Renfrewshire AAA Road Race Champs

With the first phase of my training towards this year’s London Marathon being focused on consolidating speed over shorter distances, this morning’s 5Mile Renfrewshire Champs has been a target in my diary from the outset. Recent sessions have been going well and the consistency of my training since January meant that I felt pretty confident lacing up my flats this morning.

We were greeted by exceptional conditions upon arrival in Greenock and the smell of coffee and home baking at race registration provided ample motivation to get round the course at lightning pace. The Harriers were missing a few notable faces due to the previous days’ Master’s XC, however there were still plenty of saltires huddled around the start line and we knew that there were potential team prizes up for grabs.

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As the starter pistol fired, the athletes burst into life and the narrow start created a fantastic atmosphere as people jostled for position in the early stages. I knew that I wanted to get tucked into a group early on in the race – the exposed middle section along the esplanade was in the back of my mind – and so I found myself in the middle of the chasing pack and ticking along at a pace that felt pretty comfortable.

As we left the park and made our way onto the promenade we had formed a clear group of half a dozen runners and were chasing a lead group of similar size. I was feeling great but decided that patience was the key and so stuck in behind the leaders of the group rather than trying to catch the leaders. On the approach to the half way point we closed the gap on a couple of runners who had dropped off the back of the lead group and, as we turned to head back to the park, we started to catch a few more.

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I had no idea of my position as we re-entered the park but I was feeling great and realised that we were into the final mile. I knew that a few rivals were close behind me and didn’t fancy leaving things too late so I put my foot down and decided to kick for home. It was half way through the mile that I realised I was catching a couple of runners whom I recognised as being fantastic athletes. As I closed the gap, a small collection of Bella Supporters gave me a cheer and indicated that the guys in front were in 3rd and 4th position. These were runners who I have never been able to compete with in the past and as I saw them getting closer I realised that I would not necessarily get many chances to finish ahead of them. I gritted my teeth and slipped past the pair of them with about 500metres to go. Terrified to look behind me, I realised that it was all or nothing and so worked into a sprint (or as close to it as I could muster!). I crossed the finish line in 3rd place and was over the moon at the prospect of my first individual medal in a championship event. I was then informed that the race winner was not from a Renfrewshire club and so was not eligible for a prize in the championship – meaning that I would be awarded a silver medal! On top of this, Bella took the team silver prize in the men’s race and several medals in the ladies race also!

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This was a massive result for me and is a medal that I am incredibly proud of. I can’t wait to see what the next few months bring!

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Renfrewshire X-Country Champs 2016

This year I missed the start of the cross country season due to being focused on the Amsterdam  Marathon in the middle of October. I enjoyed spectating at a few of the events but was definitely missing out on the challenge and camaraderie which seems to be such a prominent feature of cross country races; there is something about running through the cold, wet mud with a load of like-minded (odd) people which generates an atmosphere like no other. So it was that I found myself lining up on the start line at the Renfrewshire Championships for my first x-country of the season.

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The rain stayed away and the cold was soon forgotten after a decent warm up with a few of the other Harriers. We just about made it back to slip on the spikes, lose the layers and get in a few strides before being called back to take our positions on the line. As I looked to my right I spotted a few exceptional runners from Inverclyde who looked like they meant business as well as a few mates from other clubs whom I knew would be looking to put down some fast times.

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A blast of a whistle announced the start of the race and we were off. After an overenthusiastic burst away from the start I realised I had been a little over-keen and so dropped the pace to settle into a rhythm. I found myself striding along with Cris Walsh sat on my shoulder for the duration of the first lap. I knew Cris would be putting in a good performance on the back of an excellent year including a great result representing Scotland in X-Country last weekend. We continued to run together until I nearly took him out when I lost my footing turning a corner on lap two. We both recovered very quickly, and I don’t think my time was affected in any way, but I was unable to match Cris as he strode away up the hill. I settled into my stride and, naively, believed I would make up any lost ground on  Cris over the downhill section that would follow. Needless to say, this didn’t happen! Any ground that I was able to make up was soon lost again as  I found myself struggling to match his pace on the uphill sections of the course.

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As we hit the final lap I put in a final burst and managed to close the gap on Cris slightly but it was too little, too late. I finished the race in 32:55 (8seconds behind Cris) to take 9th place. We managed to claim bronze in the Men’s competition and there were some great results for the Harriers all round. Cris did well to claim silver in the V40 race while Anne Macfie took bronze in the V50 category.

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This was a great day, and I definitely will have benefited from the session, but I did finish a little disappointed with my performance. I struggled to find my rhythm and my splits would suggest that I switched off a little in the middle.This was definitely a learning experience however and it was nice to get a proper race under my belt after my marathon. It has definitely given me a focus again and a renewed motivation to get things back on track. Next week is the Glasgow Uni 5 Miler and I cannot wait to toe the start line once more…

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