It’s been four years since I last ran over the 5 mile distance. That race was won by Derek Hawkins (currently out in Rio for the marathon) in 24:04, with me down in a lowly 31:31.
My preparation for the West Yorkshire 5 hadn’t been the best. After starting a training block with a punishing amount of mileage, I was struck down by a cold. With the cough in my chest, I took a full three weeks off. My first week back running was the week of the race itself – although I cut back on the mileage by skipping the morning runs, the time off told as the legs struggled to recover from runs and I wasn’t able to back up hard sessions. To make sure I was ready for racing the next day, I went for some fun Saturday fell running instead of hard distance.
Working my way up and down Ilkley Moor for preparation was probably overkill in terms of hills, but the race route was by no means going to be easy. With an uphill start and another uphill drag to the finish, it was going to be a tough day out.
With the race being in the Hyde Park Harrier road championships, there was a massive turnout from the club. Although my main challenger wasn’t there, I still wanted maximum points to make up some ground after missing some earlier rounds while they made hay.
Setting off from West Yorkshire Fire Service HQ, the route wound around their training blocks and buildings for half a mile before heading north out of Birkenshaw on the first side of the triangular route. I lined up on the front row, and took the opportunity to push off hard for a little bit, momentarily leading the race for a couple of metres. Almost immediately I was back into a good rhythm. I was worried that I’d have forgotten the feel of how to run comfortably hard, but I was quickly running back with the feel I had back at my last race, the Eccup 10. The race settled down, and after the first mile or so I was running in a good group with a Halifax Harrier and Kevin Ogden from Spenborough. I decided to ignore the pace on my watch from there and work with the group.
The route was tougher than I expected – my aim had been to run 5:40 minute miles, balancing out tough uphills with making up the time on the downhills. This would have bought me out at 28:20, but anything under 30 minutes would have made me happy, and the climbs were going to make the latter more realistic.
I hadn’t been able to count the runners ahead of me, as by the time it had all settled down the leader was out of sight. I guessed that I was in around seventh, but didn’t dare look behind. I hadn’t expected the climb to be quite so tough from 3.5 miles, but that was when the pain started and the group started to fracture. Everyone was finding it hard, and the Halifax Harrier and myself pushed hard up the hill, distancing Kevin Ogden.
It’s at about this point in a race you often find that your legs have gone. When I’m racing for position, towards the end I try to put a move in to pull away from those around me, and find there is very little left in the legs. Rounding the outside of the fire station before the loop around the buildings I pushed, the pace increased a little, but then it fizzled out and my legs were gone. There was no getting away from the last member of the group, and it was time to grimly hold on.
Back through the loop around the fire service HQ, my heart almost stopped – twice. Looping around and pushing up the final small incline, my legs absolutely went. The final member of our little group, which had worked so well around the route, pulled away and it was like I was running in treacle. Suddenly I felt as though I was going backwards, and I started worrying about whether Kevin or someone else was going to come back past me. Then again as the finish gantry came into sight with maybe the length of a school playground ahead of me, and looking at my watch I was worried that I wouldn’t be coming in under 30 minutes. In the end my fears were unfounded – I was comfortably under 30 minutes (an official 29:46), and held on for what turned out to be sixth place, although on the final results my second fear had come close to being realised with seventh place being only two seconds back.
All in all it was a good first race back. I was happy with how hard I was able to run over a tough route, and also with the overall placing. The race was good fun as well – 5 miles was one of my favourite distances whilst at university, as an interesting challenge between 5 and 10K. After I’d finished the race, Hyde Park Harriers kept up their reputation by cheering all of the remaining runners over the line.
Next up I’m now going to have to reconsider how the final nine weeks of my training block is going to work after my time out, and what will be a reasonable target for half marathon race day.