We turned onto the avenue to the racecourse and I saw a sight unfamiliar to me. Lots of places to park, even for a coach. This must be what it’s like when you’re organised and turn up to races with time in hand. I made a note to try this out as it sure looked more relaxing than driving round and round looking for somewhere to park with just minutes to spare before kick-off. As chief-of-the-clipboard I’d been a bit anxious about parking and I relaxed a little as we pulled into the side of the road just a couple of hundred metres from the racecourse. Billy the Bus wasn’t so sure. He’d spied the marshalls ahead waving coaches into the racecourse car-park and he was quite keen to get a piece of the VIP treatment. “This is a long way to walk for my cup of tea!”, he exclaimed, so we scrambled back on the coach and headed for the racecourse. Sure enough, parking cones were swept aside and we were waved straight through to the racecourse and were soon parked pretty much right outside the front door. Like royalty. Lovely.
The chaos from last year was absent this year as we’d all had our race numbers posted to us. So I found myself a cup of coffee and made an impulse buy of a packet of shotblocks (Blackcurrant) and settled down to wait. I decided to have a couple of shotblocks now and eat the rest during the race. They really were very nice. Presently I threw the empty wrapper in the bin and headed for the start.
A blustery and sunny start soon gave way to a blustery and sunny first mile, a shoelace malfunction, then some fierce cross-winds. With lots of Striders running there was the added excitement of spotting purple vests and giving chase. It took me a few miles to settle into my stride but then I started to feel very comfortable and, for the first time in months, race fit. It was a great feeling. I gradually and cautiously lifted the pace and around mile 8 I was slowly, but imperceptibly, closing on a Strider vest. Who could it be? Oh joy of joys, that head belonged to the crimson crown of Kathryn! It’s been absolutely ages since I last beat Kathryn in a race as she has improved steadily throughout 2011 and so this was a big confidence boost. It took a long time to close the gap so I had plenty of time to consider my overtaking quip. I settled for a condescending pat on the shoulder and a pitying smile as I went past in the sure knowledge that this would shatter her resolve.
I should, as Mr Diamond once observed, have known better. Just half a mile from the finish I heard that unmistakable patter of tiny feet. I glanced around in horror only to see Kathryn attack with a ferocious intent. I immediately lifted my pace and gave chase but this was no half-hearted effort and she soon opened up a comfortable gap of about 20 metres. My immediate thoughts would not be permitted on a family website but I was secretly impressed. Smart move, well played. I would have done the same thing myself, and did indeed do something very similar at Gibside in 2009 to steal the gallop on Debs.
But Kathryn had mis-timed her attack. We turned left away from the main road and as we approached the final corner I realised the gap was closing. We were both exhausted from our battle so this was not going to be an elegant energised sprint built upon a saved reserve. I attacked on the final corner and ran for the line as surely as if the Captain had fired a couple of photon torpedoes up my jacksie. I braced myself for the counter-attack, but it never came. It was a close thing and I’m sure if Kathryn had attacked just a couple of minutes later than she did she’d have certainly crossed the finish line in front of me. Still, we were both happy! Having me to hunt down had given Kathryn a PB, and having Kathryn hunt me down had elbowed my time to a sub 1:45. Even if did mean I was dangerously close to the dry boak as I collapsed on the bench while someone relieved me of my timing chip, and the spike in in my heart-rate as reported by my garmin is something I prefer not to examine too closely. Things did, as they say, go a bit fuzzy. I don’t think I was alone as Jane and Dave also needed things to lean on after crossing the line. But the rewards were worth it.
Our return to Durham was via a good pie and chips at the Dawney Arms and finally my coach-master duties were over (I can’t believe how tricky it is to count up to 30 – especially when Jim Nicholson is heckling!). Soon I’m home and settling down to beer and curry. The phone rings, and it’s for me. It’s Richard, from Gillingham’s coaches. They’ve found my bag! Excellent! Er, hang on, I didn’t know it was missing. And isn’t Richard actually calling me at home, from, er, my mobile. Ah…..
|1||Yared Hagus||Wallsend Harriers||M||1:06:42|
|30||Felicity Milton||Heaton Harriers||F||1||1:17:45|
|1154||Ian Spencer||M50||1:56:17 *|
1712 finishers. *Gun time – no chip time.