A PB, a late start and a ride to nowhere

The PB
There’s a keen batch of runners where I work. Most of them faster and more experienced than me. But they’re a good bunch and really supportive. Every month throughout the summer, the managers of the onsite gym have organised a 1 mile handicap race for us to compete in and this week was the last race of the season.

I ran the first one not long after my storming Fetch mile, and have never quite managed to match that performance. The handicap system means that normally me and a girl called Jill are the first to set off, with the rest coming at intervals behind us. We inevitably get overtaken by the faster runners towards the end.

There were, I think, 6 races, with the top 5 performances to count. And you got points based on your placing in the race, rather than your time. The idea being that the handicap system should see us all finishing around the same time.

My tactics for the series were just to turn up to as many as I could make and see how I got on. And if I could score first female, so much the better, especially as I knew my friend Kathryn wouldn’t be running many as she’s been injured.

I made all but one of the races. And I actually won the August race as there was a grand field of two competitors and my follower set off a good way behind me.

I hadn’t looked at the results for the September race which was the one I missed, but someone mentioned I was near the top of the leaderboard. All I knew was that this time I was handicapped 30 seconds behind Jill, so I set off with the goal of trying to catch her by the end.

I sprinted off way too fast to try and make up some of the distance and quickly got in a mess with my breathing. So I eased back and just resolved to run steady, trying to stretch out my legs. I felt uncomfortable, tight chested with the remnants of a sore throat and flat footed in my new trainers.

But it was a gorgeous day for a run. Bright, not too cold and barely a breath of wind – a rare occurrence for this stretch. At the turn onto the home straight I could see Jill in the distance and just determined to try and break that down to something less than 30 seconds and then when I got to the final corner push into a sprint.

Along the back straight, I could hear one of the speedy male runners approaching. I made him work for his overtake, grinding out a little more speed and trying to hang onto him as I approached the final turn.

I’d narrowed the gap to Jill quite a bit, but I knew she’d give it a good kick in the last couple of hundred metres too. Around the last corner and up through my gears again, conscious that more runners were fast approaching and determined not to be overtaken.

Head down, arms pumping, really powering through my legs. This was hurting, but there was still more to go. Jill was kicking on too, sensing me coming closer. Push on all the way to the finish and just about clip her heels on the line. We finish less than a second apart.

And I’m gone. Desperately fighting for breath. Head down, gasping in air. I actually feel a bit wobbly and have to put my hands on the damp tarmac to steady myself wondering if I really do feel sick. I crouch down trying to get myself back together. I have no idea who else crosses the line and in what sequence.

Gradually I begin to settle and I look at my watch – 7.10 you beauty! That’s a new PB for a mile. It may only be a second off my Fetch Mile time, but a PB is a PB and it’s my best time for this course by far.

I think I’ve placed third and scored some more valuable points. As we walk and jog back to the office, Jill says she thinks I’ve won the series. I know I’ll be the top placed female as only Jill and I have run enough races to count, even though there are much faster runners than we are. I await the official results with high anticipation.

The late start
It’s all about tyres. I took my car for its MOT a couple of weeks ago and it cost me two new tyres and some other bits and bobs. Gary’scar has just developed a flat and he needed to be in Northumberland to help our friends prepare for a harvest supper at the farm.

So we had an early start on Saturday, with me dropping him off in Longframlington and then making my way back to Newcastle for parkrun. Gary laughs at me when I set out all my running or training gear the night before, but I was ready to go and he had a last minute ‘where are my keys?’ moment. So consequently we were on the road a little later than I’d have liked.

It was still possible to make it, but it was going to be tight. No luxury of a chat and a warm up. As I dove into the car park and threw my money into the machine, the timer ticked over 09:00am. Oh no – I was going to be late.

I ran up the hill and through the gate to see the parkrunners taking off into the distance. I didn’t really think. I just hit go on the Garmin and started to chase them.

It was a bit depressing at first being so far behind, but as I started to reel in the backmarker marshall, I thought to myself, let’s pretend to be Sonia O’Sullivan on the Great North Run and see how many I can overtake.

I was flying by now, and probably going a bit too fast, overexhuberant after an unexpected start. As I turned into the gate back onto the moor, it took me a second to realise that Dave was being the gentleman and holding it open.

I’d passed the 2k marker, but my Garmin didn’t beep until some point afterwards. And of course I realised, I’d run a short course. So what to do? I knew no one would notice. I knew I wasn’t on for a PB or anything close, but I also knew that I would know if I ran short.

I was continuing to have fun chasing down runners ahead and trying to keep to my pace. Although I’m sure it was a bit demoralising to some as I went past. I hope I managed to spur some on.

At the gate just after the 4k marker I shouted to the marshall that I’d run a short course so would do a couple of turns to make up the distance. Keeping out of the way of the runners coming through I turned and ran back to make up the estimated 200m I figured I was short. Another turn and my Garmin beeped just as I hit the 4k marker. Spot on, I was back on track and heading for the finish.

It was another one of those, ‘have I got the legs for a sprint at the finish?’ moments. But having been chasing runners all race, I was like a dog with a stick. I focused on a few ahead and thought I’d see how many I could pass before the line and raced through to applause from birthday boy Jeff (already finished in a stonking time). My time for my 5k 25:57 – not too shabby but a personal worst on this course and my official time would be a good bit slower.

But never mind. It was a great day for a run and there was a fab Fetchie turn out. It was lovely to be able to wish Jeff a richly deserved happy birthday and pose for a photo at the end. 

Dave, Lesley, Steve and I went off to scope out possibilities for the Town Moor marathon Fetchpoint. I had high hopes for the steps of the museum, but the shape of the building means the runners really are on top of you before you know it. The bandstand promises to be breezy, but it will at least keep us and any goodies dry and gives us approximately 15 seconds warning of Fetchies approaching. I’m sure we’ll work it all out on the day.

A ride to nowhere 
Gary borrowed my car again today to help our friends tidy up after last night’s harvest supper and bonfire at Christmas Farm.

We had a lovely evening watching the stars, warming cold hands on the bonfire and tucking into some great home grown grub to celebrate the completion of the shed.

Our friends Lee and Beth have worked so hard over the past two years to turn a 30 acre patch of marshy land into a viable organic farm that supports their box scheme business. It was great to see so many people there celebrating a special moment in the farming year and catching a glimpse of the turkeys, geese, cows, sheep and pigs that may one day make it onto their dinner table.

My plan was to get out on my bike for a decent ride and to get more confident about riding it. I also wanted to try out the pool where I’ll be swimming my aquathlon next weekend. So I plotted a route on my local cycle map that would take me there, using mainly off road tracks and part of the national cycle network.

I knew how to get to the start of the path, so off I set, feeling a lot more confident than last week. But I was still glad of a breather by the first set of traffic lights and although I braved a right turn at the first roundabout, I hopped off to walk my bike straight on at the major junction.

Soon I was off and away along the long straight paths of the waggonways and cycle network. It was a great day for a ride and I found myself grinning as I passed walkers, runners and other cyclists enjoying the autumn air.

I was taking it relatively easy as I wanted to save some energy for a swim and the return journey, but I was pleased to find myself progressing up through the gears and vowed not to free wheel too much but to keep the legs ticking over.

As I turned away from the cycle route in a nearby village I stopped to check my progess on the map and a couple of cyclists asked if I needed any help. But I’d worked out I was on the right route, so I hopped back on thinking not far to go and working out the next sequence of turns.

Unfortunately my confidence in my navigation skills was somewhat misplaced as soon afterwards I took a turn too soon and went off track. I realised what I’d done pretty quickly, but consulting the map saw another way to get back on track. But I was foxed by a large road junction, which although well set up for cyclists with crossings and signposted cycle paths, I couldn’t work out which road I needed to take.

I’d been cycling for 45 minutes by now and was beginning to think maybe my plans were a bit ambitious. I decided to back track, but then got myself confused trying to find the road I’d come from. Luckily I had a fair idea of where I was,  so I opted for a direction I knew and decided it was time to head back home.

Navigating by following tracks parallel to major roads and local signposts took me through some muddy spots and I had great fun bouncing around on my mountain bike tyres. It was like being a kid again, exploring the area where I lived on my bike, finding ponds full of reeds and fields full of tall grass.

The scary bit was when my path brought me out into a generic housing estate, and I only had a rough idea of where I was. The danger here was getting lost in the maze of little streets with near identical houses. I tried to pick the main roads and headed roughly in the direction I wanted to go. I’ve never been so grateful to see the logos of a retail park that told me I was on the right track.

Back on the home stretch and a good downhill home towards the sea. I let myself off with the most straightforward route, powering through the pedals and enjoying the fresh air on my face. I felt like I could have kept going forever. But even without the swim, I was hungry and aware it was approaching lunchtime. So home with my muddy bike and keen to explore again another day.

Stats and stuff:
parkrun 5k in 25:57
1. 04.59
2. 05.07
3. 05.18
4. 05.27
5. 05.04

bike ride: 14.16 miles in 1 hr 25 mins

Author: The Scribbler

I'm a writer, based in the North East of England. In my working life I give a human voice to business communications. As well as writing, reading and language, I enjoy running and triathlons and I often write about races and events in the North East

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