Two 10k races in the space of 5 days? As Obi-Wan Kenobi once said ‘He’s more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil.’ Well, maybe not that last bit. But, with the sweat having only just dried from the Croft Pitstop 10k a mere 4 days earlier, it was time to take to the mean streets of Harrogate. Well, the polite, prosperous streets of Harrogate. But that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Nor does it attempt to underline my undoubted status as a fearless alpha male.
Circumstances decreed that I’d be steaming into Harrogate in my 1977 VW Campervan, rather than my somewhat more reliable ‘proper car’. In truth it’s a rather splendid vehicle to look at, but taking it any great distance does open up the possibilities of breaking down and/or blowing up. And there’s the fact that the fuel gauge doesn’t really work, so I tend to drive everywhere in it with my fingers crossed whilst attempting to use The Force to ascertain the level of remaining petroleum. All of which of course contributes to perfect, stress-free race prep… However, the camper was on its best behaviour – no one was delayed, embarrassed or incinerated – and I rolled on into Harrogate without incident, parking up on Dragon Road. Now, if you’re anything like me (there must be more of us out there somewhere…) you would immediately begin to conjure up a host of theories relating to the etymology of this particular street. Was the area once smitten by the fiery breath of a rampaging wyvern? Did it once receive King Wu of Zhou, 1st emperor of Chinese Zhou dynasty, on an ancient diplomatic visit? Was it the site of the childhood home of Daenerys Targaryen*? Alas, half-arsed research implies it to be named after the now demolished Dragon Hotel. Boo.
After rocking into the centre of town and collecting my race number from RACE HQ – not to be confused with 1980s arcade classic Chase HQ – it was time to soak up the atmosphere and warm up. I began to feel distinctly middle class vibes being given off everywhere. RACE HQ and indeed the start/finish straight overlooked a well-kept communal garden. All around there were picnic rugs, pushchairs, good-natured dogs on sensible leads, respectful laughter, bunting, handshakes, supportive partners, Thermos flasks and a gazebo. If it wasn’t for all of the vest and shorts, we could have quite easily been mistaken for a crowd of people politely waiting for entry to a recording of Antiques Roadshow. I even held out a faint hope of spotting Michael Aspel** But even in such idyllic settings, an athlete needs to warm up. Well, an idiot needs to pretend to warm up. It was time for some light stretching and a jog.
As the start of the race approached, we were corralled into position by Alan and given the instructions. They can’t have been too vital, because I’ve forgotten what they were. Much to my amusement, however, further proof of the Harrogate Town Centre 10k’s hold on the award for ‘Surely The Most Middle Class Run In North East England’ came in the form of a Range-Rover being parked rather inconveniently in the starting area, causing much bunching of sweaty runners before being belatedly moved. And then the commencement hooter was squeezed and we were off! The route was many things. Flat was not one of them. It was two loops of a circuit on roads and pavements. The roads were not closed, so there’s always the chance of getting a car in the face for a bit of added excitement. That said, the marshalling was excellent so no such incident was ever really likely. I was aiming to (somehow) better my time of 43:27 from Croft only 4 days earlier. As far as my performance went, I’ll give you a mile-by-mile breakdown:
- Mile 1: Uphill start. People clog. Focus on the breathing. 5 seconds over target time. You’ll get it back. You can do this.
- Mile 2: It’s levelled out. Urgh, another hill? Stupid running. Focus on the breathing. Now 9 seconds over target time. There’s still plenty of running left to do. You can do this.
- Mile 3: Wooooo! Downhill! Watch me go! I’M A RUNNING GOD! 17 SECONDS UNDER TARGET TIME! I’VE GOT THIS ALL DAY!
- Mile 4: Mother of Hills, have mercy. Lots of heavy breathing. If I phoned someone right now I could get arrested. 6 seconds over target time. Stupid legs. Stupid running. Not sure I can pull this one back.
- Mile 5: Just keep going. Remember that downhill. It’s just around this corner. Ok, this corner. Alright, this corner. I don’t remember all of these corners…27 seconds over.
- Mile 6: MOVE ASIDE PEOPLE, IT’S THE ROCKET MAN! I couldn’t stop if I had to. Isn’t gravity fabulous? A mere 15 seconds over. You’ve got to BELIEVE.
- The last little bit: Almost there! At least now if I collapse and die I can do so in the relative comfort of the gazebo. But now it’s an undignified sprint past a fellow participant for the line. THE WOMAN ON THE MIC JUST READ MY NAME OUT! Ok, she read it out incorrectly, but still. Fame. FINISH! In…42.50?! We don’t know how and we don’t want to know. But I’ll take that.
After emptying 500ml of Harrogate Spring over my head and having an impromptu and highly necessary lie down, it was time to raid the goody bag. Water bottle? Check. Vegan chocolate drink stuff? Check. Flapjack? Check. Wine Gums? Ok then. Alas, no medal. Two runs in one week and not a single medal to show for it? I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next *shakes fist*. Then it was time for a squelching hobble back to the campervan – which proved its worth, as I had ample room and privacy to hula out of my sodden kecks and slip into something drier. This was the first time I’d participated in this particular race, and overall the Harrogate Town Centre 10k was an enjoyable and extremely well organised affair. It does, however, fall on the same date as the Great North 10k, meaning I might favour a return to Gateshead for that event instead in 2016. After all, you get a medal. And a stadium finish. And chased by several hundred Gurkhas.
This week’s running: So far this week I’ve notched up 19 miles – 4 miles on Monday before tackling a mighty 15 miles on Wednesday as my marathon training steps up. It rained for the full 130 minutes I was out, but I kept a solid pace so returned home soaked yet pleased.
* – Much to my amusement, the spellchecker attempted to change Daenerys Targaryen to Deaneries Margarine…
** – I know Fiona Bruce does it now. But a man can dream.