In June 2013 I ran the Blaydon Race in a time of 35.16. I remember being over the moon and the icing on the cake was I finished in 150th position in what was the running of the 150th Blaydon Race! I loved the race.
Earlier that year I had written my first ever Blog on the Full Stride running website as it was. Unfortunately that post isn’t online anymore but the story was that I had unfinished business with the Blaydon Race. I was meant to run it in 2006 with some people from work but dropped out with the excuse of beer and football as the World Cup was on. I’d completed the unfinished business in 2013 by actually training properly for the race and putting in a good performance.
Roll forward a year (9th June 2014) and I had slightly different fortunes. I had entered the race again and was hoping to run even better. Unfortunately for me I fell ill with a condition that required minor surgery under aneasthetic. The condition had led to a loss of blood over a fairly significant period and I had been unwittingly (and literally) running myself into the ground. I was very anaemic and had next to no ferritin (iron) stores left! That explained why the 2013/14 cross country season had been such a shambles (1 dropout and multiple underperformances) but also meant I spent the 9th June 2014 seeing my surgeon for a post op check up when I should have been hammering it down Scotswood Road.
I was lucky at that time to have already made contact with Dave Tune and Blizard Physio. Having received little or no support from the health service on what was causing my anaemia (I can only conclude it was blood loss / gradual overtraining as iron was depleted) Dave was an amazing support in a) making me feel perfectly normal and not an alien for being a male with anaemia and b) what I could do to resolve it – improving my diet, hydration, considering iron supplements and Vitamin B12 intake. I was stunned how supportive and helpful someone could be given we’d only exchanged a few emails prior to me telling him I’d been told I was anaemic!
12 months of training followed, with the help and coaching of Dave, which brought me to the start line of the Blaydon Race 2015.
On the start line I felt quite angry.
Firstly I was angry with myself for losing focus and confidence in my own running ability since the Blyth 10k. I’ve struggled with the work/life/training balance and allowed it to negatively affect my running. I was also still annoyed with myself for over indulging on the Saturday before the race. I drank too much, went to bed too late and spent Sunday 7th June in bed, moping around and generally allowing the Mo Farah / Alberto Salazar story to annoy me even more! Don’t get me wrong, nothing in Panorama was new or surprising. I’ve read articles about Rupps “TUEs” and never been a fan of Salazar and very sceptical of Farahs personality. But its more the attitudes of these people that annoy me. The Nike sponsorship, the books, the Quorn adverts and the free holidays on “Tekkers Island”. I digress…
Finally, I was miffed to be standing so far from the start line! I don’t want to whinge, but why runners with mobile phones strapped to their arms insist on getting to the front – this is how accidents happen. I am not having a go at the ability of these runners, just don’t understand why they must push to the front… Unfortunately I ended up 10-20 deep.
So, the longer the race took to start the more agitated and angry I became.
Finally the race started and I set about making up ground. There was a fair amount of weaving in and out of runners and I knew I was burning matches very early but I had no other choice. I literally passed what felt like 100-150 runners who had a better starting position than me within 400-500m!
Things settled down coming around the Life Centre and I spotted a few runners around me that I recognised, including a few from the Blyth 10k. I felt better, and was pleased to have slotted in after the panicky start.
I wasn’t checking my Garmin but the first mile was passed in 5.19. Coming onto the Scotswood Road I went past Rosie Smith who I’ve read about on the local running scene and I’ve also seen her competing internationally at Cross Country a few times. I was aware she was coming back from injury and probably wasn’t fully fit but was still surprised to be running alongside her in the Blaydon Race. In fact we were pretty much matching stride for stride the full length of the Scotswood Road, including a few elbows exchanged – both of which Rosie very politely apologised for!
Miles 2 and 3 were completed in 5.19 and 5.22! Funnily enough something that had crossed my mind before the race was maybe putting in a sub 17 first 5k in this Blaydon. I’d remembered doing a fast 5k relative to my 5k pb in 2013 and thought it was possible again, but I didn’t expect to put in a 16.30 5k (according to Strava). Fair enough its downhill but the anger and adrenaline had been taken out on the first half of the course.
At this stage my under control breathing was turning to out of control and laboured. I sensed Rosie Smith was about to drop me and a few others passed me as well.
Mentally I felt ok but physically I knew everything was slowing. The sun was beating down and I was sweating up a lot.
But the tough work was yet to be done.
At this stage I was coming to a section slightly changed from previous years just over the bridge. I wondered what it would be like. I liked it versus the old course but it was at this stage that I really started to suffer, the same place I caught a glimpse of a number of runners in positions probably 10 – 40, coming back the other way. You don’t want to look at them but you can’t help but notice how strong and in control they look. Then its your turn to try and pretend everything is in order as you eyeball those behind you. I always catch a glimpse of a few I privately want to beat. I’m sure I’m not the only one, running is as competitive as it gets.
There were a few little drags at this stage. There was also a water station which I passed the chance on. It was a hot night and my mouth was dry but I had someone breathing down my neck who took water and it allowed me to steal a little march on him. Unfortunately he was past me a further 100m down the road.
I’d always had a top 75 as a target. There were a few “spotters” or place counters out on the course. About halfway I’d heard I was 52nd or 53rd and later 56th or 57th. As I began to really tire I did start to think “don’t worry, the top 75 is in the bag”. That thought didn’t help me dig in as much as I’d like and I did lose a few places in the last 1.5 miles. I also starting doubting the course distance. I wondered whether it could be 6 miles? I had set the Garmin to timer only and I had a look. I was on 26-27 mins. My heart sank a little! I thought I could have 5 or 10 minutes left. My concentration was gone.
Coming to the last half mile the people and support increased which was a great help. 1 Morpeth Harrier got past me near the end of the race coming to the grass finishing straight. I tried to pull him back but, despite a mini surge in the last 100m, I couldn’t do it and I was relieved to get over the finish line and saw I’d just missed out on 32 minutes for the 5.7 miles. Still a cracking result and a great 62nd place finished.
I’m over the moon to have achieved this run and it really gives me a boost in the final push to get the sub 17 5k which I hope I will do in the Sunderland 5k in July.
Postscript – three days later my legs are still a bit sore and I know I put a lot into this race. I’m more keen than ever to keep on improving. The Blaydon Race is an event I hope to keep improving in year after year.
So far this year I have completed 4 of my running goals –
1. Helped Jesmond Joggers win the NEHL Division 3 title (and won runner of the season in the process);
2. I finished well inside the Top 50 in the NEHL Individual Grand Prix (finished 29th and qualified for the Fast Pack for next season)
3. Finished in the Top 65 at Blaydon (I hoped for a Top 100, recently revised to Top 75)
4. I ran a 10k debut of 35.37
Left on the list is the sub 17 5k (#1 priority), a half marathon debut and a target to be confirmed in the North East XC Championships. I also need to find a new running club to compete for, although this will become more of a priority the closer I get to the new XC season.