A tale of two relays

A tale of two relays

I finally had a decent race schedule coming into May –

Weds 4th May – North East Masters Athletics Association (NEMAA) relays

Weds 11th May – Gordon Smith Relays

Weds 18th May – Clive Cookson 10k

It felt like a good plan as my stamina in training was starting to come back and the two relays would serve well as a couple of good speed workouts leading up to the 10k where I hope to break my current PB of 35.37 from Blyth in April 2015.

I felt great the last few days going into the NEMAA relays and I was excited to make my debut as a “Master”. It does feel strange being 35 and also a “Master”. But it was a good chance to get involved in the local Masters scene and I’ll certainly be looking to compete in more events in future.

Getting to the course on a lovely sunny evening in Bedewell after a long day at work I wasn’t feeling quite so good. I’m not sure why. I put that to one side and had a nice warm up with some other Elswick lads. A short course recce and I knew the area as I’ve ran cross country fixtures there already. But I’d never ran on the paths and I must admit there were a few too many sharp 90 degree turns for my liking.

It was 2 laps and approx. 3k or 1.8m.

The start of the mens race was somewhat delayed so I went on another small warm up before the whistle blew and we were on the start line. It was fairly congested so I made sure I got a decent position and we were off. I was in the top 5 or 6 coming to the first sharp left hander. I put in a little burst to make sure I had a clear line and before I knew it I was in the top 4 or 5.

One lad seemed to be getting away and I was in behind a Morpeth runner and Guy Bracken (super vet). I felt quite good and didn’t feel like I was pushing on enough. Its strange, you always go into these short, sharp races thinking “I’ll just have to go hard from start to finish”. But its easier said than done. Anyway I was quite exuberant and ended up getting past the Morpeth lad and onto the shoulder of Guy Bracken who was undoubtedly comfortable and pacing it well.

So I found myself in 2nd and running strongly. The Crook lad in 1st was away.

I suppose coming to the end of the 1st lap I was starting to breath a little heavier and the prospect of another lap loomed large. Guy Bracken had put me back in my place and another strong vet Chris Auld of Crook had gone with him. I’d like to think I could have taken a pull from those two but it didn’t take long until they’d stolen a march. So I was left to hang on.


Chris Auld about to drop me into 4th on 1st leg of the NEMAA relays

I’ll admit I was disappointed with myself on reviewing the Strava data later that evening. From having completed the 1st lap in 5.17 I slowed considerably in the 2nd to average 5.45 miling. The tiredness in my lungs and legs was pronounced and the sharp turns took their toll. I tried to hold on to 4th and did so just. It was hard to tell where our team (35-44 year old Elswick A team) finished but we were shown the way by our 45-49 year olds who won a prize on the night. Well done to Iain Hardy, Jason Old and Lee Bennett!

The next few days I was exhausted with a sore throat. I ditched a recovery run planned for Thursday and rested Friday. Come Saturday I still didn’t feel great but made the foolish decision to try to run a half marathon in 1hr 30 (6.50ish miling).

The route I take is easy the first 3 miles and then a fair drag back up for home. It was clear from the outset that something wasn’t quite right as my heart rate was much higher than normal but I pushed on, seemingly intent on doing myself some damage.

In the end I completed only 11.2 miles in around 1hr 16 at a harder than planned 6.44 per mile. Absolute stupidity. I was exhausted for the rest of the day and woke up the next day with chest pains around my left side, the same chest pains I’d inexplicably got when in Berlin for a weekend break in February. The same chest pains that prolonged my return to training.

So I was quite dejected, firstly at having picked up another sore throat and secondly at completely ignoring it and pushing through for what was a needlessly intense long run at this stage.

Luckily the weather was amazing on the Sunday and I had a lovely day chilling in the garden and trying to recover as well as possible. Special thanks to Jasmine (as always) for looking after me!

But it wasn’t ideal preparation for the Gordon Smith relays which I hadn’t ran since 2013 for Jesmond Joggers. I was hopeful that I’d still done enough at the NEMAAs to sneak a place in the Elswick A team and a possible chance of a prominent finish overall in the mens race.

Luckily on the Monday I felt almost recovered and got a decent recovery run in but my Garmin was telling me that my VO2 max was on the decrease from a week earlier and again on the Tuesday I got out for 40mins very easy but heart rate and pace suggesting I wasn’t quite on it.

I was getting quite nervous and as it happened on the Tuesday the Elswick team selections had been announced on the group Facebook page and I wasn’t on any team. I considered my options given that I was feeling less than 100%. I was also on an intense 2 day work training course the Tuesday and Wednesday which was proving to be very tiring. It would have been easy to quietly say nothing and just tick over the training for another week…

But something inside was telling me I had to run so I got in touch with the club and it turned out there had been an oversight and I would be running in the A team with Tadele Gemerew and Lee Bennett. I was really pleased and nervous in equal measure. I was well aware how good a runner Tadele is and Lee is someone I admire greatly at the club – a privilege to run in the same team as those two. I also felt for Jason Old (who was taken from A and into B) who is another Elswick super vet running great following an excellent performance at the London Marathon. The pressure was now on to make sure the change was justified.

I made sure to get over to Cobalt business park in good time for the race. I was pleased to get chance to warm up with Jason and I was able to talk to him about what had happened with the team selections. He was great about it and really supportive.

My game plan for the race was to “run angry”. I had 2nd leg and I knew Tadele would at least hand over in a very strong position. There was a high chance he’d hand over in first. But I reminded myself that this is the type of chance I want to have. Yes I didn’t feel in tip top condition, but I felt a fair amount of adrenaline and I was using it to pump myself up. I couldn’t wait to get going, asking the race organisers where I needed to be even though the 1st leg race only started a couple of minutes earlier.

Quite a few people were saying hello and talking but I didn’t want to talk. I just wanted to gee myself up and get going.

Sure enough Tadele had carved up the first leg, coming home in 9.35 and a long way ahead of everyone else. I was off, chasing after the lead bike! I couldn’t quite believe it. It felt surreal.

I got into stride quite quickly and took the left turn onto the industrial estate. The bike was well ahead and it was just me and the odd marshall shouting support. I was running strong and controlled. But the first mile seemed to go on and on. There were points where I felt surely I’d hear the sound of feet coming from behind – but nothing. I was loving this, a dream come true to be leading a race (even if it had been gifted on a plate!).

I finally went passed the 1 mile marker. My watch vibrated but I managed to avoid temptation to look. I was just focusing on counting 1-2-3-4 in my head with each foot landing. Keeping my cadence high (especially when tired) is a big issue for me and I just wanted to make sure I kept the feet moving quick. I’d gone through the 1st mile in 5.08 and now was the time to dig in and hold onto 1st place for Lee.

There was very few spectators at the furthest point away from the start but those that were out were very supportive. One guy in particular was a great help – “brilliant running Elswick – brilliant stuff, keep it going” or something along those lines. Its words like that that just give you the boost you need when everything gets really hard. I was just focusing on the back wheel of the lead bike and wishing the remaining distance away.

Turning back onto the gravel track a marshall shouted that there was only 600m to go. I knew I had slowed and I needed to finish strongly. I still didn’t feel like anyone was in close pursuit but I knew someone would be eating into the lead Tadele had given the team. I knew in my head I had less than a few minutes running to finish off.

Coming onto the home straight there was great support. I gritted my teeth, swore a bit and finished it off.


Gritting my teeth and swearing for line to come to me

I’d given 100%. We still had the lead. Undoubtedly my favourite running experience yet.

It was a privilege to run with Tadele and Lee. Unfortunately for us Andy Powell of Sunderland Harriers took 30s out of our lead based on his time versus mine which meant Lee didn’t have enough buffer against Nathan Reed who ran a sub 10 minute time for his leg.

So although I know I ran 100% on the night I also know that I’m capable of improving the 10-20s that was needed to pick up 1st place.

But it doesn’t take away from an excellent 2nd place and the highlight of my running so far since I started again in 2012.


Lee Bennett and me picking up prize for 2nd place

And it also points to the fact that I am in shape to break my 10k PB at the Clive Cookson next week and I’ll be giving another 100% to do so.

Thanks for reading.


2 thoughts on “A tale of two relays

  1. Good read Kev, from a fellow Elswick member thought you guys ran excellently in the relays, well done on the 2nd – Now added to my regular running blog list

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