I arrived at the venue with just over 30 minutes to the start of the race. A big crowd in attendance having been sold out of the maximum 3,000 entrants 6 weeks before the race. The conditions were okay - wet and quite breezy - but compared to the 2 previous years you'd take them. I did a few kms warm-up and bumped into Piers Arnold a fellow CoNACer and as we were both targeting similar times we decided to try and stick together in the race.
With a few minutes to go I lined up having shed my extra layers. A guy called Ben Russell was the stand-out runner, with a few others that I recognised that would be there or thereabouts. At 11am on the knocker we were underway.
Ben immediately took up the running leaving me in a group of 3 that included Wayne Lincoln and Piers who were all in the red and yellow vests. We were a bit undecided as to whether we should go with Ben, or stick to our own pace and the latter was decided upon until we had the feedback of the first mile. Upon exiting the showground we passed the first marker in 5:29 and that being target pace it seemed sensible for Ben to run his own race and for us to settle into the group.
The 2 lap course today was definitely easier on the first half of each loop. We had the benefit of the wind and the profile of the course means that there is more downhill and flat sections compared to the second half of the loop where you gradually climb back up to the showground. Race-wise not much was happening - I was doing most of the front-running with Piers and Wayne behind me. The next few miles were all around 5:20 and Ben was slowly disappearing up the road in front of us.
The pace certainly slowed when we hit the drags and wind. We were now running 6 minute miles - some of that might have been tactical as none of us wanted to push this part of the course. As we ran through the showground we were getting some great support and at one point I almost took a wrong turn before adjusting my line. I was enjoying this and knew that I still had plenty of running in my legs.
Upon exiting the showground I was quite surprised to find that another runner had latched on to our group - Dominic Blake from Reepham Road Runners. So now there was 4 of us - with me still leading them out. My plan was a simple one - I was going to push the first half of the loop and see what happened. Sure enough I tried a few surges but Piers was sticking with me - but I had at least opened up a small gap on Dominic and Wayne.
Through Easton and the left-hand turn to be greeted with a long gradual climb. I again pushed hard and decided to surge up the hill. Sure enough this time I got away from Piers and I ran hard for the next mile. That move was all well and good but I still had the guts of over 4 miles to run for home. I was sensible and would attack the quick parts of the course, and then sit back and cruise for a while. I knew from the gaps in the crowd support that I probably had a 15 to 20 second break and I maintained that through to 11 miles where I suddenly started to struggle.
I suppose it was inevitable as I hadn't done the proper training - the legs were feeling heavy and it was on the toughest part of the course at the business end of the race. It was a case of gritting it out. By this stage I was lapping a few back markers so there support helped me to remain focused and I was breaking the remaining run down into segments of 1 minute - I knew that with around 12 x 1 minutes of discomfort and I was home.
Again good support on entering the showground. I knew from the first lap that the last 800m were going to be course and wind friendly so if I could keep second spot until that point I was fairly confident that I could hold my position. I was all over the place and was looking round at every opportunity to see the gap behind me. Basically it was bloody obvious that I was struggling. Through the grassy/muddy 50m section for the third time and then into the wind. Somehow I managed to hold on and when I took a left hand turn for the final 800m I knew I was okay. I ran as hard as I could and tried to lap up the finishing line atmosphere as much as I could. Another left hand turn, another glance behind, then the final run in down the finishing chute. I eased up approaching the line and threw the arms in the air like I had won the race. In my mind I had!
The time was 1:13:11 so okay. I'd say the conditions were worth a minute plus so that makes it look a little more respectable. Delighted with the position - my previous placings in the last 3 years were 5th, 3rd and 5th. Great to run well in front of family and friends, plus all the support from the CoNAC club around the course. Couldn't have been happier. The standard was a little soft this year - but you can only race against the ones that show up...
All up 25.1kms with warm-up and down. Here are the splits:
5m 5:41 (27:25)
10m 5:23 (27:58 / 55:23)
A few thank yous - firstly to CoNAC and RP for the invite to run. I dare say I'll be back again next year. Thanks for all the support on the course. Thanks to Jason and Ian for the massages that have kept me on the road. Thanks to AK for the new racing flats. Thanks to the wife for letting me disappear for the weekend. Thanks to my training partners - plus to anyone else I've forgotten.
That's just over 70kms for the week - not bad with 3 rest days!
Out in the evening for a few more real ales. Finishing on the 6 per cent stuff this time. My mate went to the bar and said he wanted something strong and cheap and came back with something you could fuel industrial machines on. Which was nice. Plus a pork pie for the cab ride home.