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Looks Familiar!

Three weeks since the Nationals, and here I was again, setting off on my two mile trek to Herrington Country Park…for the Nationals! However, this time around it was the British Masters National Championships, which is solely for runners age 35 and over, and the course seemed to have been chosen to suit the more *ahem* mature athlete, being of a reasonably flat nature and 2k shorter than the ECCA Nationals.

I’d begun the day volunteering at my local parkrun, followed by taxi driver duties for my eldest, and I found myself running (no pun intended!) behind schedule. I had to walk the two miles to the course very briskly (mainly uphill and over fields), and I approached the course with less than 10 minutes to the gun, oops! There was one large marquee provided for changing, split into male and female, and this was a very welcome feature – far better than sitting on the muddy grass to change your shoes. A quick visit to the ladies, spikes pulled on and Birtley sweatshirt removed, and I was ready to go, reaching the line with roughly four minutes in hand.

The whole event appeared to be a much more low key affair, with a far smaller turnout of athletes than the previous Nationals race. I met up with Vicki (my friendly rival) and her team-mates on the line, and could see that there were many familiar faces from the Harrier league meetings, or as Vicki called them, the usual suspects. I guessed most of those present were North East athletes, although the results haven’t been posted yet so I may be proven wrong. However, I did speak to one lady from Cambridge after the race, so there must have been some intrepid southerners who attended! (UPDATE: results are now out, and in fact there were 52 local athletes out of 131 participants in my race, much to my surprise)

This race was a little different to the Nationals in that the ladies and the over 65 men ran a combined race, something which I’d only experienced in one 10k race last year – I’m more used to running with just the fairer sex! I have to say it’s pretty embarrassing being overtaken by anyone, male or female, who is drawing a pension, but that is what I had to look forward to! The three minute warning was given (no nuclear fallout shelters required with this one), then we lined up ready to go – the gun was fired and we were away, taking roughly the same route as before for the first quarter of a mile.

This time around, the ground was a little firmer, and I was amazed at just how quickly the course had recovered in such a short space of time. Towards the bottom of the first slope, the boggy areas began to reappear, but while there was more than enough mud to turn my legs a fetching shade of brown, it wasn’t anywhere near as deep or sucking as it had been three weeks previously.

At the bottom of the slope, we performed a U-turn back up a sharpish incline, which came as a slight surprise as we’d been promised there were no hills, though to be fair it was only a short section and one which I managed without too much difficulty. Next was a straight section which was level and should have been a breeze – however, this was a particularly boggy area and it was very tiring on the legs, with a distinct possibility of losing my shoes in a couple of the stickier patches. Finally, a tight corner and it was a downhill stretch, a left turn back around to the start, and the prospect of doing it all over again – twice! I have to say that I’m not keen on laps, and doing three of them was hard work for me, mentally at least.

This was the first race of the season where I had no support from fellow Birtley athletes, as they were all attending a junior indoor event with their kids. I really missed the calls of encouragement on my way around, although the occasional marshal did give a shout out for Birtley as I slogged past. As I approached the end of the third lap, we turned right instead of left and it was a last 100m run for the line. I was about 20m behind a Sunderland Stroller, when I heard a marshal shouting to me “Come on, you can catch her”; I managed to put a sprint on despite my tired legs, and to my delight overtook her and crossed the line five seconds clear.

I trudged back up to the marquee, pulled off my spikes (now liberally encrusted with mud), and had a nice chat with several ladies in the tent while we were getting changed. As I walked out of the tent, I spotted Vicki near her car and she offered me a brownie which I gratefully accepted, and as I was scoffing it my husband appeared behind me. He’d walked to Herrington as well, and despite leaving the house quarter of an hour after me, he hadn’t arrived until my race was over – needless to say, I let him know that I wasn’t impressed with his lack of support! We then headed back home together (it was nice to have a bit of company anyway!) and then it was a case of waiting for the results to be posted…and waiting…and waiting! Not that I’m an impatient sort, but I refreshed the pages of both the BMAF website and Power of 10 many times over the next day, before the results were finally posted late on Sunday afternoon. Was it worth the wait? Hmmm…

I finished 106th overall out of 131 runners, while in my age group (45-54) I managed a poor 18th out of 20. I must admit I’m a bit disappointed at my performance – I could blame it on being tired after my long walk there, or the fact that I’d been on night shifts prior to the race, but when it comes down to it, I just didn’t give my best on the day. However, there’s always the next race, and that happens to be a) the last Harrier league match of the season and b) arguably the toughest Harrier league match of the season, taking place at Prudhoe on what is a one hill course – that’s one massive hill, to run down and then all the way up again on each lap. Can’t wait…

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About Val Baxter

Val is a middle-aged mother of two boys, and gradually got into athletics via her eldest’s involvement with Birtley AC. Following a slow start which involved power-walking and a gradual move to jogging, she was persuaded to enter a local Harrier league cross-country event, and despite coming almost last, developed a taste for cold muddy slogs through the countryside.

Author: Val Baxter

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