2018 – REVIEW
2018 Has Been a topsy turvy kind of year of running for myself with plenty of good runs and plenty of bad runs (mostly due to reacurring breathing issues) but on the whole a successful year, and one i have thoroughly enjoyed, mixing it up on the fells, roads, trails, mountains and cross country.
Way back in the depths of winter in January and February a few good early cross country races set me up nicely into the build up of training for the first focus of the year in March, the Cyprus Half Marathon. This was a fantastic trip abroad and got to enjoy it with a great bunch of friends from Ripley Running Club. We enjoyed plenty of coastal runs in the early spring sunshine of Paphos, and it was a real delight to visit the natural beautiful landscapes of the Akamas Penisulia and Mount Olympus.
The race itself was a bit of a dissapointment in terms of my own performance, but i tried not to dwell on it to much and soon was in fine spirits again to cheer in the rest of the Ripley Runners. One of our runners (Alison) managed to pick up a trophy in her age category, and to see the joy in her face when called up on stage was a joy worth the trip alone.
Back in the UK and towards the end of March, a few of us made the journey upto Cumbria and the Lake District for the Coniston 14 road race. I have ran this race a few times now and have always enjoyed the rolling undulating route that circulates Coniston Water. I put in a decent run for a top 10 finish and a p.b on the course, in around 1 hour 23 minutes. It makes for a great weekend away in the Lakes, and we always enjoy a few beers and a laugh after the race and into the evening in the Black Bull, were a pint of Old Man seems to be the favourite.
After shaking off a bit of a hangover the following morning, i managed to wobble around the Grizedale 10 trail race and somehow finish 2nd place just 20 seconds adrift of the winner. This another little gem of a race, that myself and fellow clubmate Carl Hopkinson just happened to randomly stumble on the day of the race. The random last minute spontaneous ideas always seem to be the best and can often lead to the greatest fun and adventures.
Late April and it was my turn for my first run in the Masters Relay event at Sutton Park, Birmingham, as a veteran. A Veteran 35, still seems a little crazy to be seen as a vet, but i enjoyed the occasion and put in a good strong run in the 5.1k run in 17.09
As Summer approached, early June is one of my favourite times of the year, with lighter evenings and the heatwave of summer 2018 about to begin, fell races begin to kick off and come thick and fast.
You turn up on the evening, pay your £5, and slog yourself up and down Peak district hillsides, Absolutely Love It!!!!! On the face of it, it dosesn’t make any sense, why would anyone with the slightest bit of common sense do this to themselves, but there is a great draw to these peak district village fell races and they seem to have become very popular of recent years with runners and novices alike.
My 7th Consecutive Castleton Fell Race, saw me run my fastest time on the route for a top 10 finish, along with good runs at Calver, Cromford and Chrome hill and not so good runs (breathing) at Riber, Winster and Tideswell.
July started well with winning the Parwich Hill race and watching England win on Penalties in the Parwich working mans social club on a fine summers evening, with fellow fell running friend Aussie Brendon of Ilkeston R.C
July 5th was the 2nd running of the Ashover fell race which i along with a few others from Ripley R.C organise, so pressure was on to deliver the goods. A very warm sunny evening saw over 100 runners take part and over £250 was raised and donated to the local Ashover school, and on a whole the event was a great success despite a few runners getting stung by wasps, and a few runners taking the wrong turns 🙂
Throughout July i ramped up the training, when i say training i mean racing 🙂 im not much of a trainer and generally like to race myself fit in the summer, through running most of the local cheap fell races.
The following weekend i won the local Holbrook Hill Race on the Friday evening, followed by a strong run at Crich Monument Race on the Saturday to finish second to Dan Haworth who turbo charged round the course and smashed the course record. The following morning i was arriving at Matlock at 4am to catch Mike Blairs (Run Forest) vengabus to Snowdonia for the Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon. This was a fantastic day trip out, and i managed another podium finish, finishing in 3rd place, were i had a good tussle with Matlock ac friend Zak Hodginkson who just got the better of me for 2nd place in the final sting in the tail that heads up and around the quarry in Llanberis. A brutal race that heads up the rangers path up Snowdon, 13.1 miles and 4500ft of climbing.
A week later i was back in Llanberis again for the Snowdon International Mountain race, a 10 mile race that literally runs up to the summit and back down again via the main Llanberis Path. I have ran this race 5 times now, so i know what to expect and how to pace it, but it never gets any easier, and its a real slog up to the summit, but i hit the summit in just over 50 minutes so i knew i was in for a good time if i could have a good descent.
Descending is my favourite and best attribute in running, and i enjoyed coming down, i felt good, everything was flowing in motion, and at times felt effortless, theres something about running in the mountains that gives you that zen moment, almost as if in a dream, along with the mountain high you experience post race is incredible. I descended in just under 26 minutes for a p.b time of 1.16.10 and even managed to come infront of a couple of the elite international runners so was well pleased.
Into August i continued to make the most of the peak district summer fell races with good runs at Salt cellar, Crowden HS, Pilsley and Eyam. Salt Cellar is a personal favourite race of mine and its well worth the 1 hour drive up to Ladybower res on a Friday evening in Early August. It has a real mix of terrain, ups and downs and has everything about it that a fell race represents.
As September approached with GNR on the horizon i had one more successful run on the fells at Shelf Moor in Glossop. I hadnt expected to win so was quite suprised to find myself leading as i rounded the trig point on the top for a quick dash back to the finish.
It certainly boosted my confidence in the week leading up to the GNR, but unfortunately i was still struggling with flat out road races (breathing) and inevitably finished a stop start stop start effort in 1.20. Six minutes behind my p.b set at the GNR in 2016. It was still good enough for 82nd place in a field of over 40,000 runners and i got to share a fair few of those miles with friend Gordy Smith (Heanor rc)
This was my 16th GNR, a run that i first did way back in 2002, my first ever race, and i have continued to run every year except in 2008 when i spent the best part of a year in New Zealand. These days, since 2009 i have been hosted by my wonderful friend Sue up in South Shields, and i love to take the annual pilgrimage up here every year for the GNR, it makes for another great weekend trip.
I soon returned back to the fells a week later and decided to do a race i had never done before up in the high peak, the Lantern Pike Fell Race, set on the side of a hillside, this race is part of the Hayfield show and theres plenty going off to keep you entertained. The race is steeped in fell running history and has been won by lots of fell running legends, so again i was pleasantly surprised as we attacked the first steep hill and i took the lead. At the brow of the hill we ran through a farm and came to a T junction were you could go left or right, unfortunately there was no marshal or signage, so i was left with taking a lucky guess. I had built up a lead of around 25 seconds, so was slightly dissapointed when i turned right for around 30 seconds only to glance back and see nobody following. I knew instantly i had gone wrong, as behind me was Jack Ross a good fell runner who has won the race several times before. I back tracked and rejoined were i had left off, but i had lost a lot of positions and dropped back to around 12th place.
Thats fell running for you, thats just sometimes how it goes, but i got my head down and began to chase. Jack and another young Buxton runner were probably 400m ahead by now, but slowly but surely i began to shorten the gap, and to my amazment by the time we hit the final slopes up to the trig point of Lantern Pike, i caught them and took the lead. The descent off the top is great, and i gave it everything to cross the finish in 1st place around 25 seconds infront of Jack. A great race and a great day.
October saw the arrival of Autumn and a trip up to the Lakes again, this time for the National Fell Relays set in Grasmere. The fell relays are a great event, and there is always a fantastic atmosphere. Our little Ripley Rc had managed to muster up 3 teams, a senior team, a vet team and a ladies team, so there was a great following of support from the little Derbyshire Club. I was paired up on leg 2 in the senior team with young and up coming talented runner Christian Howett. It involved a 7 mile run up Fairfield with 2800ft of climbing. Christian pushed me hard up the climbs and to be honest i struggled to keep with him. We flew down the descent back to Grasmere and there were a few hair raising moments as we diced with the tricky terrain and gambled on were our feet landed, but we got back safely to hand over to Leg 3.
November i celebrated my birthday by running the Dovedale Dash with a bit of a sore head after enjoying celebrations the previous evening at the Nepalese restaurant and pubs there after. The freshness of the river Dove soon brought me back to life, and i cleansed my sins with a good wash upon crossing the river in this 4.5 mile xc race.
A few weeks later it was my 1st visit to the Shropshire hills, and a group of us from Ripley tackled the Wrekin Wrecker Fell Race, a superb little race that seems to go up the Wrekin about 5 times over the 8 mile route 🙂
Into the final month of the year December, i realised that my seasons best for 10k on the road was showing on my power of 10 as 42 minutes something so i began looking for a suitable 10k to at least break 40 minutes before the year was out. I Initially looked at Bolsover 10k, but then my good friend Louise (Telford Harriers) managed to secure me a late entry for the quick and flat Telford 10k.
10k is my least favourite run and ive never really liked it, you go out hard, and suffer pain from around mile 3 all the way to the finish, but its one of those races you just have to grind out.
In true preparation the evening before was the RRC christmas meal/party so i indulged in a big xmas dinner and 3 pints of real ale. I hadn’t put myself under any pressure so i was quite relaxed upon the start line, i just had the attitude of i’ll set off fairly sharply and see what happens.
I passed through 5k in 16.55 so i knew i was moving well, but i had no other indication of time until the finish as i just use my casio watch. I crossed through the finish in 34.08 in a new pb by 20 seconds or so, i was thrilled if not a little annoyed at myself for not pushing harder, as im sure a sub 34 would of been possible. Sometimes running can surprise you and that day was one of those days. I hadn’t expected to get close to a pb nevermind break it, so i was well chuffed.
Finally last Sunday i headed over to Leek for the Staffordshire Moorlands Christmas Cracker Race, unfortunately the race had been altered due to icey conditions, so the new route was a 4.6 mile run around the Res, it seemed 90 per cent of the race field of over 200 runners were in Christmas fancy dress, so i felt a bit of a wolly just in normal running gear. Next year i will return and make more of an effort. I moved swiftly around the undulating route to win in 27 minutes.
As i look forward to 2019, i have no idea what that will entail, but im sure i’ll be packing in plenty of races, and as long as im still placing one foot in front of the other, and able to get out and in the fresh air of the fields and countryside, and hills of Derbyshire peak district i’ll be content.
Wishing everyone a great Christmas and a prosperous New Year.