Today was my 33rd and final race of the year, and it was a race I wanted to do well in. This was the first race I entered back when I started running again in 2009 (before I joined the club) and I also ran it last year.
I wasn’t aiming for a specific time, it’s definitely not a PB course and I knew there was no chance I’d beat the 35:41 I ran on the town moor a few months back but it would be interesting to see how much slower this course was.
As we lined up I spotted Matt Alderson who I’ve ran with in a number of races and Parkruns so we got chatting. I’d say we are pretty evenly matched – I’ve beat him in a number of races and he’s beat me in a few. I think it’s always good to run against people you are evenly matched with as it generally makes you push and try that little bit harder to try and beat them – healthy competition is a great thing.
The race started and everyone was away, tearing up East Park Road and then turning into the park for the fast downhill section down to the lake. Matt started pulling away at this point and the gap between us was getting larger. I think that one of the most important skills to master in racing is to be able to hold back in the early stages of a race when you are still fresh and you may feel like you could push harder. This is increasingly important the longer the race, and critical in the marathon.
Having raced against Matt a number of times I knew he always starts the race fast, but then I’ve sometimes been able to catch him later in the race so I decided to let him go as there were plenty more miles to be ran at this point.
After the lake the race drops down into the Dene for another fast section before turning at the well the park derives its name from for the first hill. Some people like hills, others don’t and in this race there are 2 to negotiate on each lap.
I think there are a number skills you need to master in order to be run hills well. Firstly if you want to race hills then you have to run hills in training, and a good reccie of the course beforehand is always helpful. Also, when you get to a hill you shouldn’t expect to be able to maintain the same pace that you are running on the flat – your pace will slow but your level of effort/intensity should be the same. A lot of people slow down once they reach the top of a hill, but the top of a hill is often followed by the best part of a hill – the descent. This is a good place to overtake other runners – you’ve worked hard to reach the top of a hill so don’t let people take you down on the descent.
The route then goes out of the park and turns up Joicey Road for the 2nd hill. Even though this hill is longer and higher than the first one it always seems easier to run as it’s not quite as steep and twisty so you can maintain a more even pace.
At this point I was starting to close the gap on Matt and I sensed he was tiring so I made a move to go past him as we ran along East Park Road back to the start again.
One of the great things about the race is the support of all the marshals around the course and it really helped me get through some of the tougher parts of the course. Well apart from Graeme telling me I was getting beat by a girl at one point. That girl was Aly Dixon though (and Rosie Smith) so I can’t complain about that 🙂
On the second lap I started to lap some of the other runners, one notably dressed as a Reindeer and I spotted someone else dressed as Spiderman.
I held my position for the next lap, but on the third as I ran down the downhill section to the lake I sensed another runner just behind me trying to overtake – I thought it must have been Matt as he was the only other runner I have overtook.
I then had to make a decision – should I try to stick with them, or let them go past. My competitive streak wanted to stick with them and not let them overtake me, however I was tiring at this point and it was becoming difficult to maintain my pace.
They went past and it wasn’t Matt, it was Ross Anderson. I’ve ran against Ross before in a parkrun and managed to hold him off that day (incidentally Matt wont the race). I sensed he was strong today though and had paced his race better than I had.
I tried to stick with him but he was away, and overtaking another runner in front of me before long.
After negotiating the hills for a final time it was back onto East Park Road for the final run into the finish. I tried to pick up my pace and catch the other runner in front of me now (Phil Sanderson). I gained a fair bit of ground on him in this stage, but as we went round the lake he also picked up his pace and I couldn’t quite catch him.
So I finished in 19th place in 36:44, a minute and 10 seconds faster than last year which I was happy with – I don’t think I could have ran it any faster on the day.
Nat came in 2nd Saltwell in 39:11, Scott 3rd in 41:32 and Gemma came in first lady (41:48), followed by Sarah (48:27) and Claire (53:34). Well done to all who ran on a tough course. I’d again like to thank all the marshalls for the fantastic support around the course, and everyone from the club who made the race possible.
Full results are at http://www.sportsystems.co.uk/ss/results/Saltwell%2010k/1578