Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Eastbourne parkrun Grand National - 14 April 2012

14 April 2012 saw the inaugural running of the self-titled Eastbourne parkrun Grand National.

I was one of the participants, ready to tackle the gruelling 3.1 mile course.

Name: Mid-Pack Martin
Colours: Black silks, brown cap (with grey flecks!)
Odds to win: 100/1

Some mid-week rain had softened the shaded parts of the course, but a more recent warming sun and a brisk, drying wind had assisted with underfoot conditions elsewhere. The going was a mixture of good (grass), soft in places (the ditch) but with a few firm patches (asphalt).

59 runners lined up at the start, full of enthusiasm and nervous excitement. A sea of colour rippled in the warm morning sunlight, as the runners looked to get a good handy position. It was clear that some beasts were trained, primed and ready to run a big race, whereas others were perhaps there for a good day out and just hoping for a safe completion! I was there to take my chance. I knew that, barring a Foinavon style calamity (see Grand National 1967), my chances of winning lay somewhere between none and bugger all. I was there to try my best but I also knew that others had a clear fitness advantage and youth on their side.

We milled around at the start contemplating our fate. The starter called the runners into line.

And they’re off…..

Much like the real thing, the runners hurtled off far too quickly and stamina issues would surely take their toll later in the race. I felt myself consumed in the wave of speed as we careered away and knew I was going half a stride quicker than I wanted to be. However, I knew that as long as I could get into a nice rhythm, keep balanced and avoid any fallers, I should acquit myself with credit.

We ran down into Becher's Brook (well, the muddy corner of the field). Congestion as runners looked for the perfect racing line; some mistakes, but no fallers! On we pressed, round twists and turns, straining every muscle and sinew, eyeballs on stalks focussed on the challenges that were to greet us on the way.

Before I know it, we’ve completed a mile and we’re off out into the country. Rather than the 90 degree left hand jump of the Canal Turn, we had the 90 degree right hand Canal Turn. Well, it’s not so much a canal as an overflow rain sewer, but I am struggling for similes here!! Right-hand down chaps and swing sharply right. After Canal Turn is usually Valentine’s Brook. We sailed over the bridge taking us over the brook (the aforementioned overflow) and headed down the far side of the course.

The headwind here was really strong and was clearly beginning to take its toll on the runners as they tried to maintain a good gallop. The leaders were away and I was caught at the back of a small group of five. Soon, five became three, as a trio of us pushed on as we headed for home.

It was now that stamina issues came into play. The rain-softened ground down the field edge was clearly affecting a couple around me as they started to wilt with less than a kilometre to go. I asked myself for an extra effort as we headed back down into Becher’s  Brook and passed a couple of weakening runners.

It was here, I made a dreadful mistake. I noticed Steph Burton, marshalling by the ditch. As I waved a pained hello and struggled a small acknowledging smile, I lost my footing at Becher’s and made a right howler. I was almost down, but I somehow found a leg, kept my feet and galloped on. Phew! It could have all ended in embarrassing disaster.

I rounded the field corner and headed up the long run-in for home. It seemed an eternity. Finishers were exhausted at the end. I tried to raise some speed and had I a whip to administer some sharp cracks to my backside, I may well have run on a bit faster, but the end result was that I was notably one-paced.

I had finished the parkrun Grand National in a respectable 19th position.

My final time was 23:54.

The runners streamed in at long intervals, each of them having given their absolute all. They had all completed the course and should wear that fact with pride.

Some of you may have noticed I missed out the famous ‘Chair’. Well, you’ll be pleased to know I am safely ensconced in it now, ready to tuck into a bacon and egg sarnie!

I would like to say that I ran with real Shakalakaboomboom.
But, my plodding style is more like Organised Confusion.

And if you want a tip for the race this afternoon, if one of the two horses above win, I tipped them up for you, and if they lose, I told you they were ones to avoid.

PS - no parkruns or blogs for me for the next 3 weeks. Off to London next Saturday, on holiday the weekend after and then London again on 5 May.  Back to Eastbourne on 12 May!!

1 comment:

  1. oops, sorry for the distraction :(
    Congrats on a great recovery though!


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