It doesn’t seem that long ago since I was moping about the house after pushing too hard and too far to try and reach 1000 miles and injuring myself but February landed and with it came the first race of the year, Maddog 2015, A Game of Bones, a fast, flat 10km race along the sea front at Southport.
My specific 10k training up until a couple of weeks before had been non existent. I’d done our usual 5k parkruns on Saturdays at Cuerden Valley which satisfied the need for hill reps and speed work (it’s not got the name ‘Lancashire Tough’ for nothing). A few mid week runs with the SRC Chorley crew which added a bit of variety to the speed work as I usually end up semi ‘racing’ with some of the faster guys and Chorley is by no means flat either. With a few longer trail runs either around the local river or up and down a few of Lancashire hills over the weekends I was enjoying my running and looking forward to meeting up with our friends at the race.
As well as my own running I did a couple of shorter (5-6km) runs with Wendy where we ran at her race pace with me keeping the pace going and generally being encouraging or threatening depending on how you look at these things. These were great as it meant she didn’t have to think about pace, traffic or obstacles along the route as I took control, all she had to do was maintain the speed and follow me home. It seemed to work as she is certainly faster now.
For myself I did a few more specific runs the two weeks before, two short 6k flat-out potential race pace runs to see how I was doing speed wise and a couple of easy 10k runs to keep things ticking over with the last being a slow, steady run the Friday before the race. No niggles, breathing OK and my pace seemed good, could I actually hit my projected time in a couple of days?
We’d received our race numbers in the post the weekend before and this year there were pens depending on what projected finish time you’d put down on your entry form. I’m not sure what possessed me when I filled mine in but I think I put 45 minutes which meant I was a Dalmation… Oh yes, the doggy theme is all over this race.
45 minutes! My fastest 10k up until now had been 46:55, my fastest Maddog 49:35 it was a fairly tall order I’d set myself and it relied on a conjunction of three things;
1. Can I stay healthy and un-injured
2. Can I train to what I know is my current potential
3. Will the weather be OK
With 1 and 2 looking good we all had our eyes on the weather forcast and it was almost perfect. There would be fog which was a shame as it’s always nice to run beside the sea but more importantly it wasn’t going to be too cold (it hailed during our first Maddog) or windy (last year we had a 30mph headwind). It looked like it was going to be a proper race, the only thing left to do, was to do it…
Sunday morning dawned and the wind was almost non-existent, fantastic. The race was on in more ways than one. After a breakfast of porridge and a mug of black coffee we drove the very short distance to Southport where we boarded one of many free park and ride buses put on by Southport Round Table, the event organisers and a few minutes later arrived at Stanley High School. The weather was still good although foggy as we picked up our T-shirts then dropped our bags off in the sports hall where we joined up with our friends from SRC Chorley, local parkruns or running clubs. After a while it was time to move to the start, with our friends moving into their ‘pens’, Bulldogs towards the back, Labradors, Huskies, Dalmations (I was one of these) and Greyhounds (the elites runners) at the front. Any Charioteers (wheel chair athletes) were in front of them but I don’t think there were any today.
With the tension building, Adrian (the organiser) got the party started, asking for the traditional calls as we all howled our calls out towards the Irish Sea, and then we were off. I had a couple of friends to chase which would help me with my time. Rob, a fast runner from parkrun Cuerden Valley would be chased by Martin, a friend I trained with for the ‘Trail Marathon Wales’. I would try my best to keep up with Martin while being Chased by a few of the other SRC members who had said they weren’t ‘going for it’, but I’ve heard that before and expected to see them creeping up on me sometime during the race.
Under the inflatable start we ran, weaving side to side as our pack of Dalmations chased after the Greyhounds. I settled into a comfortably uncomfortable pace as we turned left at the RSPB car park and headed south west along the coastal road. We arrived at the Northern end of marine lake as the drums of the Batala Drum Band shouted to the world ‘Run Maddogs run, today is your day…’. The drums have always given a boost to set you on the way down towards the far end of the lake. Towards and under the pier where we were encouraged by a very energetic Elvis impersonator
I looked at my pace and I was going a little quick but things were still feeling good, Martin was still visible and I hadn’t been caught yet. Turn left around the southern end of the lake then left again we headed back up the other side of the lake past some very talented singers all giving their all to help us on our way. Left again at the ‘top’ of the lake then right past the drums again and I only had just over two kilometres left to go, my legs were feeling it now but I could see the finish and although I was gasping and hurting I felt great. I went through the finish and the clock was just over 44 minutes (official time 44:09), the fastest I’d ever run the distance, almost a minute faster than I’d hoped for and looking back at my times also the fastest 5k I’d ever run.
The goody bag was great as usual, the bar of chocolate it contained was eaten in record time as I gathered with my friends, all who had run brilliantly and then Wendy came through the finish with Shelby (one of our friends, the run leader from SRC Chorley) and the smile on their faces said it all, Wendy had set a target of sub 60 minutes, she came through in just over 58 minutes. I’m not sure what I was happiest about, my time or hers.
We loitered a little bit longer as a few more of our friends came through and then they managed to pull the biggest surprise of all, a birthday cake in the shape of a dog. I thought I’d kept it fairly low key but they got me good and proper, I haven’t had a cake for ages and the exhausted ‘happy birthday to you’ singing made an already great morning into an amazing day. The fruit cake made by Carol and decorated by Shelby was great, I tried to make sure everyone got a piece and we gave a few pieces to the organisers who hid the cake near the finish and then it was time to leave Stanley High and the Maddog team until next year because we will definitely be back.