On the first Tuesday of each month (October-March), Tyne Bridge Harriers hold their 5k Grand Prix. I attended the January race and lined up with everyone else. I was not sure what it was and because I had never run a short race (other than a Park Run) I was a little unsure about what to expect. It began simply enough: you just had to put your name down!
After everyone was registered we jogged down, en masse, to the start at Newcastle Quayside. The route is very flat and runs past all of the well-known Newcastle Quayside landmarks: the Tyne Pub, the Pitcher and Piano, under the famous Tyne Bridge, over the Swing Bridge, then east past The Sage and towards the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, crossing back over the river via the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and back to where we started.
We were hanging around for a little while and there was an air of well-organised chaos. I think that if I had been a resident of the nearby houses I may have had something to say about the noise level! (Club officials take note) Eventually the race started. I don’t fully understand the points system but then I don’t need to, as everything is taken care of. The slower runners start first and based on previous times everyone then sets off in a handicap-type arrangement. I had no previous time to go off so just used the average of my last two Park Runs.
I started on my own a minute or so after a group of four or five runners. They soon disappeared around the first bend and I was eager to be off. Then I was.
My trusty Garmin beeped to acknowledge that it was working and I set off. Now, like I say, I have never run a short “race” as such and after being out of running for twelve years had only been running again for around four months. The good thing was that it was flat. I rounded the first corner and could not see the other runners but after another quarter of a mile or so could discern someone in the distance. This is the really good thing about this type of race: provided that you do not set off first, there is always someone in front of you to aim at and try to haul in. I passed two runners before the Pitcher and Piano pub and had passed about half a dozen or so before the Swing Bridge. But what’s this? As I approach the Swing Bridge I hear heavy breathing and shouts from the Marshalls of “come on Andy”. Obviously, it was my time to get hauled in and it must be by a regular club member too. I pushed on but I was passed on the Bridge. Determined to keep him in my sights, I dug in and stayed a step or two behind him. My lungs began to burn, and the bottom of both IT bands on my legs screamed at each side of my knee. I stayed with him. Past the Baltic and over the Bridge and yes, I finally passed Andy – Ha, take that young feller, me lad!!!! My euphoria was short lived. He came past me again and this time kicked on into the distance. I would see him at the finish line, laid flat out on the tarmac, offering his hand to say well done. It would appear that we had been spurring each other on and I had lost the battle – this time anyway.
Like I say, there is always someone to haul in and I passed a number of runners in the final mile. There was a young lad of between 12-14 running in front of me and going great guns. He and I battled it out to the end and I managed to pip him to the finish line (his time will come). The relief at the finish was huge: my lungs were hurting and my quads were throbbing. More used to long (ish) slow runs of 8 ½-9 minute miles, my body had suddenly been asked to run at 7 ½ minute miles and, understandably, was complaining a little.
I had been passed by a few runners, but not too many, and was fairly pleased with my time of 23:09; at least it gives me something to aim for next time.
Once all the runners were finished we all jogged back to the library where we meet and went our separate ways. Results were posted remarkably quickly and the Facebook group was alive with friendly banter and digs at those who had run faster than normal.
The next day my quads felt like they had been beaten with a rubber hose, but all in all it was a great introduction to running a short race and I am looking forward to my second attempt.
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