The Gibside notion took me a fortnight ago and I emailed the organisers, Blackhill Bounders to see if they could squeeze a small, bald one like me into the burgeoning field. They replied that there was space if I got my entry (and £14 fees) in sharpish, which I did. A national trust property, the palatial is perched on the north facing side of a steep hill, the name of which I’ve no idea, not being local. It’s a proper steep hill though, but it’s a only a trail race, so how hard can it be? Can’t be too tough otherwise it wouldn’t draw in both club runners and joe public alike in such numbers.
I woke this morning with earache after 35 sodden miles on the bike yesterday morning with my old mentor who doesn’t do ‘slow’ . During the ride, I spent the two hours trying to reserve some energy for the run. Mentor was bemused when I hauled him off his racer at Capheaton to sample the delights of the tea room, enchanting staff and roaring fire. His words...’never stopped for tea and cake before on a training ride’. He even took photos.
Today, armed with my Salomons, I drove the thirty minutes south and parked up just outside the Estate. The blurb that came with the race number said the course ‘wasn’t flat’. It was 6 miles long. I don’t recall a mention of 300m of climbing.I was aiming for something around 40 minutes. I spied Jones of South Shields, but not many others in the crowd by the walled garden. Was it a secret garden? Around 420 set off over the gravel and we soon climbed a little before descending back toward the Main Hall. We hit a short stretch of wet grass and I thought ‘this looks promising’... I like a bit of wet grass and soft ground, but it soon ran out back onto gravel after a sharp little pull and we careered westward. There was a posse of Low Fellers and CoalField Triers just ahead with a gap of around 5 or 6 seconds and with a slight breeze, I felt I should be in there to grab a bit of shelter. But it took around half a mile as we hit the first of 3 major climbs through the woods to catch them, and that was as the group fragmented under the searching, grumpy gradient. ‘Going up, Sir?’ ... I wouldn’t say it was tough, but the lungs and legs had decided that they were conscientious objectors, formed a pact and were looking for the first opportunity to get out of the firing line. The climb just kept going and it took all of my breakfast generated energy to get to the top. I saw Redman (Sunderland ) a little way ahead, but had no illusions of catching him.
After a short stretch of ridge, it was up again and I caught a tall, long striding Teesdale runner, certainly a vet, and McAlister of Heaton. He was looking strong and as a marshall shouted ‘all downhill now’, we both opened up and hoofed it down along the track, trying to get the best line and not overdo it.It wasn’t ‘all downhill now’, of course, and the track kicked back up and my good work was undone as the three I’d passed a minute ago came past, one by one, in turn. It was then down along the river as I passed a Sheffield Uni. runner who looked like he’d also believed the marshall’s well intentioned comment.
McAlister had got away in front, but I heard the predatory footfall of a long striding runner behind. He was breathing hard, but not so close that I could feel his breath on the back of my neck. But he was close.....too close.I held Teesdale off up the last climb where the marshalls at the top assured us this was the last climb and we came round out of the woods to the long flat, finishing straight and a cameraman. I didn’t manage a smile. Long strider was on my shoulder and I let him make his move with 120 to go. He kicked and I cut left to right and we began to open up, but he wasn’t having any of it and with fifty to go we were full pelt. I was thinking at this point that I maybe shouldn’t have had the cake yesterday nor the late night on Friday. Did that slab of Capheaton fruit cake make the difference...must have done and with ten to go, I was still at his heels but failed to pass him, and I capitulated.
I didn’t wait for the prizes, but as it was, he turned out to be my competition in the M50 class, and I ended up missing out by a second (45 minutes). In fairness, he worked as hard as me and was breathing harder at the end, so I shouldn’t be disappointed. Next time maybe....
This age thing makes everything just that bit tougher. More running, less cake required.
Results at http://www.blackhillbounders.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Gibside-Fruitbowl-Results-2013.pdf. Well done to Blackhill. Good bash and nice T shirt.