Sunday 19th November.
Bear with me – this is one of those long, self-indulgent ones….
Back in 2018, when I was turning 45; I set myself a goal of breaking all the strider’s FV45 road records (apart from the 100k, because why would you?). I have approached the task methodically and passionately, and (aside from the Covid hiatus), it has gone well. Some have been within reach and attained on first attempt, others have proved far more challenging – aka the 10k, which took 7 attempts before eventually sneaking under by a whole 3 seconds. Obviously, records are set to be broken and big respect to Sarah Moss, for some incredible times this year. I have also enjoyed setting a handful of random, unclaimed track and field records (still the proud holder of the shotput record!).
Going into 2023, it was just the half marathon record left to focus on. I always knew that this one would be the hardest. I’ve now had six attempts at it across the year, and the spoiler is – I haven’t got it. I came close twice – in Brighton in February, where I ran under record pace, but way over the distance on a seriously congested course; and then at East Yorkshire in May, where I gave every fibre of my being, only to finish 14 seconds outside. Since then, each attempt has got subsequently slower – Newark, Worksop and finally, Run Tatton.
Run Tatton takes place in the scenic Tatton Park, with its stately home, in rural Cheshire. It offers two distances: 10k (1 lap) and half marathon (2 laps). A portion of the race is outside the park, and these roads are closed. It was an unpleasant early start from Sheffield for a 9am race (the half marathon goes off first). Parking on arrival was easy, and portaloos were plentiful, although at the far end of a very muddy field. As with East Yorkshire, I have learnt that where there is a stately home open to the public, there will be good toilets hidden in a courtyard, that few runners know about.
My race experience was…horrible. The course was more undulating than I’d hoped (they always are); but given that Caroline B set the V35 half marathon record here in 2021, I can’t use the course as an excuse! The weather was truly biblical – rain, wind and muddy puddles; I can’t use this as an excuse either though – I just didn’t have it in my legs or my head. As with Worksop, I ran the first 3 miles on pace, started to slow from mile 4, and lost the wheels completely around mile 10. I left, fed up, or rather tried to leave, only to be faced with a 1.5 hour queue to exit the car park. Total chaos, with multiple lines of cars trying to leave from the same gate, not helped by the customary tractor pulling cars out of the mud.
And that was that. The dream was over. It was time to let go of V45 and move on to V50. And that’s fine. I’ve given it everything, and I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved. When we set goals like this, they push us to new levels of effort and achievement, even if we don’t fully achieve the goal. I am absolutely chuffed with my shiny new PBs at 10k and half marathon, set at the age of 49. I have been hugely helped along the way by Mick Wall and Maz Kaczmarczyk, and I want to thank them both for their generosity of time, and their wisdom and support over the last couple of years.
As the title suggests, there is a silver lining to my Run Tatton cloud. The half marathon was actually an England Masters qualification race. I only realised this a week before the race, when I happened to be googling the 2024 England qualifying races. So, I threw my hat in the ring and registered, with no real hope of success (there were seven FV45s registered – top three qualify, and I was right at the end of the age category). As it turns out, multiple no shows meant that I was third out of three! But…. I didn’t get the qualifying time (1:34:30) that day, and I berated myself for the massive missed opportunity. Then, to my utter confusion, I received an email earlier this week – I had achieved an England vest! A quick (overdue) read of the rules clarified that while a top three position is essential in the qualifying race, the qualifying time can be achieved at any UKA race in the previous 12 months (currently 24 months to account for the pandemic). I’ve achieved the qualifying time four times this year, and with my 1:30:35 PB in May, I feel more like a worthy qualifier! And so, I will be representing my country (as a V50) at the Great Manchester half in May 2024. A very happy end to my running decade.
The women’s race was won by Chelsea Baker (Bristol & West AC) in 01:16:44 (C). The men’s race was won by Lucas Parker (unattached) in 01:11:53 (C).
Steel City Striders Result
Editors note – Impressive focus and dedication Lucy, gone are the days I used to be able to keep up with you at parkrun, congrats on the vest
The women’s race was won by Sue McTigue (V50) (Blackburn Road Runners) in 00:39:21 (C). The men’s race was won by Jordan Jones (unattached) in 00:32:08 (C).