This was a rare blast from the past. The first and last time I ran this race, expertly organised as always by the ever-friendly, supportive and encouraging Stockport Harriers, was in 2005. Not only that, this would only be my third 10k race in all my years of running.
We set off in a light shower, whose cooling effect was much appreciated but all too short-lived; the evening was warm and humid. The route follows an extended version of the Woodbank Parkrun, beginning with two laps of the track before emerging into Woodbank Park then delivering us to the very bottom and furthest reaches of Vernon Park. The return route then brings us back up THAT hill into Woodbank Park and back to the track (but not quite). We have to do three laps, meaning three 'brutal' climbs. I'd forgotten that we had to do three.
The lead runner overtook me on my second hill climb. He probably finished before I'd finished my second lap and I had to do it all again. Quite awesome. I applauded him and offered words of encouragement as he passed but his focus and grim determination meant that any extraneous goings-on were blanked.
After the third lap we turned right back to the track for a final victory lap to the finish line. As I approached the track, fellow Stockport Harrier Tony Audenshaw (Bob Hope from Emmerdale) bellowed out my name and words of encouragement from the side (he's much faster than I and had finished minutes before). Like the front runner, I was also at my limit and could muster nothing with which to respond as I entered the springy track. I could hear another runner behind me and waited for the familiar sprint finish overtaking manoeuvre. It happened later than expected, just off the final bend and short straight to the finish chute. I always think that runners who can pull a sprint finish out of the bag have not been trying hard enough during the race. I'm always at my absolute limit as I approach the line, with nothing in reserve for anything like a sprint finish, ever.
My time of 0:48:28 was four seconds faster than in 2005, which can't be bad after thousands more miles in the legs and seven more years pushing me towards the big five-o. Here's another interesting statistic. My heart rate averaged at 179bpm (identical to what it was in 2005's race) and peaked at 189bpm. I was at my limit alright.
The winning time was 0:32:12. Did I say awesome?
Not long after my cycle ride back home, the heavens opened and the road flooded (thanks to all the blocked drains that never get vacuumed from one decade to the next). It held off just long enough.
I had planned to run the first of the series of four 5k Sale Sizzlers on Thursday evening to finally hone my (ahem) athletic 'prowess' for Saturday's Osmotherley Phoenix but had to abandon the idea through lack of time. Instead I had to get ready for Friday departure immediately after work.