The inimitable Keith Rooney reports from Sunday’s 10M jaunt along the Tyne.
I’ve always liked Ovingham, the way it’s snuggled in between the grand sweep of the Tyne valley and the Tyne itself, making its leisurely way to busier places. The village: a picture postcard, sleepy church and of course the school which seems to ooze familiarity and cosiness. The Wentworth Centre is an all together more garish, brash, chrome and steel inspired affair. Still, as I pushed my way through the congested corridors, the adrenalin charged babble of voices and chaotic mishmash of club colours – noting with satisfaction the regular splodges of black and white – the place certainly didn’t lack atmosphere, one might even say, it was electric.
As for the start, it was subdued, but no less intense; the anticipation, the excitement, the nerves and trepidation all rolled up into one concentrated, pent up inhalation, which needed only the starters signal, to be released in a single frantic blast.
As I positioned myself, I noted a scatter of black and white tops only a little way ahead, but I was reasonably satisfied with my choice of spot; about a third of the way from the front. How different from last year, I mused, as I scanned the leaden clouds piling in from the West, the sun reduced to a barely discernable ochre ball. Last year the mercury topped 80 fahrenheit with not a breath of wind. This time the wind scoured the hedgerows, blasting the leaves into tumbling confetti and playing with the trees, whipping them into groaning, whining frenzy. But, at least it was a westerly.
Now, I had discussed strategy with The Old Shuffler (aka Graham King) and we’d agreed upon 7 min pace. I have to admit, however, I was sceptical. I knew from experience, the Jelly Tea wasn’t to be trifled with. Still, I noted with some comfort the garmin registering 6.50ish for the first, second and third miles. As always the surroundings dissolved into a blur. There was only the hard, grey surface of the road, the garmin and the cacophony of noise consisting chiefly from the panting, snorting, grunting, groaning and general regurgitation eminating from the other runners. I tried to focus on Kym (Eden) and Graham. They weren’t far ahead and after a certain amount of squeezing, pushing and threading my way through the knots of runners, they came into view. I pulled up along side Graham on mile 5. He didn’t look happy. I have to admit, I thought he went off way too fast, like a greyhound in hot pursuit of Kym. He should’ve taken it easier. But one thing’s for certain, I am now a devotee of downhill running – thanks to the Jelly T, for it has wonderful downhills.
I was feeling pretty ragged by mile 6, when we came upon the first one. Now, Kenny (Mac) had advised me: lean forward and let gravity do the work, don’t try to break your pace, just let yourself go. And do you know what? It worked like a dream. God, it was like therapy! I glanced at the garmin and noted with relish the pace drop to 6.20. I was just reflecting: few more of these and that 1.10’s in the bag, when something completely unexpected pulled me out of my reverie. There was a sudden explosion in my left ear:
“C’mon you b@$t@rd$!”
I couldn’t look round and didn’t want to, but there it was again:
“C’mon you f…..g useless b@$t@rd$!”
I exchanged startled looks with the runner next to me, only then to be flanked by a third, who with a glance back and a wink uttered: “psycho head case that one”.
I had to look, I mean had some inmate from the local lunatic asylum decided to descend upon the race for a jolly?! A timid glance back revealed all, however: a chap in a club top – which shall forever remain nameless – head bowed, hands extended in a state of exhortation, with bulging eyes firmly focused on his legs. Yes, this poor chap had decided it was high time to have it out with his unwilling legs. Monty Python couldn’t have scripted it better.
Somewhat relieved I wasn’t about to be decapitated by some axe-wielding nut, I could focus on the job in hand. I was coasting, it was fair to say. Kym had stubbornly maintained her 10 second lead, with Guy (Rintoul) just ahead and Conrad (Scott) still in my field of view. Of course, I hadn’t forgotten the beast lurking just around the corner: fifty feet of smooth, tarmac covered extreme gradient. I was convinced this time I was up for it. I mean, in the greater scheme of things, it’s just a bump, a nodule, an insignificant lump, but positioned where it is right in that last mile, just when one is gathering ones last strength for that final, frantic dash, it is, as far as protuberances go, a nasty little blighter. And I have to admit I fared little better this time round either. I tried to charge it, going off the front of the foot, only to discover, there was no longer a spring in my step, and I was rocked back on my heels.
God knows, what impression I made, I was reduced to a pathetic, little shuffle by the time I reached the beaming steward so conveniently placed at the top so as to get an intimate view of the personal agonies etched on the faces of those, who had just toiled up that little beast. The garmin echoed my worst fears, showing 8.30 pace. The ever jolly steward had reassuringly informed me with a grandiose sweep of the arm in the general direction of Ovingham, that I was nearly home. But the garmin was now unresponsive and that last half a mile, I seemed stuck on 7.30. It was really only in the last 200 yards or so, fired on by the welcoming chorus of noise and the ever dependable figure of Father Baker (Micky to the un-initiated), gesticulating wildly by the roadside, that I managed to galvanise my carcass into a final frantic dash, bringing me home in 1.09.37 in 153rd place overall – a new PB by 15 minutes.
Wow. I could forgive the beast now. It had been a glorious day after all.
And the icing on the cake? The site of Dave Young’s normally inscrutable features as excited as a schoolboy’s, as he proudly dsplayed his new Vet’s medals. As for the other fella, who took it upon himself to give his legs a damn good thrashing. Well, there’s nowt more queer than folk, so they say.
Signing off for now.
Onwards and upwards!