There has been a number of sparkling performances by Harriers recently, both individually and teams. This rundown isn’t about another so please feel free to click on something more interesting or inspirational if you prefer.
My good friends Gary and Steph persuaded me to participate in my home town 10k for the first time last year and after enjoying it, we all did so again this time around. Gary and I have history; we were at Derby College together and then Hull Uni (where he exchanged roommates for the much lovelier Steph) and nowadays they are both Tadcaster Harriers and quick. This year I asked Mark if he fancied it too, to which he said yes and we had a good trip to the Midlands. We stayed over at my Mum’s and went out for a very nice pub meal on Saturday evening with her, my Uncle Malc and another good mate Roo and his family. Sunday morning began with a 6.30am alarm, 5.30am if the clocks hadn’t gone forward. It was a damp, cold morning but my mum said she’d come along too. She is 83, I am 53, it’s still nice when your mum comes along to watch you on a Sunday morning.
The race starts and finishes at Derby County’s Pride Park Stadium and all proceeds go to the club’s charitable trust. This trust includes providing a luncheon club at my mum’s church so I know they do good work. Derby County as a football club is struggling in the third division at the minute but it’s just a temporary thing. It is still the centre of the footballing universe and not just my universe because Roo once told me that it is the club most geographically central to all other clubs in the country and Roo knows some stuff so I believe him.
I’ll get to the race in a minute, honest. Pride Park is not just the stadium name but for the whole former area of railway industry and sidings, reclaimed in the 1990s. It was also on the national shortlist of four venues for the Year 2000 millennium park. I had moved to the north east by then and so despite the local excitement, recognised that it never quite had the cache of the Greenwich Meridian for ushering in a new age. We got a nice football stadium out of it though.
My running over the last few months has been garbage. Full of self pity, I’ve had a ‘thing’ down my left side for a couple of years and recently it has been very sore in a sciatic kind of way. I made it to last week’s Thursday session for the first time in ages and in Ean’s 2 x timed 1 miles, I managed an average of 8:13. Painful and rubbish. Mark also had flu in the week so between us we were rattling with ibuprofen and paracetamol on the start line (don’t try it kids, drugs are never cool) with no expectation of running well at all. We didn’t see Gary and Steph but knew they were there somewhere, and then spied them after about a mile on an early switchback. They were about 50 seconds ahead.
The rain stopped and though windy it was really quite pleasant for racing. Mark and I began deliberately steadily but at 2k I realised he was getting restless and off he went. The course took us away from the stadium and into the city centre. Mark never really pulled away that far and at 4k I noticed I was catching him again. On the way down St Peter’s Street I closed right up and at the junction of St James’ Street I caught him with some trivia about my dad. My Dad – who passed away on Easter Sunday 2017, a week before my maiden marathon in London – was Derby born and bred, Derby County daft and for most of his career was Derby’s tallest policeman at 6’8”. I don’t remember it, but as a younger bobby, he used to do traffic duty at the corner of St James’ Street. He was very visible apparently. Mark, it turns out, wasn’t in any frame of mind to receive this trivia and so I eased on realising I was feeling quite a lot stronger than anticipated.
The only problem with overtaking your best running mate at the half way point is that you then have to stay ahead of him. We swung past the cathedral to a drinks station and a PA shout-out point. I heard a “Well done Sedgefield Harriers!” on the tannoy, immediately followed by “And well done to another Sedgefield Harrier!” so I knew he was still there. The route back to the stadium followed a coned off section of Brian Clough Way (the A52 dual carriageway between Derby and Nottingham, the two clubs once managed by the great man, though he had sense and always lived at western end…) and I felt I had put some distance between myself and Mark. You can’t look around too often though, that’s not cool. I began to think about Gary and Steph too. I knew Steph was after a PB and wondered now if I might catch them. A couple of guys ran with me for about a mile, one pacing the other to his first 10k. The pacer was from Manchester, they told me, though his younger novice was local. I told them I was once local but now living in exile in the north east. Was it a job that took me north, asked the pacer? No it was a woman, I explained, and later this week we celebrate 27 wedded bliss years so it’s all worked out alright. I’ve no idea what happened to those guys, but I was grateful to the distraction.
Last year the second half of the event was really tough. This year, amazingly, given all my recent hypochondria, it was actually quite pleasurable and also my favourite part. Negative splits too. What’s that all about? My Mum gave me a shout-out in the final straight and I finished in a very ordinary but pleasing-in-the-circumstances 51:24. Only a few seconds slower than last year. Gary and Steph had also just run through the line with an excellent PB for Steph, and so with Mark finishing less than a minute behind, we were able to do the final celebrity walk-up together.
A shower and a bacon sandwich at my Mum’s, followed by a nice drive home, if a little sore once the ibuprofen wore off. Mark was definitely a bit under the weather but I think he enjoyed his first visit to the home/centre of English football. Me, I’m back again next weekend with Grace for the Ipswich game. I had a good time.