It’s Sunday the 22nd of March and that can only mean one thing: it’s Wilmslow Half time! Setting off, I look out at the weather, cool to cold with a cloudy/sunny morning in prospect. In other words, perfect running weather. Damn, there’s one excuse gone already!
Arrive in good time, parking no problem, meet Andrew reflecting on whether he trusts the people of Wilmslow enough to leave his car key on a wheel. Lisa has bigger problems – she’s already lost her car somewhere on the rugby field and the clock is ticking! Preparations over, we start to assemble and to share excuses.
I share my concern first. Rookie error! “I had a stomach bug on Friday,” I whine. “Kept me awake all Friday night, only had a bowl of soup Saturday.”
No one is impressed, Ruth counters with, “I’ve had a cold all week, didn’t think I’d make it.”
“Fair enough,” I think.
In comes Andy W. with “I may be a bit tired from the Barcelona Marathon that I ran last Sunday!”
Oh dear! These excuses are becoming Olympian when Jason trumps us all with “I finished the night shift at 4am this morning and I’ve had 3 hours kip!” Well, Stott’s a certainty for a PB then!
I’m still reflecting on whether I’m treating this as a training run for the marathon or a race when the gun goes, the crowd cheers, the music pumps out, the chip timer beeps on the start line and there is no longer any doubt in my mind: I’m in a race! True to form, I do the first mile in 7:10 which is way too fast for me, but hey I feel good just to be here!
Half way around I catch up with Annie. “See you at the finish line!” she shouts as I slowly pass … but I’m not so sure it will be that long!
It is a fabulous day, the crowds are great, the organisation is superb and all I have to do is concentrate on my pace. Around 10 miles I can feel I’m slowing slightly, and then … past goes Annie followed shortly by an old colleague from my Council days. I can see them but I can’t catch them!
Around 11 miles, Karen, a workmate, catches me up but only moves slightly ahead and gives me a target to stir myself to action for the last two miles. Pushing on, I catch her up and move ahead into the last mile. Turning the corner to see the finish line is always a great sight at Wilmslow as the crowds line the last few hundred yards in some numbers. I cross the finish line in 1:40:51, about a minute outside my PB for Wilmslow but a great feeling nevertheless.
As I recover and congratulate other BVRs, my mind drifts back to the same day in March 1988, 27 years ago, when, as a mere 34 year old, I ran my first Wilmslow Half with two friends, neither of whom run any more (lightweights!). My time that day in very similar conditions was 1:52:37. 27 years older and 12 mins faster – I’ll settle for that!
I’m brought back to the present when my phone buzzes to give me a message from the Race Organisers, I’ve come 9th in my age category (M60+)! Bloody hell, a top ten finish! That will do nicely, now if we can only beat the Scousers!
Well done to all the BVRs who competed, in particular to Annie (1:40:55), 2nd in her age category (F55+), and Alison (1:30:16), 1st in her age category (F50+), and to the organisers and marshals for making it another fabulous event.