Last night, Tuesday 24th May saw the second round of the Yorkshire Veterans Athletics Association Grand Prix competition at West Park, Leeds. This is my first time competing in the Grand Prix and all of the courses are new and unfamiliar to me so this is not only a test of my running ability but also my ability to run fast on unfamiliar territory.
We arrived in plenty of time and met up with some of the other runners from Queensbury Running Club. After a brief chat we made our way up to the course, around half a mile from the pub that was the race base for the night. Once at the course we went for a warmup and to familiarise ourselves with the course which is held in a public park.
Time soon went and on a cool, spring evening in Leeds it was time to get the race under way. The race director spent what seemed forever explaining the route and emphasising how our trail and road running shoes would do considerably more damage to the football pitches than twenty four pairs of football boots with longer studs! This amused many of us as we tried to work out how we could cause more damage but the threat of immediate disqualification meant we took it seriously and were more concerned with stepping on the football pitches than the race itself!
The starter set us off and set off at a reasonable pace. I have learnt that pacing yourself and running your race is essential. Getting caught up in a race with others especially at the start can cause you problems especially later on in the race when you need strength for a good finish.
The course meandered round a field in order to split the runners up and I get into a comfortable rhythm, concentrating on pacing myself and not worrying about some other runners I recognised getting away from me. It was far too early in the race to chase people down. That was for later if we were near each other.
After the field we entered the woods and one of my favourite surfaces trail. With trail you still have to concentrate on where you are going but you can also get plenty of speed on as well which isn’t always possible on the moors and fells. The trail snaked its way through the woods and began a gentle uphill climb round the other side of the park.
By now I established my position in the race and was beginning to keep up a good pace and pass people. Running over the moors and fells teaches you to look for spots where you can put your feet down safely, but keep moving swiftly. This experience becomes invaluable when racing on trials where the passing places can be small and you have to be quick.
Rounding the far side of the park I saw the familiar shape of one of competitors. She is very good and a tough, determined runner who never gives up. I knew I would have to be at my best and more to catch her never mind pass her!
I kept plugging away but the gap between us seemed to widen if anything. I felt a bit disheartened but kept going. I was maintaining a good pace and enjoying myself. So what if I didn’t pass her? It was not the end of the world.
We went through the final bit of woodland and then through the other side I was right behind her to my surprise! I wasn’t sure if she had made a mistake or had simply started to run out of steam but she heard me coming up behind and graciously told me to go past her and go for it!
By now I had found some serious pace. I’ve no idea where it came from but my stats on Strava confirmed it too. My final mile was my fastest by a long way but it very nearly wasn’t. At the start I had been warned about the finish being deceiving. You come out of the woods up the field and you think you’re on the finish straight but you’re not.
As I came fast up the field expecting to sprint to the finish I suddenly realised I had to make a right turn and go back down and around the field! I had passed a younger competitor on the corner and now I was fearing that he would be right behind me and go pass me at any time now.
But my fears were unfounded. I was flying now and not only did I make the pass stick but I also passed another runner on the finish straight and nearly caught another on the line!
All in all I am very happy with my performance. A time of 44:37 for five miles of trial was a lot better than I was hoping for at the start of the race and is well below my 10k PB pace. I was pleased with myself as I kept pushing all the way and even when I felt I couldn’t catch my fellow runner I still kept going and never gave up.
I’m really looking forward to the next race at Kirkstall next Tuesday and hoping that my legs are still feeling good as I need to do a long run in preparation for the Huddersfield half marathon on Sunday 6th June.