Whilst McCarthy was busy on duties relating to his role as Britains Greatest Athlete following his heroic third place run at the Chester Half, Simkiss headed Northampton-wards to take part in the next race in the East Midlands Grand Prix. With a favourable looking course profile, the five miler based from the pleasant village of Blisworth would be an opportunity for a strong run, with a possibility of improving his current 5mi PB, and an outside chance of a club record (25:59).
Once arrived and warmed up, Simkiss stripped to race attire (sporting a new ‘small’ size vest – saving several grams off the old model) and set off on the 5 minute jog to the start line, which covers part of the early stages of the course. One ‘f#ck off’ big hill later – Simkiss realised the profile he’d seen was misleading, and that the course was invariably going to be on the hilly side of the term ‘undulating’.
Lined up, Simkiss knew who his main rival would be… Michael Aldridge from host club Wooton. Knowing the differences in form, Simkiss could either let him go and settle for second, or push him hard in the early stages, before crumbling and inevitably falling back into second place (or lower); for a change Simkiss’ legs were feeling good. With late additions to the starting crowd – the organisers squeezed everyone backwards to the start line, but not their hero Aldridge, who stood confidently away from the crowd until the race was ready to start, and the local hero was then placed at the front of the group ready to race.
The race was underway with the sound of a horn and a large shove in the back gave Simkiss a better start than he would normally manage, yet still he was engulfed by the sea of 40min 10k’ers setting off at 4:30/mi pace. After the initial few hundred metres, Simkiss brought himself back into the running and sneaked his way up the inside – downhill suits Simkiss well and like a scene from India Jones he began to gather momentum on the slope, it felt easy. Simkiss made the decision to take the race out at this point – knowing that Aldridge would follow, but he wanted to string out the field rather than ending up leading a group of cling-ons. As the race entered the village and up the first steady climb Simkiss glanced back at Aldridge to see the field had been blown apart – for behind Aldridge there was a decent gap before a trail of strung out runners ahead of the main field.
Mile 1 done: 4:42… Who says thunder thighs can’t start fast? Okay – it was downhill.
Mile 2 started with a monster climb that wouldn’t have been out of place on Sunday’s Hilly100 course. Simkiss continued to lead Aldridge, and as the hill’s intensity subsided, its persistence did not. Mile 2 seemed to be entirely ascent and was clocked in 5:24. Once finally levelled off, it wasn’t long before another stinger took the boys past 2.5mi and brought Aldridge to the front of the race, and saw Simkiss crumble in a McCarthy-esque fashion and settle for 2nd.
With Aldridge opening a gap, and Simkiss resigned to second place, if was a case of trying to relax and just bring it home for the final couple of miles; mile 3 in 5:18. Continued climbing saw the course reach its peak just before 4mi, which was passed after 5:23 after the 3rd mile marker – undoubtedly Simkiss’ weakest mile of the race. A drawn out final mile which seemed to take an eternity to reach the finish was completed in an uncomfortable 5:05 (aided by a gradual descent), finishing 30secs behind Aldridge, and 30secs ahead of 3rd.
Simkiss was pleased and a little surprised with his PB of 26:18, knowing that after a tough first couple of miles he’d backed off, claiming that on a less hilly course, and without easing up, the 26 minute mark should be capable. Kenilworth also took the team prize for the third race in the series, despite the absence of McCarthy.