About half an eternity ago, Jordan and Adcock took on the Armagh 5k and National Cross Country Champs in a bid to bring themselves down a peg or five… finally we can bring you up to speed on this out of date news.
…That’s the problem with local leagues and regional races. They start to make you think you might actually be good. A few vouchers, a couple of metal effect plastic trophies, and all of a sudden you’re beginning to feel like Alf Tupper.
With this in mind, Jordan and Adcock decided to pit themselves against some of GB and Europe’s finest, taking themselves and their respective long suffering families to the Armagh international 5k (40 miles from Belfast for the Geographically uninitiated), as part of a half term mini-break in the Northern part of the emerald-isle.
The trip began for the Jordans (like any other race day) with a 4:30 alarm, but diverged from the norm after picking up the Adcock crew with a quick flight over to Belfast, which was in fact delayed by more than twice the actual flight length. There was a scout round the impressive Titanic Museum, which proved to be appropriate as Jordan and Adcock were soon to sink without trace in the forthcoming race. Adcock kept the staff happy with riveting conversation about the bolts that were used to hold the ship together. There was even time to set up a Strava segment running around the outline of the doomed vessel, which for anyone sad enough to care, turned out to be 530 metres – surely a new must for any subsequent visitors (FYI – it’s clockwise).
After another day of eating, entertaining small children (mostly their own), letting the Mrs’s go shopping and general poor race preparation, it was show (race) time for Matt & Chris. Once a year Armagh hosts a kind of running festival with 10 races spanning all ages, the course based on circa 1100m laps of a Cathedral green. In addition to a high quality women’s 3k, the evening’s pièce de résistance is the 5k, for which a qualification time of sub 17 is required. This gave our boys confidence that their 15:30s / 15:40s times from 2015 would be safely mid-pack but was perhaps an underestimation of the quality here.
Jordan and Adcock assembled at the back of a field of 150 or so, and as the gun went there was a Leeds Abbey Dash style charge which fairly rapidly stretched out into a long thin line, very much like when someone starts battering the pace at the front of a peleton. Even on a bike, the McCarkiss duo would have found it tricky keeping up with the front boys. With 4 and ¾ laps, there were no ‘K’ markers, but an Ulsterman with a watch called splits at various points. 2:46 for the leader, 3:05 for Jordan. Adcock was either unable to translate the dialect, or was totally in the zone, but was unaware of the split caller, relying on his (admittedly usually accurate) watch for feedback. Anyways it was around 3:10 for he.
On the second and third Ks (consistent at 6:10 then 9:15 for CJ) some of the boys ahead started to flag allowing a bit of overtaking to take place. Still nowhere near the main mix, but thoughts of finishing last began to fade (for Jordan at least). The fourth K saw lactate begin to weigh heavy in the Jordan system, and a split of 12:25 meant that an unlikely acceleration back to 3:05 pace would be needed to beat the 15:31 PB from Manchester last summer.
At the front Belgian Orienteering World Champion Yannick Michiels soloed to a 30 yard lead with 1k to go, however in a fairly frenzied finish he was reeled in by Charlie Hulson of Sale Harriers who took the win in 14:02. The top 10 were all home inside 14:10 (!) with an astonishing 66 breaking 15:00. By the time Jordan and Adcock rolled in with 15:33 (95th) and 15:55 (110th), the finishers were already thinning out.
Despite the feeling of being a bit out of depth, this was an amazing race to experience – flood lit around a pretty flat circuit – and is highly recommended not just for a PB but also just a race to say you’ve had a crack at. The sub 17min qualification standard should come with a bit of a disclaimer though – if you’re much over 16 then expect the field to be severely thinned down by the time you finish.
Being pummelled by top quality runners for a quarter of an hour wasn’t enough punishment for the MCKEP’ers, and with the National Cross Country Championships at the end of the following week, Jordan and Adcock decided to put themselves forward for another pounding, joined by club new boy Ant Hatswell. With London still as the primary focus, CJ and MA had three figure weeks planned. Adcock opted to bung in 104 miles in the first 5 days of the week, with a taper of only running 19 miles on the Friday in order to leave himself fresh for the XC. Fresh like one of Macca’s stale curry farts that is. Jordan on the other hand ran a paltry 65 miles to Friday but knew he’d have to run big miles on Sunday to hit a ton.
Those of you who have experienced the NXCC will know what the start is like, and those who haven’t – well it’s not something words can really do justify as it’s a multi-sensory experience of noise smell and chaos. I guess a charge scene from a medieval battle a la Brave Heart is a bit like it. Anyway once the chaos was over it was a case of negotiating a river of humanity in which you just had to go with the flow for the first K or so. Eventually there was a bit more room to run, and an undulating 3 lapper unfolded.
Conditions underfoot varied from almost track like smoothness to extremely boggy. By the third lap Jordan was yo-yo’ing with the same 10-15 runners as he gained advantage on the flat “roadie friendly” sections, and then fell back again in the bog, for which he completely lacked the technique and or strength. Having recognised a few faces from local races and further afield (Reading, London, 6 stage relays etc) around the 150 mark (As called by a “fan” in the crowd) was a fair return. Nevertheless, there was a minor comedy finish to the race as CJ lost a shoe with a K left to run. Despite best efforts, this led to a drop in pace and a few runners (quite unfairly) took advantage to claim hollow victory against our impaired athlete. 161st in the end. Million-mile-man Adcock cruised in for 351, whilst Hatswell claimed a respectable 500th. The top 10 was partially a reshuffle of a few of the top 15 from Armagh, but local kudos should go to Warwickshire’s pocket rocket Toby Spencer in 10th and former Hermitage Notts man Ali Watson in 11th, as well as a highly creditable (by local standards) 89th for Kenilworth’s Paddy “P-rod” Roddy.
So – with these two very telling reality checks completed it’ll be back to the ignorant bliss of feeling special again in the local leagues, (with even London offering a higher finish place), safe away from the reality that we most definitely are not (although our mums would argue otherwise of course).