Thought I’d do a bit of a write up, not done this race before and it seems like the right sort of time to return! Parkrun is back and it is starting to feel as though normality is back on the horizon.
The last few months have been pretty tough, running wise, I’ve had plenty of ups and downs. In what felt like injury after injury. My strava says it all, dropping off of my 100 mile weeks and losing my consistency with it. Starting with swelling and a suspected stress fracture in my left foot, having the entirety of April on reduced mileage and running in carbon shoes to keep it straight during my streak saving miles. The swelling went, the pain subsided for May and I was back on the UP! Miles started to build back up and strength started to return, I’d not really lost much fitness. I was feeling pretty confident. I got a race in as well and was calling it Step 1 of racing myself fit, managing to get up to York to do the Even Splits 5k. Clocking a 16.04 for the distance and coming away from the event on the night quite pleased with my marginal progress post injury. I’d gone up with to the race with Naomi and Hannah, they themselves clocked 19.09 and 19.41 both setting 5k PB’s!
But then the compensation injuries crept in, this time, it was the turn of my right foot. Exactly the same pain, exactly the same area, this time feeling almost 100x worse! It took entirety of June for my right foot to improve and the consistency fell again. I did the same treatment and recovery, identical to the timeframe and everything. It worked itself fit, I was more confident to actually run, knowing it would eventually improve. I managed to do the Barnsley Boundary Leg 9 for Barnsley AC, running against a very strong Alan Ford, I finished in 2nd place. Perfect conditions on the day really, bone dry and cutback well on the route, if I do say so myself.
Me, Dad and Mum went up on the Thursday before the race to give the overgrown patches a cutback. I was definitely sleeping on Saturday night, not a fan of nettle stings!
Following the Barnsley Boundary it was the turn of another relay event, the Rother Valley Relays, replacing the ever present Damflask Relays for this year. A 4.7k route around Rother Valley lake, tag the next person and they go. A proper relay! Being 300m shorter than a 5k, in form, I’d be hopeful of a low 15 and potentially breaking 15. I clocked 15.34 on the night, with the foot pain kicking in with around 2k to go. The team of Scott, Darren, George and myself managed to finish in 5th behind some quality Hallamshire teams!
Still injured and still waiting for the swelling to subside, the miles continued, slowly and steadily. The streak survived and the right foot improved on the turn of July. I started to build, and build. I knew in the back of my mind I had a few races lined up, Walkington 10k, Pontefract 10k and the return of parkrun, but that’s a run and not a race… step 1 of racing myself fit had to start again and first up was the Walkington 10k. It was to be a springboard, a platform to build and a indication of where I am. I ran 34.08 on the course, finishing in 6th place. Naomi managed a 40.48 to finish in 3rd place having a great race!
I came away with a target for Pontefract, a goal in mind and roughly 4 weeks to do it. My target was to improve the Walkington 10k time by a minute over the Pontefract course. In the mean time I had training to do, consistent practice of one foot in front of the other. Parkrun was on the horizon line and normality looked to resume as the covid restrictions slowly began to be released. I was at Naomi’s the weekend parkrun returned, over in Beverley, so my option was pretty simple! Beverley Westwood Parkrun, we’d run the course in parts and I knew it pretty well from training around there anyway. For those that haven’t done it or ever been to Beverley, it’s definitely one to sample. It’s run completely on grass, so for the injured athletes it’s ace. It has cows, hills, downhills, a windmill and a pretty fast finish. I clocked the course in 16.52, turns out it was a course record. I’ll be back plenty of times in the future, that’s for sure! Naomi ran 21.34 with Bessie dog, to finish 6th place overall… 1st female and 1st Barkrunner.
The week after was my return to the home pitch, Barnsley Parkrun. Clocked 16.58 and again gave me a good indicator of where I am at, I ran 16.52 the last Parkrun before the world went, well you know what happened… Naomi sampled the course herself and clocked a 20.46 on the Barnsley Hills.
Now anyway, onto the race, roughly 4 weeks post Walkington. I had a target in mind and going into it, given the conditions, felt it was definitely within my reach. It felt like a normal weekend again with Parkrun on a Saturday and a race on a Sunday!
My number hadn’t arrived in time for the race, so a quick email to the organisers and they sorted one for me to collect on Sunday. Naomi had entered Pontefract as well, her number arrived in time on the Wednesday before the race though.
Sunday came around pretty quick, up and out of bed around 6.30, strawberry granola and a coffee down me. Naomi had some porridge, a bagel in the car and a coffee! We got to Pontefract around 7.45 parking in the car park near the swimming pool, surprised to see it has shutdown. I had a small jog, of a mile, to racecourse to go pick up my number, and chatted to plenty of people on the way. Whilst I was there, the heavens opened and the rain began, thunder echoing in the distance. Quick run back to the car and decided to move the car to the racecourse itself, I was unsure whether there was actual parking there. I’d parked initially next to the ticket machine and Naomi had spent the full duration with the car door open, telling people that parking was free on Sunday’s… she was on repeat when I got back… everyone else on the other hand was echoing the same sentiment, it’s their first race in 18 months. Completely in the unknown of what might happen!
Then began the process of getting the kit on and making the short trip to the start line. Bit of a warm up and before I knew it, I was on the start line. Back in the normal world, a mass start. Glancing around and recognising plenty of faces, making conversation and right in my comfort zone. A gentle reminder of social distancing and then we were off. Straight away I broke from the line, with a sprint start from a Dewsbury runner; by the turn onto the climb and out of the racecourse a front group of 3 had formed.
All running together and pushing each other through the race, the lead car had a guy filming out of the back for a Facebook live stream. Might have made for alternative Tokyo watching!
The course at Pontefract is largely downhill for the first half and largely uphill for the second half with a downhill finish. I was taking the race in town halves, hoping for the best and seeing where I would land me, position and time. Still in the lead pack as we navigated over the rolling downhills of the course, familiar territory for me around here. Knowing roughly where the hills were and how to combat them, time was flying by! Managed to clock the first 5k at the marker in 15.30 but 5k really went by in around 15.45 jostling myself for 1st and 2nd place at this point. Then we turned and the climb began, up and up. Just a case now of holding on and seeing how close to 15.45 I could run for the second half. Damage limitation taking into account the hills, my niggles, my injuries felt fine and my body was definitely in one piece.
I was holding on, and felt great! It just felt great to be racing again, properly racing! Frank pulled away from me around 7k as he kicked on, I was half hopeful that the kick he gave would cost him later in the race and I’d eventually catch him closer to the finish. My pace didn’t feel like it had dipped or the effort I was putting in. Racing towards the eventual finish line! Around 1k to go I made a glance at my watch, quick mathematical calculation had me at the 33 minute mark potentially. A minute quicker than Walkington. Just had to hold on! Racecourse in sight and the downhill finish. Making the left turn with a race face on!
I managed to cross the line in:
The restart for racing myself fit was complete and Step 1 was back underway. I had a small walk down the finish funnel, got a couple of packets of sweets and turn to go and watch Naomi finish. Herself crossing the line in 41.18 for 10th place female, ace time for Naomi especially with very little running over the last few months and mainly focussing on biking! She has London Triathlon next weekend, hoping to improve on her Leeds Triathlon position and time from June.
Collected the 2nd place trophy and was done by 10.30, cool down afterwards of course! Before we went over to Junction 32 to have a coffee and a quick look around a few of the shops!
All in all. Can’t grumble at the time I ran and comes out at 57 seconds quicker than Walkington, not a perfectionist but it’s not quite a minute… bigger jumps next time!
Hopefully got a few races lined up in the coming weeks, hopefully normality is returning and this is the start of something in the new world… we’ll see but for now…
Just Keep Running!