The Blaydon Race is a race I desperately wanted to win. It’s not often a Geordie wins it, the last one was Ian Hudspith in 2009 and before that was his brother Mark Hudspith in 1997 so I really wanted to get my name on the trophy.
It was a very windy evening and with the race being point to point, we had a head wind for the majority of the way there. My intention was to sit in as much as possible in the early stages as if it was flat out from the gun the Africans may get away in the closing stages. Sometimes there 2 Africans, sometimes 3 and even 4 can show up however this year I counted 8! I knew I had my work cut out.
The gun went and the race didn’t go off too hard in the first mile. Nick Swinburn took up the running and got a gap on the field but everyone seemed content to wait as chances are he’d get reeled in at some point. I’m not sure on what the mile splits were like but I imagine about 4:50-5:00 as I felt very much in control. My 10k race pace is around 4:40 per mile so I was happy to run slower than this.
After around 2 miles of running in the group there was a lot of bumping, barging, tripping and weaving around Scotswood Road one of the Africans legged it. He put in a minute surge on the slight downhill section towards the old Vickers tank factory. I had to work pretty hard to cover the move but I was determined to not let anyone get away.
I got back on it and tucked, behind the leader and relaxed. After a minute or so I had recovered from the hard effort and I was feeling comfortable again. There was still a good group of about 9 of us, myself and Ian the only Brits. All those miles I have been running are now paying off as in the past a hard surge in a race would make me feel knackered. When we got to the end of Scotswood Road we headed up the hill to cross the Scotswood Bridge. Again the pace surged hard, I had to cover it. We dropped down off the bridge and onto the cycle path where we do a short out and back.
We headed up to the cones where to u-turn point was and as I turned I decided to make an effort to see how the other guys legs were. I ran quite hard off the turn for about 30 seconds and everyone seemed to cover it so I eased off and relaxed.
We were about 4miles in a this point and as we made our way through the industrial estate I used the hill over Chainbridge Road to surge once again to try and break up the group. We field strung out but 2 of the Africans were tight on my shoulder as I did it. We backed off again and headed along Chainbridge Road approaching the 5 mile point. Before 5 miles I went hard once again, trying to shake the Africans. They covered the move once again so I had to settle and wait.
All this time I kept surging off the front poor Ian was getting dropped then working back onto the group. Hats off to him, at 41 he is still absolutely flying!
There was a group of 7 of us and we were 3/4 of a mile from the finish. There was a steep hill we went up before a downhill then round into the finish. As we were going up the hill I started to think I had to make my move for home. Just before my reached the brow of the hill I just shut my eyes, pumped my arms and got my legs spinning as fast as I possibly could. I just went all out as if it was the finish line there and then in the hope of breaking up the field.
I got my gap and I kept working hard down the hill to turn the last bend before we headed into the carpark. As I round the bend my legs were starting to burn and I’d gone too hard too soon. I just worked as hard as I could but 3 of the Africans came level with me and pushed up the final little rise into the car park. I just didn’t have the legs on the uphill and they got 10metres on me.
By the time I got into the finishing car park they had their gap and they were racing it out themselves. I had to settle for 4th. I rounded the 2 hair pins and crossed the line feeling absolutely gutted. I’d tried everything I could to shake them but they just wouldn’t fall off the pace.
I chewed myself up all evening wondering how I could have beaten them, the conclusion I came up with was I wasn’t strong enough to run away from them- but they’re 62 minute half marathon runners. My other conclusion was that I went too soon and should have waited till the very last minute and tried to beat them in the last 300m not the last 800.
Life goes on though and I’ll be back next year for another crack at trying to win it. Maybe then it’ll be my day.