George Stainsby reports from the Gateshead Trail 10K.
Gateshead Trail 10K: Saturday 12th August 2017
As Britain’s longest road, and one of the most important pieces of infrastructure in the North-East, the A1 is noisy. And busy. And not a good place for a run. But just a few hundred metres to the west, as it curls away from Blaydon and heads towards Denton Burn, is the start village for the Gateshead Trail 10k. The noises here are more likely to be the wildlife, and possibly the hyping chatter and music from Metro Radio and their excellent Cash for Kids appeal.
It was here that Helen and I arrived at the fourth Gateshead Trail 10k, with a little more unease than the previous three editions, which we had both ran. Helen wasn’t well enough to run; a cold that had slipped into a rasping cough made the decision not to run painful, but inevitable. After spending most of July guzzling antibiotics, I had also spent the previous week nursing a very sore hip, and by the end of the day, stairs were not my friends. I was nervous.
Speaking to Ian and Matt before the race, we weren’t quite sure whether or not to just go for it, or save a little for the two or three short but potentially lung burning hills. I’ve tried both strategies and the second one was more pleasant, with no real time difference. But I was flying then; now… well, I was just glad to be running. Ian and Matt were looking ready for the race, and there were the usual cheery hellos and how do’s from folk I haven’t seen for ages as my lurgy had meant no club appearances since May. There was a good gaggle of Tyne Bridge Harriers throughout the field, which meant plenty of support on the double back bit.
The first couple of kilometres are fairly flat, so it’s easy to set off like a nugget. I know this because in the previous three appearances, I set off like a nugget. This time, I decided, I would be controlled; sensible; non-nugget. Settling into a race is one of my favourite times; finding the rhythm and being somewhere you don’t usually run, or run in a race, keeps everything fresh and slightly numb. After a couple of kilometres, Simon and Dylan were cheering with a cowbell, and suddenly we were in Austria, not opposite Axwell Park. I didn’t yodel, but did wave a hello.
The first of the rises takes the runners to the 5k point, and a right turn and switch back. It’s not a massively long hill, but it takes the air out of your lungs and swaps it for sand if you’ve gone out too hard (see: me in 2014, 2015, 2016). But this time I was able to wave and say hello to Sarah from Saltwell Harriers, marshalling to make sure everyone went right on the first lap, and left on the second. Her head must have been spinning once there were runners both sides, so big thanks to her and the other marshals.
Over the hill, and this was surely the ‘comfortably hard’ pace of a 10k. ‘You’ll be able to go for it on the downhill last three kilometres’ I promised myself. The dead turn didn’t leaden my legs like it has before, although it was still fairly dreadful, and very soon it was round the loop, more shout outs from the club, down the drop, and back to the hill leading up to the left turn.
This hill is hard. If you’ve been trying, or you haven’t got the legs on the day, this hill pushes you. It’s good to know that it’s all downhill from the top, but you need to avoid red-lining on the slope or you can’t take full advantage. Over the top, and along the section where lap two and lap one runners are now separated by a tape (good idea, organisers), and it was time to go through the gears.
But there weren’t any. I wasn’t going flat out, but I knew flat out would not last the three kilometres left. One of the biggest improvements in my running I’ve found since I joined Tyne Bridge Harriers is that I can run faster, yes, but for a lot longer. Not today. A small increase in pace was meaning a big increase in lungs, and it’s going to take another month of intervals to regain that kind of fitness. The support from runners from all clubs I somehow passed at this point was very thoughtful, and the lad who finished about ten seconds in front of me tried to get me to follow, but I couldn’t. There was a limiter, and that was that.
The PA was getting louder, as were my lungs, but I still heard Helen shout for me when I tried to claw back a few seconds in the last 200 metres. After setting myself a target time, the four seconds outside that target were frustrating, but given that three weeks earlier I couldn’t run, I was quietly satisfied. I also fancied a sit down, thanks very much.
Forgetting that it had drizzled a bit during the race, sitting on a hay bale to get changed wasn’t my best idea of the day. Neither was forgetting my wallet, so I couldn’t buy a sausage in a bun. But even though I missed out on a sausage sarnie and a target time, my perspective changed when I pondered on being able to run somewhere lovely, and catch up with some cracking folk.
I’ll be back next year; just watch out for the Tyne Bridge Harrier setting off like a nugget.
Full race results can be found here.