It wasn’t a difficult decision. I want to get back to a weekly speedwork session. Do I head over to the NHS car park and smash out fifteen hill sprints on the tarmac, on my own? Or do we pack up the van and head to Tideswell and bash round the White Peak for half an hour on beautiful trails with a hundred or so like-minded souls?
I’ve always had a bee in my bonnet about Tideswell fell race yet never had the chance to get over and actually run it until the 2016 edition last week. It coincided with the end of my second week back of training after a couple of months injured and presented a chance to throw in that precious bit of speedwork to the weekly routine for the first time in, oh, probably about another eight months before that. Expectations therefore were suitably low.
Shortly before the start the heavens opened and the thunder rumbled, and it looked like we would be in for the worst of it. But it was mercifully brief, and so we lined up to start in the old quarry with a rainbow as a backdrop and the prospect of four and a half miles to do battle over.
The first mile is pretty much flat, and I felt surprisingly great. I sat comfortably in 4th place on the shoulder of a Buxton AC runner and the first mile marker flashed past in 5’20. Form was good, everything was comfortable. Soon after that the climbing started, and my effort shifted. These fast hill races are painful, but I wasn’t prepared for the onset of burning agony quite so soon. Suffice to say, as this was an experiment of sorts I was not particularly in the mood for embracing the pain. I was passed by a couple of guys and by the time we had topped out on to Bulltor Lane I had been caught by a further chasing group, and so six of us headed across the tops in pursuit of a newly splintered front four.
The only chat within the group came from my old friend John Millen, who with the odd grunt and gesture of his hand was trying to push me to the front and spur me on. By the second mile marker I was in 5th place, literally by a nose, and feeling determined. But the track began to undulate and I found my effort waning. As we hit the big long descent I faded towards the back of the group, and the stabilisers in my injured knee were letting me know that they weren’t so agreeable to what I was suddenly putting them through. I ran down the hill fairly tentatively to protect the knee, which I never do. Never. John began to gap me. Everybody began to gap me.
The final mile is back on the flat, and I was able to pick up a bit of pace and get past another runner. I took things up another gear and had the next few guys in my sights, but I literally ran out of track and ran in to the finish after a couple of micro blow-ups content with 9th place overall and frankly, just happy to be done. Goodness me that hurt. I ran 30:32, just outside my target time of 30 minutes, but I’m not going to get too hung up about that. It was a valuable exercise, I ran well, and I will carry some knowledge and confidence forward from it. Mainly, that my forthcoming speed sessions need to be a lot faster and a lot harder than I had perhaps envisaged!
I had always assumed that Tideswell Fell Race was organised by Tideswell Running Club, but it is actually put together by a team of locals and all profits go towards Tideswell community projects. This time around they were raising money to rebuild a community centre on the site of the old youth club which burnt down a year ago. What a fantastic bunch of friendly and welcoming people they were, and what a cracking little race this is. With a bit of hard work and some variation in my weekly routine, I hope to go back in 2017 to try and get a little nearer to scoring one of those fabulous prizes by local potter Chris Jenson. And if not then at least have another post race veggie barbecue with Nic, our friend Jen and my old pal John by the van afterwards!