Report by Chris Ireland
When the weather outside is frightful, what better do do then head indoors for a bit of winter racing? Sheffield is blessed with an excellent indoor track and Hillsborough and Rivelin had arranged another great track evening for clubs from across South Yorkshire.
If you have ever fancied running on a track but were concerned that it all seems a bit serious then this is definitely the event to come to and give it a try. The distances available were the 60m, 200m, 400m, 800m and the always enthralling eliminator race. Runners are put into races of fairly equal ability based on recent 5km performances and the first three in each race get to stand on the podium and have their photo taken.
Six striders took part – Kate Scott, Jed Turner, Seth Kirby, Holly Burbridge, Humphrey Fu and myself. Holly and Humphrey concentrated on the shorter sprint distances whilst the rest of us treated the evening as a sort of giant interval session and did most of the events on offer.
The relaxed nature of things were epitomised by starting arrangements, which was someone blowing a whistle. There were certainly a few quick starts where competitors had clearly jumped the, er…whistle… and grabbed an advantage. This was not particularly important in the longer events but critical in the 60 metres where a couple of strides advantage is very hard to claw back. For Humphrey, this was his first run on a track for more than 30 years, and his first ever indoors. He was on the wrong end of a couple of suspiciously fast starts in his 60 metre event, finishing 4th, but then came back later in the evening to claim second place in the 200m. Holly was also 4th in her 60m race. Kate missed the whistle altogether in the general noise at her 200m start and was surprised to see her competitors striding away from her. She recovered strongly to claim 4th position, just one second behind second and third places. Kate was also 4th in her 400m, but made the podium in her first race of the night, the 800m, finishing 3rd. Jed won his 400m race and was 3rd in the 200m. Seth was third in his eliminator race.
Ah, the eliminator race! A couple of laps of the track, and then on each subsequent lap the last runner is removed until just one runner is left. What tactics should be adopted? Go to the front and try to stay there until the end? Wait at the back and pick off one person ahead of you on each lap? Who knows. It is strange starting a race without any real idea how far you are going to run – with 11 runners in our race there was the potential for it to be anywhere between 600m or 2600m – how to select a pace? In practice most laps turn into 150m of steady running followed by 50m of mad jostling for position where it is very easy to go from a comfortable second place to last in the blink of an eye. Always great to watch and totally nerve-wracking to take part in.
The evening concluded with a 4 x 200m relay event. A quick look around the stadium and I could see there were still 4 male striders present. Seth was packed up and ready to go home. Jed and Humphrey had literally just completed their individual 200m races and were still gasping for breath at the side of the track. Full credit to all of them for agreeing to give the relay a go, and a great competition it proved to be. Humphrey to me to Seth and then Jed setting off in second place with a very narrow lead over Sheffield Running Club and Ackworth. A characteristic eyeballs out effort from Jed saw him lead a tightly packed group of runners to the line. We were called out in second place for our pose on the podium, although the provisional results suggest Sheffield may have pipped us on the line. Either way, it was a great end to a fun evening.
Hopefully, there will be an outdoor version of this event at Woodbourne Road in the Summer, so if you have ever fancied having a go at running on the track I would heartily recommend signing up – it would be great to have a load of Striders competing and cheering each other on.
The results are still provisional at this point and the 800m times and positions have not been published so I will add these details as soon as they become available.