The first weekend in November some of Team Accelerate headed north to race in the Wooler Trail Half Marathon. The latest addition to the team Paddy sums up the weekend.
I don’t need much persuading to travel to new places, so when a trip to Wooler Trail Half Marathon was suggested, I immediately put my hand up. Five months later, I’m on my way to the far North East of England with Team Accelerate, racing in Scott kit for the very first time, with teammates Harvey, Chris & Hugh.
Over the years, I have been on many away days and weekends playing rugby so I knew to expect some banter from the lads! Light hearted shots were fired before we even got on the road, team bonding had begun.
How much kit and pairs of running shoes would 4 people require for a simple 3 day trip and race? I had guessed at 2. One pair to train/warm up in and another to race in. How wrong was I?! Between Chris and Harvey there were 10 pairs with enough kit for every possible weather condition. As for food, we had enough pasta and rice to feed EVERYONE racing on Sunday! Genius move of the weekend? Harvey brought his coffee machine!
With all our bags shoehorned into the back of Chris’ Land Rover and some new age punk playing on the radio, we hit the road for the 4hr journey ahead. The weekend had begun!
I have been training alongside Harvey, Chris and Hugh for a few months now, under the wise tutelage of Stu. I began this journey wanting to find out if there was still opportunity to improve in my early 40s. I regard Stu as the best Coach I have met over the years and as a Coach myself I wanted to learn more about how I can improve the Coaching I provide, whilst sharing my own knowledge and experience with the Team.
I firmly believe in living everyday like it is a blank page and being willing to learn, change my mind about opinions I have formed over the years as an Athlete, Trainer and Coach. Many training sessions and a few races later, my confidence has grown.
I know I’m not completely there yet, but I also know I am now in a place where I can run well, run happy and begin competing at the front end of races again. Being part of a team that encourages and supports you on your journey is key. Travelling to Wooler to race as part of Team Accelerate made me feel proud of what I had achieved so far and actually took all the pressure off how I might perform on race day.
Harvey was returning to Wooler as defending Champion having made the journey North alone a year ago. This time he came with friends, and it seemed to provide an extra layer of confidence from the second we set off on our recce of the route. Despite the route having been marked out ready for the weekend, with a big yellow arrow directing us along the road, Harvey was certain we were to go off to the left along a well trodden footpath towards the woods. Apparently, he hadn’t read the race info that stated there was an alteration to the publicised route due to tree felling in the woods. We found our way to the route thanks to the little yellow flags and arrows put out by the organisers, checking the first 3k and the final descent where a discussion about vaulting gates would give us food for thought over the next couple of days. Shoe choice? The ground was still relatively firm and with the finish now a longish stretch of road would it be plausible to change to carbon road shoes to finish in? Fortunately, that was a decision we didn’t have to make as out of all the shoes we had brought, those weren’t on the list.
Route check complete, we went to find our accommodation for the next few days. Driving out of Wooler into the middle of nowhere, overlooking the very hills we would be racing on. Cracking job Harvey! Now to settle in and relax, with only one tricky decision ahead of us. What film do we choose?
We had decided to go to the route again on Saturday to watch the leaders of the marathon descend to the finish. It also served as a little leg stretch ahead of Sunday. It was definitely going to be a fast one with the ground firm and overhead conditions looking good.
There are many similarities between Northumberland and the Peak District. Sleepy towns, rolling hills and runnable trails that can take you anywhere.
We all certainly felt very much at home in our surroundings and even though we hadn’t dedicated much racing to off-road this year, we all felt quietly confident about performing well on what appeared to be a fast course.
The weather was set to be kind to us which was a relief. We arrived at the race HQ, Wooler YHA at 7.45am. Numbers collected, mandatory kit checked and plenty of time to warm up and prepare our bodies and minds for racing.
The short walk to the start line helped settle any nerves that we had and with the relaxed starting process of ‘I’ll count you down from 5 and you can go!’ we were off
Harvey took the lead and it is fair to say no one was going to catch him. Chris settled into a solid position, I eased into the race keeping myself controlled having not raced over this sort of terrain in a while, giving it the respect it deserved focussing on keeping my effort even and sustained. Hugh was sticking to his race plan of staying easy.
By the time I got to the turn around point, Harvey had opened up a sizable lead and as we passed each other on the hill into the checkpoint he was looking strong. A simple cheer of encouragement both ways was appreciated especially as I still had to come back up the hill I was descending. Chris had settled into 3rd and as I reached the checkpoint I found myself in 7th with 8th place trying to close the gap. Hugh was showing his versatility on the trails as I saw him in 9th place as I began my ascent.
Now the ascent! Up to this point the uphill sections had been, relatively speaking, a breeze. This final climb would prove the most challenging. Time to dig in and sustain the effort. If you are feeling it, then those behind and in front are too! Once at the top there were some free flowing trails to stretch out on, an opportunity to get the effort level back up and keep the legs turning. There was a short hill up to a final gateway and as I climbed it I allowed myself a quick check to see how far ahead of 8th I was. It gave me the kick I needed for one final push down the descent and onto the finish I needed! There was no way I was giving my place up now! A shout of ‘Focus, keep the effort up’ and ‘You’ve got this’ from Stu was the extra bit of encouragement to stay ahead. Time to empty the tank, which is exactly what I did down the hill and onto the road. By the time I had got to the finish the gap had increased. Seventh place was mine, greeted by Chris who had given all he could give only to be pushed back from 3rd to 5th in the final stages. Still a positive result for him having had his build up disrupted through illness and a niggle. Harvey was looking pleased with himself and after congratulating me for a strong run, he was pleased to announce he’d continued on for the win in under 90 mins breaking his own course record in the process. Hugh was next across the finish line in 9th having hardly broken into a sweat. The wonder of youth!
All in all, a fantastic weekend building relationships as a team and putting in individual performances that we can all be very proud of.
What a team and what potential we all have to look forward to reaching together!
As for The Wooler Trail Half Marathon, Trail Outlaws have put together a great race. A challenging, but manageable route for all abilities with some really fast sections to get your teeth stuck into. Thanks must be given to Scott Sports for their continued support of Team Accelerate, it was certainly a proud moment for this 41 year old to race wearing their kit. Thanks to Stu & Debs for their support on and off the course and for everyone at the APC for support with niggles of body and mind.
See you next year?
Ps…Our films of choice for the weekend? It had to be James Bond Skyfall on Friday & Spectre on Saturday!