Race the Train 2017

I had my breakthrough moment at this race last year coming a very unexpected 2nd but in very tough gale force conditions.  At the time I felt it was a near miss as I badly twisted my ankle as I was on my way to closing down the leader.  I wanted to try the race again and give it a go in better conditions and hopefully not twist my ankle this time.

Lining up at the start I just felt very sluggish for some reason.  Sometimes it amounts to something and other times it doesn't.  However within the first km something just didn't feel right.  None the less I was reasonably well positioned, just behind a leading group of six and a few others just behind including myself.  After the first km I was in 10th.  After 2km we departed from the road and in the meantime I had picked off a couple more runners and I was consciously trying to keep off the gas as you can easily pay for too much effort in the latter part of the course.  The first thing that struck me was how muddy the course was.  Whilst the mind fades over time it was far muddier than I remember; the whole course was so heavy and for the most part it was ankle deep.

Towards the right of the shot - just after the start.

The race then seemed to settle down with a leading group of six with myself and another runner together about 10 seconds or so back.  The group wasn't moving any further away from me at this stage, but nor I was I catching them.  Just before 3km I moved into 6th and I could just sense that this wasn't going to be my day for some reason.  None the less I soon moved into 5th when a runner in the leading group lost his shoe in the mud!  Soon after the group ahead split up and in the process of overtaking another runner who had put in too much effort early on I was overtaken by someone else.

After about 8km it was much the same although the gaps had widened.  First place was now best part of a minute ahead, then second was about 30 seconds ahead and third about 20 seconds.  I was having a bit of a tussle with fourth, where he would be anything from just ahead of me to about 10 seconds depending on the section of the course.

At about 10k I moved temporarily into fourth as the runner just ahead went slightly the wrong way, and headed to a marshal in a high vis vest not knowing that the marshal was in fact placed there for the section heading back home.  As a result I had a 10 second lead at the half way point but still feeling pretty lethargic.  At about the 12k mark I was overtaken again and slotted back into fifth and in the meantime second and third were so far ahead they were not even visible.  I was starting to fall further and further behind and over the next few km I was about 20 seconds or so behind fourth.

However, as we got closer to the finish and hit some particularly nasty terrain, the tide turned somewhat.  Whilst still not feeling fantastic, I still chugged along in what felt like fourth gear but in this part of the course it was good enough to start moving forward a bit.  Along this section we came across what is known affectionately as 'the bog' and I managed to fall over in it and scrape my leg.  Simply put my leg went into the mud up to my quad so it wasn't really possible to stay upright.  Thankfully no damage was done.

By about 18km I was now alongside the fourth placed runner and I decided to stay behind him and ease off the pace a little.  Even though I could have overtaken the plan was to wait a km or so until we hit the tarmac and to push on.  As we moved onto the road I made a little move but the runner just behind me responded so I eased off a touch.  I then gave it another little burst a couple more times but again he responded so this time I decided to lay off until just before the finish and give it everything then.  Unfortunately this tactic didn't work and whilst I gave absolutely everything, he simply had more top end speed than me.  It wasn't even a case of not having the legs, I gave 100% and it wasn't good enough.  I therefore had to settle for fourth and a tinge of disappointment over how the race panned out.  My 'A' game just wasn't there today and whilst I had a respectable run (only 30 seconds behind 2nd and 90 seconds behind the winner) it was possibly a case of white it could have been.

On the plus side I had a fairly strong finish as looking at my Strava I had the fastest last 10k and although first and second haven't loaded their runs I know I was catching 2nd place quite quickly towards the end.  Interestingly looking at the results of the 10k race I would have won it!

Having been out sprinted I eased off at this point.

100% effort.

This is not the end of the story though, the first runner actually crossed the line about 8 minutes ahead of everyone else but it turned out he was disqualified for taking a wrong turn (shortcut).  He was clearly a class above everyone else and would have won regardless but the organisers had little other choice as his shortcut was best part of 1km.  I know the disqualified runner was very critical of the organsiers in a post on Facebook and I have some sympathy but I feel at the same time it doesn't tell the whole story as I remember the section of the course well where it happened.  Instead of moving through the drinks station and staying left by the bins for the cups, he moved diagonally across the field heading towards a marshal in a his vis vest in the distance.  This was the same mistake the runner I was with made but soon realising his mistake before correcting.  I think when you are tired its easy to head for the obvious not realising there was an arrow sign to the left.

The runner claims he stopped his watch and asked the marshals for directions and he was pointed up to the other marshal in the high vis and whilst I have nothing to disprove this I find it hard to believe.  It is also odd thing to do when the bins for cups and rubbish were further along the field on the left, so why would the bins be so far off the route if the direction he took was correct?  As I say I have some sympathy but I feel it takes two to tango and the runner must bear a little responsibility here.  I believe that had the marshal policing the return leg of the course not been visible in the distance there would have been no way he would have headed in that direction.  As a result whilst I thought I had originally crossed the line in fifth I was in fact fourth.

I now just have 7 weeks to the marathon and a half marathon in Bristol just before.  I'm hoping to have a few good weeks as I've lost so much time recently with lots of niggles it is going to be a struggle just to get on the line in the same shape I was in at Manchester.


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