06 July 2013

So far away

It seemed like a good idea at the time - Abingdon Parkrun at 0900 as usual, to have a go at setting a PB for the course after my shoelace thwarted a (completely unexpected) fastest time last week, making me realise that I am fitter than I thought: then at noon the Compton Canter, which it seems I run every other year - well, the last few year. This was the eighth Canter, and I ran the sixth in '11 and the fourth in '09. The Parkrun would be a good warmup for the Canter, which is too demanding (terrain, heat, topography) for a fast run.

The first thing I would have to do was get near enough the front of the Parkrun start that I wouldn't have to pick my way through the kids who start flat out and fade, if they get that far, along the single-file path by the river. Two did still get in front of me, one of them clearly under 11 and without a parent despite the race director's threat that unacompanied under-11s would be taken straight into care: and predictably he took a break after a few yards, turning round to see what was going on behind him (a hundred runners about to trample all over you!), but I sidestepped him and left them both behind.

And that's the story of the race, or most of it anyway. I was in the zone, concentrating on my form, picking off a few slower runners and being passed by a big guy whom I tried to keep close to - and then, at about the 4K mark, by the older of the two boys who'd started in front of me. Good for him (and I don't think he was required to be accompanied)! I let him slip in front of me where the path narrowed a bit, but accidentally clipped his heel as he did so, for which I apologised (and he barely seemed to notice me nearly tripping him), but got back in front somewhere between there and the finish. My sprint had been exhausted on the opening hundred yards or so, so it was not an impressive race for the line, and I didn't manage to catch the big guy until we'd finished and I thanked him for the race. All very pleasant, and a PB by 15 seconds - even more time than it takes to tie a lace.

And thence to Compton, where at registration I was handed the number 1 - a heavy responsibility! - and quizzed about llama-hunting, which I have managed to avoid doing for over a year now. The course was the same as the last couple of times I have run it: a steady climb out of the village to the top of Lowbury Hill, then a fairly straight return along two more sides of a triangle. Except that someone - presumably following the runner who'd checked the route in the morning - had moved or removed several of the arrows showing which way to run, hence the spike on the map of my course (below) and the wheels coming off my run when, at the 6K marker, Mr Garmin reported 6 MILES. Further than the course was supposed to be to begin with!

I walked. I stopped for water. Two of us met a competitor coming up the hill from completely the wrong direction. I walked some more. Someone passed me, also walking. Terrible. It was hot, it was hilly, the path was rocky (or I was running on recently-cut long grass) and I was not happy. But as the track sloped down into Compton again my feet rediscovered running and I hauled in the guy who'd passed me a few minutes earlier, then maintained a respectable pace to the recreation ground and for the last 200 metres on the field itself. But the time ... I did 44 and 48 minutes before, so an hour and 12 is disastrous.
Photo by Mel Groves. Looks like I am overstriding a bit.

One runner collapsed at the finish, another at the far side of the recreation ground, and a third out on the course. I don't know whether they had run the extended route, but if they did the prankster who thought it amusing to move the signs has a lot to answer for - in addition to ruining several people's races, mine included. I think it's going to have an effect also on tomorrow's Didcot 5, which suddenly seems a lot more ambitious after the extra 3K today.

Up to 9.1K it looks as if I actually ran a respectable pace, which is something to be pleased about. I got up the hills well, better than those around me, and I got down pretty well too, passing some people who chose to resist gravity. But it's the final 3K that I'll remember!

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