For the fourth race in five weeks it is the turn of RAF Marham to host the Wednesday EACCL. The weather on Wednesday afternoon was bright with mainly clear skies, almost warm in the shade but pretty windy, pretty typical for February, but not so bad for running either. This week the course was was an out and back no loop(s) and after some discussion with the RAF Marham Team members it turned out not suitable for spikes either (does this count as XC?). After some team photos and a quick race briefing we were lined up on the road in front of the base ready to go. Starting quickly along the small bit of road the course turned left along a farmer’s field and then steeply downhill before a sharp right through a walker’s sty, along more road and then left then right again through some woodland area, across another road round another farmer’s turning left(ish), then right, then turning around. Typing that out makes it sound like the course was a road race with a bit of trail, the packed farmers paths underfoot probably meant that you could have got away with racing flats as well!
I’m not sure what exactly happened in the initial part of the race but my main rival got away from me almost straight away, he seemed to handle the steep downhill farmer’s field much better than I did opening up a gap when we hit the road again. I put an effort in to try and bridge the gap early on but it must have been one of those days where your legs don’t do what you know they’re capable of. Soon I’m running on my own and thinking that this is going to be a hard tempo effort instead of a race and then I remember hearing one or two runners behind me. I catch a glimpse of someone in a Norfolk Gazelles top and although my legs still aren’t doing what I want them to, I think I still have enough to shake him. I start focussing on what looks like the turn around far in the distance and I can hear his legs getting further and further behind me. As I hit the turn around and I see Simon Wright from Road Runners behind me with the chap from Gazelles behind him. At this point I’m in 4th, can still see the runners ahead of me so trying to focus on them especially as the wind was slightly behind us now which made things easier, and giving words of encouragement to the people I know who are going the other way.
About 2/3rds of the way round as we turn back right round the farmers’ fields back towards the woods, back across the road and I start to notice the course has ticked up hill slightly, and before I know it Simon Wright is alongside me. Cr*p, now I feel like I’m going backwards and not only that now I’m in a fight now for both the individual position and then team points. Remember running through some permutations in my head, has he had to surge to catch me up and burned some matches, how much do I have in my legs, should I just let him go.. he isn’t a direct rival in the league.. got another race on Sunday…
Then I remember being on autopilot, my legs just took over and I’m getting a second wind (where was this energy in my legs at the start?!), and match him stride for stride, as we leave the woods and back onto the road I think I’ve just done enough to drop him but as we’re on the road he levels back next to me, I’m feeling determined at this point, as I see the marshal for a left turn through the sty and back up the (steep) hill I surge hard and manage to shake him, I’m looking forward instead of backwards for the last part of the race and focus on getting back home as the hill flattened off and turned back into road for the final sprint home. Ended up finishing the 5.8miles in 34.53 and home in 4th. Not my best performance, but managed a decent fight back in the last mile or so, but more importantly felt like I got an extra point in the team competition and didn’t lose significantly in the individual competition. Think it is looking like I will finish 2nd or 3rd overall now with two races left to finalise the league table. Last two races are Bury St Edmunds (spikes & daffodils apparently!) & Catton Park for the final race & presentation.
One thing that I think is worth pointing out is that there is always lots of chat after the races with rivals & team mates, and there is a lots of comradery in the league, considering this is run by volunteers the races in this series have been very well organised and of a high standard with lots of variety across the courses.
Ringland Half on Sunday followed by Bury St Edmunds a week on Wednesday, all fun & games at this time of year!