I was always enjoyed this race and especially the course which winds its ways along one side of the river valley before going over a small bridge and returning on the other (slightly more hilly) side and finishing on the track.
My race plans almost came unstuck on the Thursday night when our club captain Martin messaged me to say I was listed as an unattached V40…hmmmm. After a little bit of searching (by that I mean a lot!) I discovered that this was in fact another Ben Pitman’s entry and I had actually completely forgot to enter! Luckily, my fellow club member Tom wasn’t able to take part and was happy to give his place to me. Despite the transfer deadline being the previous day, my slightly grovelling email to the organisers did the trick (and a big thanks to Stuart Holloway from Salisbury for letting that happen) and I had my number
There was a crisp start to the Sunday morning as I met club members Martin, Jonathan,
Rodolfo, Lucy in the car with Steve our brilliant ‘chauffeur’ the day. We made our way to registration, this year being hosted by the Salisbury Fire Service. In the summer (when I took part in the 5-4-3-2-1 race) this place was perfect but in March it was pretty cold in there with a half of one side of the building open to the elements.
Once I had collected my number I picked up the highly visible race technical T-Shirt with its rather odd design. This generated quite a bit of deliberation on the handling techniques when offering water to runners in the race. We weren’t quite sure those dainty hands were going to the trick without causing a bunch of splashing.
By the start of the race the sun and a bit of warmth came out which made perfect conditions for racing. Off the start and into the first few miles I worked as part of a small group of runners, including club friend Mike, behind the first 5. We all stayed close together and pushed each other until around 4/5 miles when there was a small incline and Mike dropped off the pack. I was feeling pretty strong at this point and confident for the hills we would face on our return to Salisbury so kept at the front of the group as we clocked 28:20 for the first 5 miles.
The next few miles are a little bit of a roller coaster with ups and downs coming at your pretty rapidly as the road switched between a thick tree line and more open hedge lined fields. The hardest hill was just after 6 with a steep gradient as it curls away from the river. I drove really hard up this hill and felt it in my legs once we reached the top. The group of 4 started to break up at this stage with myself closely following another runner who used the descent afterwards to push on.
Over the next mile or so I gave a really good effort to keep with this guy and get away from the other two (who I wanted to beat for the HRRL score).
Once 8 miles was reached, the view opens up to the right and ahead and you can spot the Cathedral spire in the distance. It’s always great at this point because the light streams onto the road and you know that you are nearly back (and you don’t have to go all the way to eye Cathedral anyway!). The runner ahead started to stretch a few seconds ahead as we gently descended back to the valley floor but having him there really encouraged me to push on and resulted in some sub 5:40 miles.
Giving it as much as I could along the cycle path, I turned onto the track for the final 300m crossing the line 7th overall 56:28. A slightly quicker last 5 miles meant I wasn’t too far off my PB either which I was really happy about. In fact it was a bit of surprise as before the race I would have been happy with a low 58 or possibly a high 57; a little bit of track running a return of my mojo has had a quick effect!
Some awesome finishes by Mike, Dan (another PB) and Emyr (PBing during a 100mile
training week) meant we also finished second team (just pipped by a bunch of Imperial University runners….bloody students!). Myself and Mike picked up the trophy and Sports Voucher and posed for a few shots with the fire engines outside with Martin. Our result also meant we had done really well in the HRRL league keeping us well clear at the top and on a personal note I moved up to 7th, slightly improving my score and benefiting from a few runners who have not done enough races to qualify for the standings.
Job done- onto Yeovil Half Marathon the following week with the hope of keeping the pace going for another 5km!!!
PS- I was first Ben Pitman home on the day