11 October 2009

5 Miles Out: The Stewart Horwood Memorial Hanney 5

What nicer way to remember a clubmate than to name a trophy after him and run a race each year in his memory. Stewart Horwood organised the Hanney 5 for Oxford City AC for many years, and now it bears his name. Anyone would be proud to have such an enjoyable and friendly event named after them, too, although holding it in October means gambling with the weather – which, this year, was at times refreshing.

Elaborate plans to bring my old INTA running friend Paul, over here from New Zealand, out of retirement failed when he awoke with a cold. A wet October race definitely wouldn't have been a good idea for him, but at least we could still have lunch - which I had to earn by running the race. Not an unfamilar course, because apart from running it in previous years we had a club run here in the summer - and anyway, the territory is very similar to the White Horse Half, which even uses a couple of miles of the same roads (in the opposite direction).

The race attracts a good field of local club members - it features in Abingdon's club championship, so there were large numbers of yellow vests to be seen. There's nothing flashy about it: start in the road by the village hall, one lap of mainly rural, lightly-used roads, a sprint round the village paying field and a cup of water at the end - oh, bacon sandwiches I think for the omnivores, and other refreshments laid on but I had a train to meet. No goody bag or tee shirt, but the novelty of those wore off years ago for me (although I appreciate a nice surprise like the coaster from the Headington 10, and the Cotswold Classic drawstring bag was also welcome, and come to think of it the jacket made the Capital City marathon irresistable, so forget what I said about goody bags - let me just say I'm happy to pay a modest entry fee for a race and forgo the goodies). Only 160 entries (plus some on the day, I imagine), so it's a comfortable size of event.

I succeeded in getting my Garmin device set up and locked onto a satellite so I could press the button as I crossed the start line, so when Mile 1 appeared I could see (squinting to overcome the correction provided by my contact lesnses) that I had run it in 7:10. Not clever at the end of a three-week layoff following Achilles's complaints on the Cotswold Classic. The second mile was 7:36, which amounted to an over-correction, then 7:30, 2:23 and 7:24. The steadiness of my pace is as satisfying as the speed.

It was faster than planned, and faster than I thought I could do, at least in part because I found myself running with Kate, previously encountered on the Banbury 15 in February. When I realised who I was running alongside, I knew her pace would be about right for me - though she had complained that every time she made to overtake me I sped up. So she pushed me along, and I pushed her, for most of the race until after mile 4 she pulled away in the company of a mere 15 year old lad.

The course isn't spectacular, though it is rural and not remotely ugly. It's good for a PB, being flat and (today) so miserable weather-wise - I just wanted to get out of the rain (as this photo by John Harvey amply demonstrates). It didn't help me to a great time, but 37:24 (maybe a few seconds to take off to allow for a senior moment when it came to stopping my watch) was well within my 8-minute-mile aspirational target. The last mile or so involved another small argument with Achilles, but fortunately nothing serious and I was able, with a little circumspeaction, to run through his complaints this time.

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