Thank you to Andy for this wonderful write up from the North Staffordshire Road Runners Association race that he completed with Barry from our club.
Those who read the report of my inaugural NSRRA season last year will recall a brief mention of this race, done last time with minimal training, not a strategy I could recommend for anyone taking on an event of this distance. After last year I am attempting a second NSRRA season, those who like details and stats can view much more at http://www.nsrra.org.uk/.
This race is number 14 in their 2023 season, and as is my habit I set out early enough to arrive an hour before the start, number collection (few events now post numbers in advance), changing, and avoiding any potential mishaps. I arrived at the race HQ, Shavington leisure centre on the edge of Crewe just as the early starters (perhaps twenty runners) were commencing their race at 08:30. This seems a sensible option from my perspective, primarily aimed at those who may expect to be over the four hour race cut off time, however with the temperature anticipated to rise as the day progressed it may well have been a good race strategy.
The hour to my scheduled start passed very quickly, (it always does) and I found myself making last minute adjustments to uncomfortable socks just as other runners were being called onto the road for the main start. Trainers retied I dashed out to the roadside to hear my name called out and the presence of another Sparkhill clad runner, Barry. Not really time for much of a hello and we had to line up for the start and we were soon on our way.
Barry was here to test himself over the distance, as a solid training event, whereas I was looking for further NSRRA points, so we had plenty to discuss along the route. The race itself is a single loop lollipop shape, or as Barry calls it pan shaped with handle, with twelve miles on the roughly oval section and the other part consisting of four miles going out from the start to the loop and then four miles on more retracing those steps in the opposite direction back the leisure centre.
The race description is given as frequently hilly, I told Barry about my recollection of the ‘most significant hill’ at around the ten mile marker, however somehow had forgotten about the other parts of this ‘lumpy course’. Most of it is on country lanes, and passes through some lovely villages, where the roads were wider, pavements were present to keep the runners out of the way of traffic, and the marshalls did a tremendous job of stopping traffic on the few road crossings required.
At ten miles the hill I recall was eventually overcome, looking at my Garmin records, probably about a fifty metre elevation gain, and whilst it was the most significant hill there were other shorter but still sharp climbs throughout the course. Whilst going up this major hill we overtook another ‘local’ runner from Kings Heath and we tried to cheerfully encourage her as we went past. Thankfully South Cheshire Harriers had provided numerous water stations, with friendly supportive marshalls which were much needed as after ninety or so minutes into the race the temperatures were starting to rise. It was after one of these mid race water stops that the gap between myself and Barry grew which then meant a lonely trek through the remaining miles to the end. The final four miles seemed particularly tough for me, it seemed quite short whilst on the way out and chatting with Barry, now though I was solo, the sun was getting high in the sky, and the sole focus was getting to that finish line.
A few metres from the finish line, not many smiles now!
All pictures courtesy of Bryan Dale - http://www.racephotos.org.uk/
We both completed around the two hours 45 minure mark, full results can be found at https://www.avtiming.com/sc20. A good testing run, reasonably priced, not the easiest of conditions with the onset of the heatwave. Anti-blister patch packs provided freely, if you want more details please ask either of us. Another t shirt (dark pink) for my collection which will appear at training in due course, and great to have a fellow Sparkhill Harrier participating alongside me.