I did a really hard run yesterday lunchtime and my legs are still feeling it today. There are quite a number of us that run during our lunch hour to the point where there are even queues forming outside the showers. I went out with my 2 training partners around our favourite 3.7 mile circuit, known affectionately as the "boulder city run". To make it more interesting I suggested we had a staggered start so that we might all push ourselves and finish around the same time. We agreed a reasonable handicap although I had no idea what my PB might be. I gave Matt 4 minutes and James had an extra 1 on top. Although the 2 of them had GPS systems I arbitrated the whole affair with an old fashioned stopwatch that had been borrowed from the test bed. It then dawned on me that in order to clock all our times I would have to catch them both – could I do it? Well I thought 25 minutes was achieveable based on my recent 5k runs at home although if Matt pushed below his PB of 29 minutes I’d be under more pressure.
James set off first at what Matt and I thought was an unsustainable pace unless it was just for show until he turned the first corner out of sight. I counted down the minute for Matt which seemed to drag and then he set off at his usual measured pace building it like a crescendo to a faster finish. I then had 4 minutes to pace up and down like an expectant dad. I stretched a bit but wanted to keep moving to distract myself from the butterflies in my stomache. I ran 100 metre shuttle runs up and down the quay side gradually striding out to build my top speed and wondered to myself why I was taking this so seriously.
Eventually I set off and ran down the side of the ship canal towards Manchester at a determined pace. After a few minutes I looked ahead to the green footbridge where I would cross onto Pomona Quay and could make out a figure crossing but they were too far away to identify. As I got closer I saw someone else in a grey T-shirt (like Matt’s) on the other side of the canal making there way across Pomona. They waved to me and my heart leapt as I thought they could only be a couple of minutes ahead, then I realised the taller figure was Pete another office runner making his way back from a run along the Bridgewater canal. I tried to chase Pete down through Boulder City but as he’s a 3hr 15min marathon man I knew I wouldn’t catch him. I went under the Trafford Road bridge past Sam Platts and onto the long straight and flat canal side stretch to the Lowry footbridge, this is where I planned to hit top speed and I was feeling reasonably comfortable. As the footbridge drew closer I could see James and Matt crossing, still 50 seconds apart so it looked like James had gone out hard. At the midpoint of the bridge I found I was less than a minute behind Matt so had already eaten enough out of their lead to know I could catch them.
Matt looked comfortable as I closed up on him, but just beyond the Watersport centre I could see James was walking. As Matt caught him he started running again but as I approached the pair of them James slowed again and I passed him first putting on a ridiculous spurt of pace. I caught Matt around the back of the Copthorne Hotel and decided that I would push hard right to the finish to set myself a PB that I wouldn’t be tempted to better too quickly. I tried to accelerate further through the last 400m but couldn’t maintain my pace and slowed slightly to cross the line as my lungs and legs laboured. I’d not run as hard as that for many many years. I was pleased to find I’d run 24:08, Matt had a new PB of 28:45 and although James claims to have a new record 5k time he finished 6k in 30 minutes.
Next time we do a handicap race I’ll make the difference smaller and go off harder leaving me some time to recover once I’ve caught them up. I don’t think I’ll be doing it for a while though.