a hopped into my car and drove the short distance to Standon and a race I knew I would find a challenge. Last years’ experience as a spectator had taught me to turn up early, as I was squeezed onto Standon Mill car park only because my car is the size of a shoe. I wanted to make sure I got a spot. As I approached, I saw a couple of Trenthamer’s making their way up the hill towards race HQ, and as I prepared, I heard Pickles making fun of Ken from afar… People were in good spirits, and we were set for a good showing of the Green Army at this friendly local event.
2012 has been a year of personal challenges in many ways, and over the summer my fervour for running had waned. However, over the past month my enthusiasm has returned with vigour, along with the realisation that I am only ever one run away from a good mood. I was running this race because I could, reminding myself that I only regret the things I don’t do. So there I found myself, down a soggy lane up Eccleshall way, with the usual bunch of club runners and many familiar faces on a frosty Sunday morning. The start line was spray painted on the road, and the competitive NSRRA runners were standing on or about it. I decide to make my way to the back, so as not to hinder anyone’s race from the outset. We all have different goals, and I didn’t want to be an obstacle to anyone else’s.
The (very effective) whistle man called us to heel, and at 11:00 sharp released us into the countryside. The lane was very narrow and it took a little while to get going, but once we did, it opened up nicely. I began to think about the challenge ahead. I had heard many a tale of horror about this race. ‘Hilly as Hell’ was one such quote: ‘massive puddles’ was another… Take it all in your stride Dan, whoever said a flat and featureless race was interesting?
The first mile was gently undulating, and knowing I had to run back along this stretch to the finish, I paid attention. I like to know what’s in store. At the one mile point, Runkeeper started broadcasting my pace to the field. I usually silence the app but had forgotten beforehand, and as I didn’t want to risk dropping my phone or to stop, so resigned to live with it. Average pace 8:42… faster than any other race pace I had achieved, and too fast for me… I thought. Sensing I was a little out of control, I concentrated on my pace and on what felt comfortable, and took the sharp left-hander onto the ‘circuit’.
During mile three, I was visited by a lady runner from Sandbach who introduced herself as Richard’s wife. We had a natter about being ‘plodders’ and she overtook me, as did a Stafford Harrier who was in recovery from injury and training for the London Marathon. There was then a lovely 100ft or so descent to the three mile marker, back trough the village, where spectators shouted encouragement and clapped. Turning left onto the road parallel to the railway, little did I know that the climbing was only just getting underway.
Now, I’m not afraid of hills, but those little ones up-and-over the railways were bad enough. On the stretch of road parallel to the railway, I passed Mrs O’Keeffe and Harrier Lady, and was ushered off the main road, onto what can only loosely be referred to as ‘a road’. Think Cow Lane, only muddier. The path ahead was indeed flooded, and a marshal told us it was shallower in the middle. We sploshed our way through, wound our way past several farms, and got stuck into the serious climb between the five mile marker and six and a half miles. Just before the six mile point, the water station was a welcome sight. I grabbed two cups and glugged them down. I was thirsty, and as a Stone Master Marathoner passed by, she told me the worst of the hills were now over. I said I didn’t believe her, and with a grin turned the corner and chuckled at the 100ft climb still in our path. Onwards and upwards!
On this stretch I befriended a couple of chaps from Lichfield and we enjoyed a good chat about the benefits of club running, the state of the property market, bad drivers, dingy sailing and sore knees. Some might say that if I was able to chat, I wasn’t pushing hard enough, but I needed the distraction and enjoyed the company. As we approached mile eight, I started to smell the bacon butties, and we turned back off the circuit and onto the familiar path we had already trodden at the start. I abandoned my companions unceremoniously as the undulations started to feel strangely larger and longer. I was tired but it was going well. As I sped down the lane, the marshal’s yelled at me to run faster. Kerry from the club jogged past, back up the lane. Her Harrier friend berated me for looking ‘far too fresh’. I can assure her, I didn’t feel it. I tumbled onto the school field and down to the finish, where I was handed what was hilariously described by Dan Bowman as ‘the best race memento that has ever existed – a photograph of a tree in a plastic CD sleeve’. I think it is a calendar…
Checking my Runkeeper, I had completed the ten miles in 1hr 29 minutes and 45 seconds or there about (Official time 1hr 30 minutes and 6 seconds, booo…). I had averaged sub-nine minute mile pace and I was very pleased. This was the fastest average pace I had achieved over any distance I can recall. Had I been ‘in control’ of my race, I would almost certainly (and quite deliberately) have slowed down. However, over recent weeks have felt the improvements, and now have tangible proof. As I said in the title, if you think you have your race under control, you’re not running fast enough… Sometimes its’ good to lose control, and head into life’s little challenges with a little reckless abandon, don’t you think?