With a "bank" of 4 weeks training after the INSKIP HALF on January 19 completed, I'd spent nearly everyday prior to the GREAT NORTH HALF on the grass at the local hockey club. An 8 x 1K track session the previous Saturday had left the legs battered and I wanted to recover well for Sunday's Blackpool race.
As many compettitors, no doubt, I had been checking the BBC WEATHER site for forecasts of race day conditions since midweek and it wan't looking good. They were forecasting rain throughout the day but more significantly... near gale force southerly winds. A forecast which didn't change by Saturday morning. Not good at all.
As I posted on my Facebook page, as a very lightweight 65 year old asthmatic I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of being battered by 29 m.p.h. winds on the concrete Blackpool promenade. Makes breathing somewhat difficult!
I mooched around all Saturday morning uncertain about whether to race or not, but decided to leave options open by doing my normal prerace jog of 3 miles on the grass. A wind blown jog after which I'd decided NOT to bother for reasons of health and safety.
It wouldn't be good for my health and I might get blown into the Irish Sea!
But the more I thought about all the training I'd done over the 5 weeks since INSKIP.....and the £20 entry fee......the more I was inclined to change my mind. I decided to go. The forecast might change overnight. Just how bad could it be?
A study of the race route, a 2 lap course, would at least mean that the first miles would be wind assisted. I would then be looking to shelter behind young big guys (hopefully) for the next 3 or so miles into the gale then revert to wind assisted race pace for miles 7, 8, 9 and repeat. Sounds like a plan!
Arriving at the Blackpool Hilton ,we managed to secure our normal spot in a side alley just minutes from the start and walked onto the promenade. The forecast had been correct. Rain and strong winds from the south.
Perhaps they would bus us own to St. Annes and we could run back.....gale assisted. Chance would be a fine thing!
Complete with hat, gloves and windproof gilet over race vest I set off with 1350 others but wind assisted with opening miles of 7.32, 7.23, 7.25 I was overheating. The hat, gloves and gilet being shed after lap 1.
Managing to find the planned shelter for the 3 miles back down to North Pier were still a trial. Not surprisingly the pace dropped . 7.45, 7.49 and 7.57 to 6 miles. but not disastrous.
What a relief as we turned now and pushing hard again, at more like 10K pace, miles of 7.14 (uphill) 7.06 and 7.02 resulted. I was starting to think the end result might be so bad after all.
But the wind strength on the second lap was even worse than the first. Now a case of survival. No apologies for using young guys for cover but watching the pace doesn't drop too dramatically. Miles of 7.56. 8.11 and 8.08 resulting.
It was clearly going to require a great effort from 12 miles to get under 1:40. I'm urging the group to keep going for the sub 1:40 but they are mainly wearing headphones so they can't hear anyway!
A 7.13 13th mile and I go on to record a gun time of 1:39.12 ,chip time 1:39.01. 106 half marathon done an dusted.
I turn at the end of the funnel and shake hands with those in the group who have shared the ordeal and pushed the pace along.
Over 30 minutes slower than my PB for a half but after 51 years of racing I'll take that.
The race was won by IAN Mc BRIDE; well clear in a moderate 74.01. But clearly today was more about tactics and coping with the conditions rather than times.
CARLY NEEDHAM (Rochdale) was first lady in 85.09.
I managed to win the M65 category but cold and battered we headed off home. It wasn't a day for hanging around.