12 months on from the inception of the Elite Project, Rich Simkiss, a founding member of MCKEP made his debut at the Harborough 5, the sixth race in the EMGP series with one goal in mind – to maintain MCKEP dominance and retain the title in this prestigious race since co-founder Chris McCarthy took glory in 2013.
Drawing similarities to Warwickshire’s “Two Castles” Charity run, which starts just outside Warwick Castle grounds, and finishes amidst the remains of Kenilworth Castle – the Harborough 5 boasts impressive surroundings where it both starts, and finishes in a roughly mown field.
On a route that you would think could only be crafted by Italy’s finest course designers, runners not only start and finish in the field, but enjoy a near full perimeter excursion on both the outbound and inbound laps to allow the ‘Full English” experience, taking in such sights as hedges, fence posts, traditional British Field Divit’s, a bonus second glimpse of the start/finish line, and the finest in British overflow car parks, complete with parked cars.
The previous three races in the EMGP series had been tough runs for Simkiss, going against his usual (preferred) approach of starting steady and winding the pace up for a strong finish; a strong pace from the off with tough climbs has left the MCKEP athlete running on empty approaching the latter stages of the race. With this in mind Simkiss was hopeful of a less intense early pace, leaving something in reserve for the final mile(s), possibly even offering up a better chance at the club 5mi record (which co-incidentally McCarthy proclaimed would be broken at Harborough).
This did not happen. Neither the steady start, nor the record. A gradually ascending first mile was ticked off in 5:18, followed by a far more notable descent over the second mile, in which Simkiss struggled to get his legs moving fast enough, in 4:45. Entering the third mile the descent softened and it was Simkiss and Godiva’s Harvey Speed leading a strung out field – by 2.5mi the pair had broken away at the front of the field, and a short climb past 3mi prompted a surge from Speed which opened up a gap of several stride lengths; “Woooahh there Speedy Boy!” Simkiss responded, closing the gap and as the pair rounded the sharp left hand corner in Lubenham (where residents have been chafe free since 1917), took the racing line and ran strongly out of the bend, opening up a gap of several stride lengths for himself. The undulating third mile was completed in 5:02, bringing the course onto the 4th mile climb – which following a flat first 400m was a consistent climb for the next 0.75mi.
Sick of hills, and reminded with the sound of every footstep from Speed how small his lead was, Simkiss either needed to continue to work himself into further discomfort and open the gap, or risk being caught. Thankfully consistent plodding was sufficient to open up the gap – Speed clearly struggling more. Mile 4, completed in 5:39, put a significant dent into the average pace, and any attempt on the 5mile record, although the final mile was comparatively flat despite a few cheeky undulations. Mile 5 was ground out at 5:03 pace… which would’ve been enough for the club record (totalling 25:47), if only these splits weren’t based on irrelevant GPS data. There was an additional 22 seconds still to be ran.
Simkiss finished 17 seconds clear of Speed in second place (26:26), who himself was 10 seconds clear of Nutella addict Ali Smith in third.
Coventry Godiva had hinted they would be submitting a full team of good strength; they didn’t.
Kenilworth Runners were missing some of their regular team scorers; They weren’t missed.
Kenilworth took their 6th team victory, maintaining a 100% record. Simkiss is now unbeatable in the EMGP series Senior Male category, and most importantly the McCarkiss Elite Project retain the figurative winner’s trophy.