Once you have run a race once there is always some features of the course that are forever implanted in your consciousness, the cobbles/stones at Southwold 10k, the mud hill at Ipswich 5, the pond and bomb crater at Stow XC are forever etched on the memory and at Newmarket it was that hill!
There was a bit of banter at the start with the course ‘virgins’ about that hill, it had been 3-4 years since I was last there, my memory was still vivid and having tried to explain the incline I could see the anxiety over the faces of some, especially as they had already referred to the hill we walked up from the car park which was the end of the course and in itself was not insignificant but which was not ‘the’ hill.
I did question myself entering the race because of the course but I confess it was a selfish attempt to maintain pressure on the Grand Prix age category that I had managed to float to the top of – I will ultimately probably not stay there but I thought if I can beat the guy beneath me then I will stay in the gold medal position for at least another two races as he and I are the only two that had run both previous GP races and it means others’ that are quicker will have to turn out for the other races to beat me. Newmarket being a long way west also has a low turnout and a small field therefore increasing the chance of better proportionate GP points scoring.
So tactics, well with a warm day and a fresh breeze and with Bentley still in my legs and the knowledge that it is not a PB course I set of at a steady pace admittedly keeping something back for what was to come at around 4-5 miles. The course is picturesque and consists of off and on road sections which meander up and down through the countryside, it was well marshalled with two water stops – the off road bits were flat and firm under foot and wide, it’s race horsing territory so they were possibly ‘gallops’ or similar we were on. I was shuffling along nicely keeping a watch on the distance and was then directed right onto a main ish road by a marshal who tried to reassure us that it was “downhill for a bit” – as it was, but he did so with a wry smile knowing what we were about to ultimately encounter. I had remembered to look out for running down a long road seeing a massive hill ahead but being turned left at the bottom avoiding one massive hill only to be faced by another, ‘the’ hill. And so it was, there ahead was ‘the’ hill, a water station provided a quick splash of water over me and only a small sip in me and of I went, shortening the stride leaning into the hill (Fordy would be proud) and I ploughed up it keeping in touch with those ahead and not stopping, the tree covered top half was much cooler and it flattened out to provide a very short breather before turning the corner into the home straight and the incline from the car park back to the start line.
I got home in around 55mins, about a minute slower than my previous attempt, I was not bothered, I was pleased that I ran it in an okay style, no stops only for water and I managed the hill quite well – in hindsight I maybe could have gone a bit quicker but the objective was delivered – I passed my opponent walking within the first mile and he was around a minute or so behind me at the end.
There were 14 FRR’s there, of which 9 were ladies and accepting the tough course and hot weather all performed well – Rocky came in second whilst Rocky, Solly and the Captain won the men’s team prize and a big shout out for Courtney Turner who won her age category race.
A good mornings’ fun had by all !