Worcester Away Day

Worcester City Half Marathon & 10k – Club Awayday and Championship event.

“You are the elite.” A group of would-be coaches (including me), taking part in an English Athletics coaching course, looked blankly back at the tutor, wondering what on earth he was getting at. He proceeded to reel of an astonishing statistic which I can’t remember precisely, but the gist was that approximately 98% of this country’s population cannot run a single mile. “So you lot are in the top 2%” he chuckled.

It’s something we shouldn’t forget: those of us who have the running ‘bug’ and turn out each Tuesday and Thursday come rain or shine for social runs and more organised training. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone can do it because not everyone has the strength, determination, and resilience to do it - but on Sunday 16th September every member of our club taking part in the Worcester City Half Marathon and 10k races proved they have these qualities in spades.

For me, the day started at stupid past bonkers in the morning. I arrived at Craven Arms well before 6.45am to find Jon Tovey and the coach (the mechanical variety) sauntering down the A49 at almost exactly the same time. JT declared that, as a half marathon newbie he felt ‘nervous as f***’ . I wasn’t entirely calm myself, but that had nothing to do with the excitement of the race. These days, I can run half marathons off the back of my regular training schedule but without race specific work, I wasn’t expecting a spectacular time. No, my concern was relying on someone else to get me to the start line with my inner control freak lurking just below the surface, reminding me that if we arrived on time I would only have just over three quarters of an hour to warm up. That was making me tense. However, we duly picked up the rest of the team (around thirty of them) from various bus stops or car parks and soon made our way over the Salopian border deep into our neighbouring county. A brief discussion with a race official in the centre of Worcester itself caused the only delay and revealed that the organisers were completely unprepared for coach parties. Our driver ignored the official advice to park his sixty-seater vehicle in someone’s front drive with a note of apology on the windscreen and instead found an empty car park without a height restriction. Phew!

So then we went through the usual routines: finding the baggage drop, dropping the baggage, jogging, stretching, jogging again, tightening the laces, untightening the laces, half listening to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ belting through the pa system, hiding from the organised lycra-bootcamp-boxercise warm up, and finally making our way to the most suitable zone in the starting pen. With mass races there’s a dilemma for those of us who aren’t gifted with the ability of say Matt Yapp (more of him later) and yet are there to race rather than just enjoy the atmosphere. Too near the front and you get carried along at an unsustainable pace; too far back, and you can land up being delayed as you make your way past all the people who were too near the front… I opted to keep an eye on Andrew Dempsey and maintain a position no more than three yards away from him with the intention of holding on as long as I could once we got going. This turned out to be not very long, and by the end of the race the gap was more in the region of three quarters of a mile. Dempsey maintains that he hasn’t been secret training this year – and assuming he’s on the level that is depressing news for the rest of us. His secret seems to be eating less bread and more chicken, running no more than twice per week, and popping in a new floor at whichever construction site he happens to be working at the day before the event. Who knew?

We set off at a lively pace, and Mr D looked at me more in pity than anger when I pointed out that the first mile was a bit swift. I could tell I wasn’t going to live with him, and was also shocked to note that Paul Baskeyfield (about 30 metres up the road) showed no signs of fatigue after his usual turbo charged start. My state of mind was not improved when I got the distance markers confused with those for the shorter race. I went through ‘5k’ in about 17.32 and at this point began to believe I was hallucinating. I started to lose confidence in my ability to judge my own pace and then wondered if my Garmin had finally given up the ghost. I have come to rely on it so much that it felt like being a passenger on an Airbus A380 and then being asked to land the bloody thing. I elected to settle down, let Andrew & Paul go (which wasn’t really a choice) relax a little and run my own race for the remaining 10 miles. From then on it was a somewhat lonely morning. Dan Spear came alongside at about 5 miles, and in due course pulled away, finishing about half a minute ahead of me – 1:38:40. We both caught Tim Giles shortly afterwards, and although I felt Tim had probably overreached himself early on, he kept it real and finished strongly in 1.41.39 (having competed at Lake Vernwy the week before, incidentally).

I seldom remember much about the courses for long distance races; my concentration is usually on rhythm, pace and breathing rather than scenery. I know there was a hill around mile 7 and a bridge just before the finish – but that’s about it, so I can’t wax lyrical about the city….or it’s industrial estates (I think it had one of those too).

I trotted home reasonably comfortably in 1:39:18 so after a HMPB earlier in the year it felt like being back at square one. Well, perhaps not square one, but five minutes slower than I was running in February so I couldn’t pretend to be jumping for joy. I have swum in Lake Me long enough though, and would rather focus on the success of other club members, so here’s a summary:

I am sensing that Matt Yapp doesn’t enjoy paperwork – and that is why he represented Mercia Fell Runners in a Ludlow vest. Still, we all know the blue and white colours are in his DNA and he came home in an amazing 1:19:30 – 14th place. 

Amy Fulford adjusted her best half marathon performance to truly reflect her ability: 1:30:13 – and that having run an ultra less than a month ago. Eye watering.

Jon Tovey didn’t seem so talkative on the way home – and I’m not surprised having punched out a 1:32:46. Not bad for a beginner..

Andrew Dempsey isn’t on Strava (that could be the title of a play..) but he came in at 1:33:38 according to the results – which is a massive PB.

Paul Baskeyfield feels at home on the road, and never more so than the roads of Worcester in 1:36:21.

I like to keep one of the other Pauls - Mr Dews behind me, and only just succeeded in doing so: 1:40:09.

Alice Godding seems to produce a personal best at every event these days – probably does one when she’s running a bath. I wasn’t quite on the money when I predicted under 1:40 Alice, but 1:42:33 is close enough for jazz. Next time you’ll do it – no question.

Clive Richardson is another thoroughbred road runner and always runs a strong half marathon. His best time is around the1:30 mark – so beating it would be a tall order. But he can still run 1:42:57 some 20 years later.

Hayley Jennings has been meticulously following a training plan inspired by the Lydiard Foundation (via Andie Ford of CMRC) and hit the jackpot, dipping just under 1:45 for the first time – 1:44:51 to be precise. The system works.

Viv Dempsey adopted the familial ‘head down and go for it’ approach with a 1:47:45 and yet another PB.

Tina Cartwright absolutely smashed it with third in her age group and 1:52:48. Her age group – I hope she won’t mind me highlighting - is FV60…

Lee Reeves is a half marathon first timer if I’m not much mistaken, and came home in 1:53:49. There is more to come from him.

Claire Webb also ran faster than ever before in 1:58:08

I didn’t get to talk to the remaining club members taking part, but I know that Liz Whitmarsh, Lloyd Airey, Ann Baskeyfield and Maggie Morris all came home in less than 2:30. And the 10k competitors also acquitted themselves strongly: Juliet Morgan, Malcolm Alderton, Tess Butcher, Fiona Alderton, Stefan Laird, Don Lovejoy, Veronica Stanley, Sharon Bowers, and Hannah Ayres all finished in under 65 minutes. Nobody could say 6.2 miles is an easy distance.

So in conclusion, I’ll go back to that astonishing statistic. I hear far too many club members concerning themselves with all the people they perceive to be better than them. But think about all those people who can’t run a single mile (and perhaps you were one of them before you joined Ludlow Runners). The fact is, that unless you are Eliud Kipchoge, there will always be someone quicker than you. And that’s fine. It doesn’t matter. It’s your own private achievement that matters. And you are in the top 2% of the population. You are the elite – and don’t you forget it.

Cap'n Dan


Published: 11th October 2018

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