Opting to pass on a guaranteed winners medal at the Hilly 100, McCarthy chose to go to Chester in his home county of Cheshire for the prestigious Cheshire County Capital City half marathon. The race was a chance to finally close out his up an down winter season with a half marathon PB attempt, having dropped out of Reading.
In a change to the usual 24 hour ritual of Beetroot, supplements, voodoo magic and witchcraft this was a much more relaxed affair. With high temperatures predicted, fellow Kenilworth Runners’ filled the club Facebook page with tips on how to prepare for running in soaring temperatures. The most popular tactic was seemingly to try to hydrate as if you were some sort of human camel by beginning to drink water two days before the race in the hope that you will develop a water retention mechanism in your stomach. McCarthy instead opted for a few glasses of wine and a pint of Bumblebee bitter, what’s the worst that could happen. Dehydration leading to cardiac arrest due to a severe lack of essential minerals, leading to death.
As race day arrived, McCarthy arrived at Chester racecourse in what he believed was a new record – a mere two and a half hours before the 9:30 start. This new relaxed approach leading up to race day meant that he had in fact got the start time wrong and was only two hours early, pretty standard after all. For people who have managed to lumber round in under 75 minutes previously the team at Chester treat you like you actually are half as good as the completely out of proportion, super-ego, national running superstar that Simkiss thinks he is, with a private prep and warm up area. Even more importantly there is somewhere clean and quiet for a poo, before being led out like horses to be plonked in front of the 6000 other runners on the start line just before the gun. They can then all run past you at 4:30 pace.
As the race began, Mohammed Abu-Rezeq sprinted off the line and essentially won the race in the first 20 metres. Not far behind was Tarus Elly claiming second place after 22 metres. Now it was the also rans of Cheshire and passing the first mile in 5:18 as a group were Stuart Doyle, James Savage, Matt Boffey, Matt Woodman and Matt Smith (at this point a man called George took a left turn to the registry office to try and change his name to Matt). Just behind in 5:24 was McCarthy, sat off the pace trying to maintain 5:30 pace, he had to allow the group to go. Going through the second downhill mile in 5:05 the group ahead were now running away from McCarthy who clocked 5:15, but conscious of the way Simkiss reigned them both in on the Rugby 6 downhill section earlier in the week, he would stick to his own race plan even if it meant sitiing in 8t.h.
‘Tactical genius’ the crowd began to chant, as McCarthy pulled his way first of all up to the group and then as they began to dwindle away he found himself alongside Savage and Doyle as they passed 5 miles (27:00). At this point conscious the pace felt like it had dropped, McCarthy pushed on a few strides and that was it, reminiscent of a scene from ‘Die Hard 4: Live free or Die Hard’, the field was blown to pieces.
Passing 10k in 34:19 and halfway in 36:09, the PB was on but McCarthy had no idea of this and was just plodding out the miles and the live pace on the Garmin constantly seemed to be reading 5:30 or thereabouts . Passing through 10mile in 55:19, having seen off a resurgent savage at 8mile, the bloke on the bike gave McCarthy an update that he was about 40 yards clear of 4th. Through the 11th mile in 5:33 and then the 12th in 5:29 this was ridiculous, it felt steady and even though McCarthy’s massive balding forehead was burning red in the heat it didn’t seem to be having any impact on pace.
Then there was a hill. What a hill. The hill from the second mile that had been almost jogged down in 5:15 now had to be scaled. The never ending slog up the 13th mile ground the pace to a 5:52 and turning for home the clock read about 72:15 and it slowly ticked away with every stride to 72:38, missing a PB by two seconds, terrible.
3rd place behind two very good runners, McCarthy was extremely grateful to the hundreds of other runners who are faster than him who didn’t bother to turn up, allowing him to be elevated to 3rd.. Special mention has to go to Bupa who arranged the Manchester 10k to clash with the race, almost certainly attracting a good 4 or 5 people who would have smashed McCarthy. Much pomp and ceremony followed with presentations, mayors, lords, jesters and even an impromptu cup of tea with the Lord of Therings and the Queen Mother. Never before has the Chester Half had such an international feel with the 1,2,3 being born in Jordan, Kenya and Crewe – the three corners of elite distance running.
2 hours after the finish and walking back to the racecourse, McCarthy realised his PB was in fact 72:46 so this was actually a PB by 8 seconds…what an amazing run. Funny how a few seconds makes such a difference.