With a week of Cheese, Wine, Sun, Snow, Alpine air, skiing and the occasional jog behind him, Simkiss returned to UK soil on Saturday afternoon ready for his Sunday long run to include the Banbury 15 miler at Marathon Pace. Planned with military precision, Simkiss would arrive at Race HQ, perform a 4mi easy paced warmup, change into race shoes, complete the race at 5:43/mi pace, and then jog a mile or two to cool down and complete the desired distance for the day.
Known for his relaxed approach to race timings, a horizontal holiday attitude saw Simkiss arriving 40mins before race start… enough time for a 3.6mi jog, change into race kit, smothering of Vaseline, and joining the toilet queue as everyone lined up on the start line… Knowing there would inevitably be several minutes of pre-race briefing – Simkiss completed the patented McCarkiss toileting routine and joined the race field on the start line with plenty of seconds to spare.
Race underway across a grassy park and Simkiss took to the front. With historic results of the Banbury 15 predicting around a 3rd place finish for our man’s pacing strategy – he was surprised that only one other athlete joined him at the head of the race; David Green of Northampton Road Runners. It transpired that Green was also planning to run to a pre determined marathon pace of around 5:45… so the pair trotted along together at the front through mile 1 bang on target pace.
Thoughts of a pleasant 15mi marathon pace run with another athlete soon went out the window though as Green was determined to stick to his planned pace despite the 1.5mi uphill section, and progressively opened up a gap of over 20secs to our hill-a-phobic athlete who remained hopeful that the lost time versus target would be made up on the descents.
– Photos by Barry Cornelius
A long descent and many undulations followed as Green continued to increase the gap – only the occasional clap from a marshal, or photo opportunity from the Oxon race photographer extraordinaire – Barry Cornelius – broke up the long arduous plodding across pot-holed country roads. Whilst well accustomed to poor road surfaces out in the twigs – Simkiss’ feet were tiring, and whilst adamant that skiing would not have had any effect on his legs, he was beginning to think that either he was wrong, or that marathon pace was a lot tougher than he remembered. Simkiss concluded of course that he wasn’t wrong, and that he must be over-rested for the race, which was invariably proving to be a big shock to his excessively rested legs.
– Photos by Barry Cornelius
At 10k the gap seemed to have reached its peak, and perhaps even be started to close a smidge as Simkiss maintained his steady, rhythmical pace… but no… it wasn’t. Another big climb at 8.5mi saw the lead grow further to a seemingly insurmountable 44seconds – Green was but a dot in the distance. With the MCKEP man was now focussed on making sure his calves didn’t explode, he was unaware of the Green-struggle happening ahead.
From 9.5-10.5mi the gap had been more than chopped in half, and while cheers for the man in black roared through Cropredy, Green had begun his struggle up the final notable climb into Great Bourton – Simkiss had binned off his marathon pace plan – in a scene reminiscent of the 2014 Stanford Hall Half Marathon, almost 2 years to the day – The tortoise-esque tactics had paid off; he was reeling in the leader and going for glory. 800m of upward slogging and Simkiss reached Greens shoulder whilst putting in an injection of pace to move clear. Classic distance running.
Green’s footsteps remained well within earshot as he too surged, hopeful the elastic wouldn’t break – but break it did as Simkiss attacked the long steady descent and opened up a gap of his own, refusing to do his usual “Mike and the Mechanics” impression, there would be no looking back, over his shoulder.
A cheesy grin adorned the bearded mug of Simkiss as he trotted the final mile of the course – smug with his impending local race victory. The crowd gathered to cheer the victor home, literally tens of people lined the final straight with cheers that could be heard for metres around.
Crossing the finish line with arms aloft, Simkiss politely declined the offer of finish line chocolate buttons, being such a high calibre athlete and all… (a decision which he later regretted). A 2.5mi cool down hobble was enough to bring the days run to just over 21mi, with the 15mi completed ahead of Marathon Pace (5:37/mi Vs 5:43/mi).
Kudos must be given to the organisers for actually saying what time the prize giving would be (and nearly sticking to it), and for offering a cash prize sufficient to cover the race entry, petrol, and parking costs (with a more than enough left over for some Chocolate Buttons).
Sadly though, it’s not all good news. As Simkiss returned to his homeland, discomfort in his feet grew, and the remainder of the day was spent hobbling around. Today the McCarkiss medical team have reported that Simkiss is mincing around like he’s about to sh!t himself, clinging onto furniture for support wherever possible to take the load off his ‘sorely feetsies’.
Long standing injury expert and club founder Chris ‘Macca’ McCarthy advised to “back off a bit I reckon”, whilst admitting he’d ignore his own advice were he in the same situation.