Race report: Gordon Smith Memorial Relays

Race report: Gordon Smith Memorial Relays

I wasn’t sure how I’d come out of the Les Allcorn 10km with a quick follow up race in the Gordon Smith Relays 2 miler a day after.

I’d been elevated to the Tyne Bridge Harriers A team as each 3 man team needs a Vet 40 and we had a drop out. I felt like I had to challenge myself.

On waking I didn’t feel too bad, slightly tired with a bit of muscle soreness but nothing unexpected. That said I wasn’t convinced I could run my very best 2 miles.

I felt I could at least aim to hold a similar effort to the NEMAA relay the week previous and hopefully benefit from the faster course. I still felt like something around 10:30 could be possible if I could hold 393 watts. However, the suspicion is that the NEMAA is slightly short of 2 miles and I’d ran 10:30 there.

As the day wore on I did feel the fear somewhat.

It’s a strange feeling racing two days in a row. I can’t remember ever doint it. It’s weird having to wash the club race vest so quickly – usually it resides in the wash basket a little while…

I was down to run the second leg and the mens race wasn’t off until 7.45pm. With the drive being much shorter I had plenty of time and decided to try to nap after work and before setting off back down the A1.

I like the Gordon Smiths course. This would be my 4th running of the race and I still have great memories of running this race for Elswick in 2016, picking up second leg in first place from Tadele and holding onto it, definitely a running highlight! We picked up 2nd place that night. I wrote a blog on that here.

I also had a great race last time out in 2019, running my fastest registered time on the course of 10:21 for Tyne Bridge Harriers B Team that year.

But I also remembered the “all out” effort levels required to achieve a 10:20-10:30 clocking and felt I wasn’t there yet – both mentally (and now physically after the 10km the previous day).

I’m still feeling my way on low mileage this year (I’ve averaged 26 miles/42km in the last 12 weeks). And, truth be told, I am having the usual doubts about the calibration of the Stryd power meter, especially now it measured the Les Allcorn as 250 metres long which is difficult to believe!

What it means is I need to plan my races with a +1 – 2.5% variance on distance to work out what I really need to push out power wise for a specific time goal. I also need to factor in what Stryd calls “air power”, i.e. wind resistance. The Stryd race time predictor assumes near perfect conditions…

As I said in a previous blog, I had these same doubts back in 2021 and it all came good in the end. I decided to plan on aiming for 393w again which for 2 miles should be around 10:30 in good conditions.

As the race got closer I toyed with the idea of not referring to my watch at all and just race to feel. In the end I lacked the confidence to do so which, with the benefit of hindsight I regret. But that approach will return at a future “A” race.

I completed a short jog warm up which didn’t feel great. But warm ups rarely do. I was nervous but not in a getting pumped up to run hard kind of way. Nervous about doing myself justice and getting round respectably.

And so it was time to get in the busy start pen for leg 2. I wasn’t sure when leg 1 would arrive. As it happened our A and B team runners (Connor and Zak) were battling to the line, running fast legs of just over 10 minutes. Only my race number had been called and so our B team second leg (Paul) was late to join me on the start line. If anything Zak finished ahead of Connor and so it felt like a messy start to the race.

I was immediately a few yards down on Paul as I tried to get into a rhythm. Overall I felt a bit race “dead” – there wasn’t much adrenaline to speak of. I hadn’t had pre race caffeine (again save that for an A race) and so I felt like I just needed to get round solidly.

Getting into a rhythm early on…

Paul was stealing a decent lead and going round the first left hand bend my first aim was to not let the lead grow too far. I couldn’t hear anyone behind me and pleasingly nobody ever passed me by in the race.

Paul had overtaken a Heaton Harrier and a Sunderland Harrier. The Heaton Harrier seemed to be travelling slowest and so became my main target. I seemed to be travelling OK. So far things had started similar to the NEMAA relay power wise – I was averaging over 400 watts. Stryd believes I’m capable of that for 2 miles, unfortunately I felt like I just needed to keep steady and let it ease off just a tad to leave something for mile 2. In a better mood my approach should have been to battle for 400w for at least 10mins and use the will of God to finish whatever was left…

But despite the cautious approach I was past the Heaton lad and closing on Paul and the Sunderland Harrier.

We were on to the toughest part of the course. A slight incline to the highest point although nothing like the Les Allcorn hills. But you invariably slow a little at constant effort. There is also undoubtedly a head wind although I don’t recall feeling it as such. I was shocked after the race to see Stryd recording 3% air power across the whole race which is significant…

My power had ticked down to 399 and then 398. The Sunderland Harrier had regained the lead from Paul who seemed to be slowing, probably taking the brunt of whatever headwind there was.

After the incline we were onto my favourite part of the course, the downhill approaching the sharp left hander back onto the gravel to the finish. I felt quite good here considering and part of me felt like I could not only pass Paul but target the Sunderland Harrier as well. I had an urge to try to change gears but never did. It was more a gradual effort and I was making ground.

Turning onto the sharp left hander I was probably 10 maybe 20 yards behind the Sunderland Harrier. I felt like I navigated this final stretch on slightly muddy ground really well, potentially not a million miles away from my 2016 and 2019 efforts if the Strava segment is to be believed.

Finishing off my 4th Gordon Smiths

That said, onto the home straight the Sunderland Harrier had gotten away and I stayed on one paced.

Clicking the watch and seeing 10:47 was initially disappointing. I will save detailed thoughts on where I think I’m at and where I’m going for a later blog.

For now all I’ll say is my Stryd measured the course approx. 60m long with 3% adverse air power.

I managed to hold 395 watts for 10 minutes (393w as planned for the whole race) which was just slightly higher than the NEMAA relay. Although I think it’s very difficult to compare as these two courses are so different – especially the sharp turns at Bedewell Park.

As a result my Stryd Critical Power has increased to 378 watts and predicts 16:08 for 5km! Spookily this is identical to where I was in early August 2021 prior to running 16:01 in the Quayside 5km…

It’s on me now to not question and try to believe what it is telling me, and not forget how closely this mirrors what happened in 2021. I’ve got a lot more work to do though.

So my job now is to work out how I can best prepare for the Great North 10km in early July.

The published results showed Tyne Bridge A team finished in 5th place. My time was recorded as 10:38 which looked incorrect. Race organisers were contacted as I’m a stickler for detail and I’d prefer my time to be correct in the “annals of time”… I also think our 3rd leg Tim deserves the time he ran on the day to be recorded correctly.

Well done to our new Mens club captain who took over duties and this race was his first at the helm. And also all of our other teams – especially the ladies who came second.

Thanks for reading!


Race Preview: Les Allcorn Trail 10km

Race Preview: Les Allcorn Trail 10km

Coming out of my season opener at the NEMAA Open Relays I was forced to take a couple of unplanned rest days.

As I covered in my race report, I’d gone into the race with a sore throat and felt worse on waking the next day.

Although I don’t think it negatively impacted my performance, I didn’t feel well enough to train and took two days off.

This was a bit of a concern as I approach my next assignment at the Les Allcorn Trail 10km in Alnwick on Tuesday 9th May.

I’ve never tried this race before and, from what I can tell, it is a mixed terrain and hilly 10km. With that in mind I’m not necessarily looking to run a PB in this race (note: current 10km road PB is 34:49 from 2018).

A quick check on my power of 10 reminded me that I’ve only raced two 10kms on the road and two “Not Official Distance” (NAD). I suspect this race could be registered as NAD as well.

That’s fine as my main goal will be to get in a hard training run with one eye on following up with another 2 mile relay at the Gordon Smiths a day later!

But we will have to see if that plan is possible given how my body reacted to the 2 miler.

I’ll then look to use the data from all 3 races to create a short 6-7 week training plan taking me all of the way to the Great North 10km in early July where I will be aiming to set a new 10km personal best.

Race predictions and planning

Following the NEMAA Open Relay my Stryd running app is suggesting I can hold an average of 377 watts for 10km with a predicted finishing time of around 34 minutes +/- 41 seconds.

New Stryd race predictions

I’d managed to track down a Strava GPX file of the Les Allcorn course profile which can be uploaded to Stryd. If the race calculator is to be trusted the course shouldn’t present major issues, i.e. the uphills must be cancelled out by subsequent downhills.

From what I can see there is a decent portion of uphill at the start and end of the race and a decent downhill section in the middle portion.

The key therefore will be to maintain equal power output both uphill and downhill. That is harder than it sounds as you typically need to ease right off uphill and really push downhill – the exact opposite of what most runners do naturally. Most seek to maintain pace uphill by working harder and use gravity to help them downhill whilst trying to recover from the efforts expended uphill. Running hard downhill is a very specific skill not often practiced – it is inherently risky and can easily cause injury.

But as I said earlier, I’m looking for a hard training run so the rough plan will be to average around 360-370 watts in the first 5km, check the split, see how I feel and then decide whether to push on and average as close as possible to 377 watts in the second half.

The unknown will be the ground conditions. I’d found a race report from some years ago that mentioned muddy conditions early on. Given the recent wet weather that could make shoe selection tricky and it may be best to go with a pair of training shoes. I don’t think supershoes would be wise. Nor trail shoes.

With that plan in mind I was looking to complete one final training session on the Saturday before the race. I would usually long run on a Saturday but I felt like something around 15-16km easy with a 3km portion in the middle approaching something like 369-377 watts would suffice.

Overall volume for the week was going to be low (~50km/30mi) given the forced two days rest. That is well down on the 70km/44mi completed last week but in many ways I suspect that was a factor leading to my slight lethargy and sore throat this week as I’d (deliberately) spiked my training which I accepted as a risk worth taking for this set of “B” races.

But there’s not much I can do to move the fitness dial now, so this session was more designed to get a feeling for what something approaching 377 watts felt like in the legs more than anything else. Then tick over Sunday/Monday as I feel able.

I was still keeping an open mind to the possibility of pulling back the race plan even further, for example aiming for 355-365 watts overall for the race and a potential race finishing time of around 35:15 or even 36mins plus, i.e. still a very useful training run. For reference, I ran 77:46 at the Great North Run in 2021 averaging 355 watts on a challenging and energy sapping revised undulating course – the first 10km was done in 36:42.

Great North Run 2021 result

Alternatively, a target power average of ~369 watts (which is what I held for half marathon at Manchester in 2021 in a race time of 73:34, first 10km sub 34mins) and see where it lands time wise. Stryd is currently predicting a finishing time of sub 35 minutes at that effort level.

Final training…

Waking up on Saturday 6th May I felt a little better but still fatigued and snotty. I knew a hard long run was a terrible idea. And now even risking any portion of running at close to 10km intensity seemed potentially the wrong thing to do.

I’m a big believer in listening to the body and I’ve learnt the hard way that pushing a tired body too hard is counter productive. But I’ve also been using the Oura ring to track “readiness”, heart rate and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) since late 2019. Oura was much more positive than I felt within myself. Indeed Oura hadn’t really registered anything as being amiss all week, suggesting I could train as normal.

All things considered I decided to run at least 10km easy. First 5km keeping power below 245 watts and the second 5km around 270-275 watts. I’d then decide whether to stop the run there or add in some portions of faster running or strides.

In the end it didn’t take me too long to decide to keep the run really easy. I did an initial portion of 9km (5.6 miles) keeping average power around 250 watts which translated to 5:09/km (8:20/mi) pace. Average heart rate was 133bpm.

I then completed three 200m strides on a slight uphill gradient, just trying to visualise myself starting a 10km race. I was interested to see where that would land in terms of average power.

All three strides came out >380 watts and closer to the effort level at the NEMAA relay. I take this as a good sign as the strides felt very solid and controlled. I now just need to let my brain take over when it comes to the race on Tuesday. I know I can run quite comfortable, at least in the first half of the race, and still achieve my race aims.

Measuring Aerobic Efficiency: Beats per Mile

A useful metric I like to track is Beats per Mile (bpmi) which “does what it says on the tin”, i.e. calculates how many times your heart beats per mile on a run as an average. It’s very easy to calculate and once you have enough data it’s easy to spot trends in your training cycle and assess whether you are aerobically fit enough to start considering faster running.

So for this 9km easy run completed 3 days prior to Les Allcorn, my bpmi is average pace per mile multiplied by average heart rate, so 8.33 x 133 = 1,108bpmi.

To give some context, when I am detrained or something is not quite right my bpmi on easy aerobic runs could be 1,200+ whereas when I am pretty fit my bpmi can be <1,050,

I think this run felt about right and I am happy now to tick over with easy runs on Sunday and Monday.

Thanks a lot for reading and stay tuned for the race report!

2023/24 plans

2023/24 plans

So far I’ve just been chipping away in 2023.

Nothing major. I’ve managed to just “stay in the game” and, although mileage is still relatively low, I feel ready to try a few races.

Behind modest mileage target so far this year…

My main immediate aims with racing are to basically see where I’m at and push my fitness on towards a good go at bettering my 10km PB in July as I’ve entered the Great North 10km.

Before that I’ll be lining up at the NEMAA Relays (approx. 2 miles) this week, the Les Allcorn 10km and (if everything is Ok) the Gordon Smith Relays (approx. 2 miles).

That’s quite a lot of racing in a short space of time for me but it’s deliberate. The short relays should give VO2 max a little boost while the Les Allcorn is more of a hard training run as it’s a mixed terrain course with some hills.

To give some perspective on my current fitness level, when I ran 16:01 for 5km and 73:34 for the half marathon in 2021 my Stryd Critical Power (the power I can hold for 30-40mins) was 383 watts. As it stands today it is currently 360 watts. I’m hoping following this bout of races that my CP will edge closer to where I was in 2021 which would give me some confidence that I could certainly run something sub 34 minutes at the Great North 10km.

But we will have to see. My CP of 360w is predicting approx. 17 minutes for 5km which feels about right.

Current Stryd race predictions based on CP @ 360w

Some recent positive training runs have given me cause for optimism but also lead me to believe that my current CP of 360w is still quite challenging, and I’ll need these little race tests to confirm or deny where I’m at.

I completed a 30 minute threshold run at right around my predicted half marathon target power of 345w (1:19 predicted time). Note: I managed to hold 369w at the Manchester Half where I finished in 73:34.

I ran it as a 15 minute out and back with the first half feeling great. The second half was much more challenging as I ran it solo back into a headwind. But overall a good workout although I was left wondering how I could hold it for another 50mins.

And then on Saturday just gone I ran a full half marathon at around 3hr marathon pace. Again I ran to power (avg. approx. 306w) on an undulating course with the first half net downhill and the second net uphill (point to point course). Aerobically I felt very good although at an average heart rate of 157bpm I feel I have scope to improve around 10-12bpm. In addition my legs went quite badly at around 18-19km, mainly around the hips. I put both the heart rate and leg issues down to a lack of long runs generally.

Overall this week’s training was quite risky as I vastly increased both volume and intensity which isn’t recommended but I feel it was a calculated risk which gets me ready to race hard and see how things come out the other side.

I haven’t yet thought too far beyond the Great North 10km in July but I was inspired by the London Marathon and I can’t help but feel the full marathon is something I need to try. I’m also keen to have another go at earning a Masters England vest. One option may be to see how things stand after the Great North 10km and potentially aim to have a go qualifying at that distance before deciding on any approach to the full marathon in 2024.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates on the upcoming races.

A tale of two relays…

So almost two months has passed since the Northern 12 stage relays on 24th March.

Since then we had the disappointment of not being able to put out a Tyne Bridge Harriers team in the National 12 stage relays on 6th April. I managed to slightly offset that disappointment by running a parkrun PB at Newcastle on the same day instead. That said, I was gutted when I crossed the line and saw 16:43 as I felt like I’d smashed it, not merely taking off 4 seconds from my previous best!

But if you can’t enjoy a PB, no matter how small, you have to ask yourself why you are on the journey…

Unfortunately in the background was an ear and sinus issue which wasn’t clearing and looking at my training diary I was starting to slip into pushing the pace too hard in training, perhaps an unnecessary panic, overreaching.

This came to a crescendo on Monday 8 April and Tuesday 9. Below are my training diary entries for those days –

8/4/19 10 miles easy @ 6:47/mile (1hr 7m 51s) – felt v. strong

9/4/19 TBH session – Pyramid (1min/2min/4min/6min/4min/2min/1min with half recoveries. 4.88 miles in 30mins (6:09/mile pace)

The TBH session was undoubtedly my best ever session where I found myself running just off the fast lads at the club that night. The pace of the efforts were low 5 minute miling except the 2nd 4 minute effort where fatigue and a slight headwind kicked in.

And yet something didn’t feel right – sore throat and run down. I realised it’s no good running PB sessions, I need PB races and I was starting to feel exhausted and not recovering as well as I had been. The left ear got worse to the point where I was partially deaf come Thursday 11th.

A trip to the walk-in centre revealed a completely blocked ear and tonsilitis.

I took 3 days rest and then continued my over zealous approach to play catch up and try to maintain a minimum of a 40 mile week. So on Sunday 14th April I ran a total of 14.8 miles split am and pm with 6.6 miles in 40 minutes part of that. Again, over zealous and unneccessary.

Things continued in the same vain the following week.

By now I’d had my ear syringed which felt like literally a weight off my shoulders. But I was still over training at least in terms of pace and was forced to take 2 rest days that week. On Saturday 20th I ran 10 miles in 1hr 7mins with two 20 minute segments based on HR, building to just under threshold. Although pace was thereabouts where I would expect (based on my Newcastle parkrun at the start of the month) it felt over taxing for less than LTHR. I put it down to the unseasonal hot temperatures that day (>20 degrees C) and the fact I was still flushing out some kind of an infection.

Coming into the last week or so of April I finally realised something needed to change – I needed to slow down.

The final straw came on Thursday 25th April with an attempted threshold. Although I managed 3.5 miles in 20mins (5:46/mile) pace it felt insanely difficult. Admittedly I’d gone through the first mile far too hard (5:3x) but I was barely hanging onto 6 minute miling in the last 5 mins. And I felt like collapsing in a heap on the ground, not how you should feel after a “comfortably hard” effort. I recalled floating around the same course without a car in the world only a few months earlier, running a 16:3x 5k unplanned.

At this point I was kicking myself and licking my wounds. Why had I ended up in this position when I’d already found the real key to my training in November 2018?

So the entry in my training log on 26th April stated *Bring back Van Aaken! Inspired by Ed Whitlock! If in doubt, slow down! Run to time. Aim is to increase Heart Rate Reserve.

Since that day I’ve been training to heart rate and time, keeping HR below 140bpm where possible. This has led to training paces in the range 7:30-8:45 and a solid 56 mile week coming into early May. To be honest, however, I was still feeling throaty leading up to my next race at the North East Masters Athletics Association (NEMAA) relays on 1st May.

I wasn’t feeling “thirsty” for a race and, making my way on the metro from Newcastle to Jarrow, I felt over tired after a day at work. To be fair I’m yet to feel good before a race. I find it very hard to avoid negative thoughts and the only real way of ensuring fight rather than flight is to just say to myself “just do your best”.

My lack of confidence had led me to turn down the offer of running first leg and with the benefit of hindsight I regretted it as I believe it would have enabled me to run faster as there was a decent race on.

As it was I picked up 2nd leg in a decent position from Paul Turnbull. I was able to pick up two positions in the first half mile but the rest of the race was solo.

Unfortunately the course doesn’t suit me as there are too many sharp 90 degree turns which kill momentum. Looking at my Strava data post race I felt I was able to run well on the long straights but lost too much time on the corners.

Coming into the 2nd lap I felt good and picked up as much as I could. The position in front was too far ahead but I received some welcome support from the TBHers out on the course and finished very strongly.

Pleasingly my time of 10:07 was 16s faster than my outing on the same course for Elswick Harriers in 2016 and 15s quicker than the 10:22 in 2017. So I had to take the positives and to top it off our third leg Justin secured a bronze medal for the team in the 35-44 age group.

But waking up the next day I felt wasted again, with the sore throat flaring up in the afternoon. So another forced rest day whereas I would have expected at least a little recovery run.

The throat persisted on Friday so I kept it very easy with just over 6 mile at 8:30 pace.

Then came Saturday and it will go down in legend for the strangest but most satisfying (and enlightening) day of training I have ever partaken in.

Ideally I wanted to at least repeat my 2hr+ long run of the 27th April, admittedly only covering 16.1 miles in the process. But given I hadn’t felt great the previous two days I put that to one side. As it happened I had a completely free day and night and knew I could rest up with no plans until Sunday lunch time.

Anyone who has read Ernst Van Aakens book will know well the chapter titled “Training for the future” where he envisages the training a young student runner would need to do to run incredible times from 5k (12.45!) through to the marathon (1.55!). It includes multiple outings spread across the day and into the night, and totally around 40km for each day!

Although I didn’t want to repeat that, I did manage the following –

  • Run 1, 9am – 4.2 miles in 36:05
  • Run 2, noon – 5.1 miles in 42:09
  • Run 3, 3pm – 4.7 miles in 36:08
  • Run 4, 7pm – 6.2 miles in 46:30

A total of just over 20 miles for the day and unbelievably I felt remarkably fresh with each run feeling stronger and stronger. I felt bloody good for a change!

I also got out for a 4 mile jog on the Sunday to round off a 57 mile week. I felt like the tide was turning in my favour and thoughts turned to the Gordon Smith 2 mile relay on Wednesday the next week…

On Bank Holiday Monday (6th May) I decided to get some speed into the legs without taxing the cardiovascular system overly. So I completed 4x downhill 800m reps at 2:30, 2:23, 2:23 and 2:26. Felt strong. This was advice taken from Dr Phil Maffetone – it is possible to get some speed work in without killing yourself on the track. Only word of caution is it can bring soreness to the quads if you are not used to running hard downhill. But this session came into play well at the Gordon Smiths in the second mile.

On Tuesday I ran an early 5k slow (8:19 pace) and a PM 5 miles slow (8:00 pace).

I decided against an early morning jog on the day of the race like I had done a week earlier, taking an extra hour in bed instead. Unfortunately the weather was grim all day and showed no signs of improvement, if anything getting worse (wind and rain) as myself and fellow TBHer (and team mate in the B team) Michael Hedley arrived at the course.

Yet again I felt less than tip top and felt pretty cold having not really prepared kit wise for what felt like a wet winter evening. The benefit of racing a bit more often is to get used to feeling a certain way. I am a negative thinker pre race, coming up with every reason available as to why tonight may not go well. But I’ve come to know that when I get on the start line I will be ready.

Running the last third leg it was a little difficult to judge when to get on the start line. I’d ran, for me, a nice long (>20mins) 2.7 mile warm up but it was completed before Michael had even gone off in Leg 1. So I was starting to cool down again quite quickly.

I trotted about a bit bumping into our 2nd leg Vet runner John Hurse and former Jesmond Jogger team mate Scott Armstrong (now running for Heaton Harriers). Finally I decided to get on with it and stripped down to racing gear and made my way over the starting pen.

The atmosphere was quite pensive and I heard utterances of “this is going to hurt”. I even heard Morpeth running legend Jim Alders telling the Morpeth lads “its going to hurt” and to “take the best racing line”.

I was standing in some very good company – as well as about 3 or 4 Morpeth lads, young running sensation Sam Charlton of Wallsend Harriers was limbering up as well as the likes of Zack Wylie (Gosforth) and James Meader (Heaton). I felt the adrenaline starting to build.

It felt like a very long wait, just trying to keep warm as the rain continued.

The TBH A team came in right up there in the mix for medals, then Lewis Timmins of Morpeth set off in front of me and then in came team mate John and I was off. I missed the start button on my watch which was a bit of a distraction but I was quickly into stride and gaining ground on Lewis.

Getting to the first left hander I was right behind Lewis but Sam Charlton had already gone by seemingly running about 30s per mile faster(!) than we were and Zack Wylie was on my shoulder as well. Before long Karl Taylor of Morpeth was also in the group and I tried to just focus on being competitive in this company. It would have been easy to feel somehow unworthy but here I was heading towards halfway and competing well.

Shortly after the mile Lewis had picked up somewhat and had opened up a gap which Zack had filled and Karl Taylor also went in front. I tried not to panic just yet but the pace was picking up up the slight incline. I was glad I knew the course here and so I knew we were close to a prolonged downhill. I cast my mind back to the aforementioned downhill 800s I’d done on Monday and just tried to replicate that feeling of 4:45-4:50 pace downhill. It felt light and attainable on Monday and, although I wasn’t aware of my pace here, I felt pretty strong both in my breathing and in my legs. Could I push on?

A little earlier, just before the brow of the hill, I’d received some much needed support from Michael and Tom Charlton that helped give me some impetus that put me back ahead of Karl Taylor and felt like I could also get back close to Zack and Lewis.

At the bottom of the hill the positions were unchanged and I knew the end was drawing near. I was sitting in 6th with a chance of 5th or 4th but also the continued risk of 7th. Of course it was hurting but I also felt strong (I believe) from the recent focus on easy, aerobic running in training.

There was a sharp left hander to contend with and footing was slippy due to the conditions. The ground into the finish was less than ideal. The four of us were running a similar pace and as I rounded the final corner into the finishing straight I tried to summon a sprint finish.

The crowd was loud here but it took me a while to pick up to top effort. I couldn’t close down on the lads in front and Karl had gotten into full flight a bit sooner. I afforded myself a quick look over my left shoulder and his proximity pushed me to an even greater effort, maintaining 6th place.

I crossed the line in 10:21 which was a 13s improvement on the course from my 2016 run for Elswick Harriers where we finished in second place.

Overall it was great to feel the racing adrenaline again and I think this is the first race I’ve had an opportunity to actually compete with a really good group for a prolonged period (albeit 10mins of running), each of us encouraging the others to keep pushing on.

And it makes me hungry for more race experiences like this…

Thanks for reading.