I’ve probably mentioned this before but I’m not a great trainer and when training for a marathon I need a series of building races to lead me up to it, otherwise I simply don’t do the work. One of my ‘favourites’ is the Spen 20 which is set in rolling West Yorkshire, basically out and around the M62 services at Hartshead Moor. I know if I can knock this off in relative comfort in early March I’m well set for a marathon in the Spring. Unfortunately there’s a clash this year which means I can’t do that, but I did know that Liversedge Half is run on a lot of the same course and I know that Jill Ford ran this last year.
Unfortunately when I went to enter it was full. Still I sent an email to the organisers, Roberttown Road runners and asked them to bear me in mind if someone dropped out. They duly did as someone had and I was in – the only problem was it was the day after the Harrier League Cross Country and the Striders ‘Christmas’ beer and curry night. Doubly cheeky I even managed to scrounge a lift – chatting to a regular racing rival of mine, Mark Doctor of Alnwick Harriers, he mentioned that they were going down on a coach, as for reasons lost in time one of their runners always went down and it became one of their club trips and they were kind enough to pick me up at Washington services on their way down.
The coach journey passed quickly, partially due to the quiz which they organised on the bus – my team’s knowledge of song lyrics and nursery rhymes meant that we won. As we drove down the motorway however we passed through some horrific weather – violent rain and gusting winds – not what you want to see on the start line of a hilly half.
That was however what we got, and after a quick if crowded registration – understandably not many runners wanted to hang around outside in the cold and rain – we were off to the start line. After a (too?) quick first mile downhill, normal service was resumed with what I expected – a long drag uphill to the windswept moor edge, just as I was getting my bearings, we didn’t turn where the spen 20 does – continuing along a road before a quad shredding steep drop. I couldn’t really enjoy this as it was less than half way in and you just know there’s only one way you can go from there – back up. Sure enough there was a steep climb which I’m very proud to say I didn’t walk on. Towards the end I got chatting to a few runners, thanks particularly Guy of East Hull Harriers who I’d met before, and Paul of Saltwell who I hadn’t and that helped to take the edge of the last section – at last back onto the Spen 20 route and familiar territory. One sneaky last hill and I was back at the Start/Finish crossing the line just as the race clock ticked over 1.45 – job done and a huge confidence boost after a lot of miles this weekend.
A fab long sleeved T-shirt with the course profile on it was the reward and a well-deserved beer was next. I’d really like to thank Mark and Alnwick Harriers for their company hosting me on what was a much quieter journey home on the coach.