The Fleetwood Half Marathon, Sunday 21st August 2016 (very belated)
The Trimpell 20, Sunday 19th March 2017
Or ‘How I suffer from Runner’s Wind!’
WIND! Oh how I suffer from wind when running. As runners we all must, to a lesser or greater degree I guess, but it really seems to reduce me to pedestrian stagger. One minute I am cruising along and then the next minute I am knocked for six! It may be because I am light (well, slight of frame, my mother says). Or it may be that I am a trifle top-heavy, you know: skinny legs and more dense above the waist than down below, as it were. The end result though is that the slightest breath of wind, the most innocuous breeze and my running goes to pot (now come on, you didn’t think I was referring to flatulence, did you?). No, any sort of meteorological air disturbance has an incredibly detrimental effect on my performance. Let me give you an example:
As a final long practice race before the Loch Ness Marathon last year I chose to enter the Fleetwood Half Marathon. It seemed ideal: it was flat, fast and with a limited field of entries I felt it would be a brilliant ego-massage to boost my confidence and get my brain into ‘race mode’. Now, many unkind things have been said about Fleetwood: the only good things to come out of Fleetwood are Syd Little (of Little and Large ‘fame’) and the Number 12 tram to Blackpool etc, but in all honesty, I drove there on the morning of the race with an open mind, I truly did. When I arrived I parked on the sea front by the Lower Lighthouse and peered in to the gloom before me. The view was rumoured to be stunning, with the Lakeland Fells rising majestically across the dancing blue waters of the bay. Instead, all I saw was 2 thirds of a mile of mud and a grey smear of filthy low cloud. But just because the tide was out and a bit of low cloud was lingering were no reasons to be miserable, I thought. When I got out of the car though, I couldn’t understand why salty seawater was lashing my face, until I realized that a gale force wind was blowing the distant spume of the sea across the mudflats and straight into Fleetwood. I struggled back into the car. Curses, my great enemy: WIND! And what a wind: genuine storm force slowly diminishing to gale force!! I knew that the race itself followed promenades and roadways along the edge of the beach and with a gale force onshore wind it was safe to assume that things were going to be tough. Luckily just before the start, the weather started to brighten up and things were cheerful enough as the race marshal went through his repartee (plus the lead race car had been replaced by 2 guys on ‘ElliptiGos’ elliptical bicycles: cool, very cool). And then all of a sudden we were off and within 2 minutes we were being buffeted and sideswiped and thrashed by the wind. I cannot explain the fact that at no point during a 2 lap circular race did I ever have the wind at my back!! It was just constantly either pushing me sideways or completely in my face. Very soon the whole thing descended into a weary, unproductive struggle. The race marshals did their best to keep things light-hearted, but during the second lap away from the shoreline back round the council estate again (where I passed a couple of cruising police cars) I lost the will to race. I know Fleetwood is socially and financially depressed, but many of the locals seemed to watch the hundreds of runners passing their doors with glassy-eyed disinterest. There was no cheering, no clapping, no response at all (by contrast, not long after this sorry saga, I did the Middlesbrough 10K and the crowds there were utterly awesome). During the second lap I started passing the slower runners and for each and everyone that I overtook I gave them a word of support and a cheer, and each and everyone of them looked shocked that anyone was bothered! Finally, I reached the home straight, which was back into the terrible headwind and there was the crowd, and they were noisy and cheerful. And yet, so strong was the gale, that amazingly, there were runners in front of me who would have recorded good half marathon times, but the wind had done for them and they were walking the last ¼ of a mile.
Now don’t get me wrong: the event was well organized, the marshals were excellent, and on a sunny calm day this would have been really fun. Presumably, the crowds would have thronged the streets too. I have no grounds for criticism of the event at all. But I left Fleetwood with one of the worst half marathon performances I have ever experienced, utterly exhausted and feeling miserable and extremely nervous of my forthcoming marathon. Everything was simply destroyed by my nemesis: WIND!!
Fleetwood Half Marathon 2016
|Overall Position||Time||Bib No||Name||Club||Category||Cat position|
|1||01:16:45||2||Robert Affleck||Preston Harriers||MV40-44||1|
|15||01:25:46||16||Andrea Banks||Jersey Spartan AC||FV40-44||1|
|33||01:30:26||284||Jon Laye||Abbey Runners||MV45-49||4|
So let us fast forward to last weekend and the Trimpell 20 in Lancaster. This is widely known (and is promoted) as one of the best, last long races before the Manchester/Paris/Rotterdam/London marathon. Each year about 500 northern runners enter the Trimpell 20 as an opportunity to test their race fitness and get that little ego massage before finally going for it in their chosen marathon. And that is exactly how I viewed it too. The flat and fast route follows predominantly tarmac trails along the scenic banks of the Lune with various stretches of there-and-back offering one the chance to assess how well/badly the race is progressing. The finale of the event is to finish up the steep cobbled roadway through the gatehouse and into the courtyard of Lancaster Castle. But, as I set off for Lancaster on the morning of the race the forecast for the west coast was yet again for pouring rain and 40mph winds!!!!! I gnashed my teeth and railed against Mother Nature as I tortuously drove across the Pennines through wind-whipped downpours and along axle-deep flooded roads. How could this be happening again? As if Fleetwood hadn’t been bad enough last time, I was going to have to do it all over again this year!
I arrived at Lancaster in the rain and due to too many cups of coffee and then a very long queue for the toilet, I reached the start of the race 2 minutes after the gun went off (was there a gun? If there was I didn’t hear it). But this time I had a race plan and I stuck to it! I ran the first 6 miles slowly. This gave me the opportunity to socialize. I chatted to a couple of runners (last warm-up race before London marathon) who did this route every year and who assured me that last year the weather was perfect! A couple of ladies (last warm-up race before Manchester marathon) had decided that due to the wind they would not bother pushing themselves and turn the event into a slow, long training run. And then all of a sudden there was fellow Abbey Runner Peter Persico (last warm-up race before Paris marathon) and so we spent 4 miles talking and enjoying what was turning into quite a nice morning despite the wind. After bidding farewell to Peter at the 6 mile mark, I ‘revved up the engine’ and increased to my full marathon pace or just a smidgeon faster for the rest of the race. And it was great! I relaxed and just enjoyed passing people and keeping to the right cadence and despite the very wet and in places muddy tracks the whole event was great fun. And on the way back there was Peter looking strong and not far behind him another Abbey, Lisa Hitchen who I must have passed earlier on but never noticed.
And what about the wind, I hear you ask? Well I found that I was so relaxed that it just didn’t bother me at all. The sheltered nature of the trails meant that we were rarely open to the wind itself. And where the headwind hit us I noted that I was better equipped (or running significantly stronger) than those around me to simply plough on regardless. By mile 19 I had achieved all I wanted and so I backed off the pace and ran with some runners (last warm-up race before Blackpool marathon) who I helped push up the final hill to Lancaster Castle and the finish line.
As an event, I can strongly recommend it. If in the future you need the perfect last warm up before entering spring marathon-X, then this really could be just what you need. It was well organised, enthusiastically marshalled and had a really nice atmosphere. I enjoyed the novelty of collecting my bib number from a race organizer ensconced in a prison cell within the Castle (race HQ was located in the old prison). In places the trails were a bit narrow for runners passing each other in different directions especially when sharing the path with Sunday dog walkers (and a preponderance of Huskies….is Lancaster the cultural capital for Siberian Husky dogs and their owners?), and some may feel that the final hill is a bit much (a friend of mine whilst living in Lancaster used to use the road featured as the last ½ mile of the Trimpell 20 route for his habitual hill sessions; yes, that’s how steep it is!) but these are very minor points.
I headed back to the car (in another downpour) and with the wind gusting around me and realized that of all the things to worry about whilst running, wind is just not worth a second thought. Its not like you can change it, so relax. After all, we all suffer it, and frankly if you can’t laugh about a bit of WIND then you are probably a bit too serious to enjoy running. Ah, but flatulence, now that’s a different matter entirely!
Trimpell 20 2017
|Overall Position||Actual Time||Bib No||Surname||Club||Category||Cat Position|
|15||02:09:05||601||Michelle Nolan||Gateshead Harriers||F35||1|
|149||02:38:09||514||Jon Laye||Abbey Runners||MV45||18|
|299||03:08:10||632||Peter Persico||Abbey Runners||M||87|
|452||03:40:50||445||Lisa Hitchen||Abbey Runners||FV40||35|