Five miles isn’t a particularly common race distance in the north-east as far as I can tell, there only seems to be a handful scattered through the race calendar in amongst the more common 5ks, 10ks and half marathons. Perhaps it was this uncommon distance, perhaps being in the middle of the spring marathon season (Paris, Manchester, London etc), or perhaps everyone had rusted up in the biblically damp lead-up to the race. Whatever the reason, it was a relatively small but hard-core Striders contingent of eleven that went out to play.
I scrounged a lift from Jonathan Hamill and his enthusiastic support team in a bid to cut down on carbon emissions. It was an easy journey and not just because I wasn’t driving. We arrived nice and early (just after 9 am), which meant no parking problems. After visiting the boat (not THE boat, sadly – that might have been a little more impressive!) to collect race number (with timing chip) and race t-shirt (sizing’s generous, so I went down a size), we made full use of the nearby McDonalds. Food for the support team, toilets for the athletes. We weren’t the only ones doing it! Other facilities are available.
The weather was starting to warm up from the extended winter we had been “enjoying”. Despite being fine and the sun attempting to break through there was still a chill in the southerly breeze. In the end, I opted to leave a light base layer under my club vest, big wuss that I am.
We warmed-up along Maritime Avenue, where the race would start and finish. By the time we got back to the start the rest of the racers had formed up in the start funnel, so we joined near the back. I was realistic about my likely finish position i.e. nowhere near the front, and the race was chip-timed, so I didn’t see the harm in starting near the back.
The course is essentially flat. It sets out next to the marina following Maritime Avenue through a housing estate before turning up a short incline through a car park and onto the promenade. It is an out and back course so once you’ve reached the turn you know what to expect on the way back. You also get to see the leaders on their return (or the chasers if you’re in the lead). As we met them coming back I counted the places and made Stephen Jackson 9th as we passed and it wasn’t long before I saw Chris Callan and some of our other faster runners on their return, giving me a chance to cheer them on.
I’ve been working my way back from some recent illnesses so I had set an easy expectation on myself – no PB to beat, no pressure. My plan was to set out at 8-minute mile pace, which I thought I could hold all the way through. I would see how I was feeling at 2 miles and then the turn (2.5 miles) and pick up the pace a little if I was feeling OK.
And I kind of stuck to that plan. Kind of. I held 8-minute mile pace for nearly 2 miles but seeing the leaders gave me a burst of adrenaline and my pace picked up before I realised what was happening. It felt OK and sustainable, so I kept at it, keeping around 7:40 pace most of the way back along the promenade. I was picking off other runners all the way back and this was the other advantage of starting from the back and running negative splits, it gave me natural targets to aim for. The route was plenty wide enough to allow easy passing all the way.
Getting to the last 600m or so I dropped back through the car park onto Maritime Avenue and the slight downward slope gave me the impetus to start pushing for the finish.
I’ve always had a finishing kick (a legacy of being a failed sprinter) so really wound it up in the final stretch, earning me a shout out from the tannoy announcer.
Stephen was first male Strider home (8th overall in 26:23) and Fiona Jones was first female (20th woman in 35:26 gun time). There were some other excellent times from Striders, including both Chris Callan and Michael Littlewood coming in under 30 minutes (sub 6-minute mile average). In total there were 493 runners with times ranging from a blistering 24:16 (new CR from Dominic Shaw of New Marske Harriers) to just over 1:07.
I loved this race. It was a great course, inexpensive and accessible. It’s a good opportunity to run this less common distance and a real PB opportunity.