With no excuses of childbirth this year for McCarthy, and Simkiss failing to come up with a better excuse than 2hrs25min of Fell Running, Kayaking and Mountain Biking the day before (taking 3rd place in his obstacle race with FOTP Pete Matthews), MCKEP woke dark and early on Sunday 22nd March to make the journey down to Reading.
After the logistical catastrophe of Raceways Spring Shakespeare Half Marathon, McCarthy demanded a 5:30am wakeup for a 6:15am collection of Simkiss – which should allow enough travel time. Turning up at 6:00, McCarthy was keen to get on the road.
Loading up on MCKEP’s special blend caffeine boost and lifting spirits with repeated playback of the MCKEP anthem “Bob the Builder”, the boys arrived with only two and a half hours before the race started, and luckily just before McCarthy shat himself.
Having found an elite parking space, ‘the boys’ were able to collect their elite race numbers from the elite hotel before McCarthy went for his elite poo. Whilst revelling in their elite status and collecting their numbers the 76min half marathon runners bumped into FOTP Chris Jordan, who has been in deep negotiations about joining the project and was (we believe) waiting in the hotel foyer for the MCKEP team bus since 4am.
After sneaking a free banana and nearly getting stung £3 for what must be the worlds greatest sports drink, the trio did their best to speed up time but it was no use, McCarthy finished his second toilet trip of the morning and still there were 2hrs to go. Jordan further discussed terms and conditions of his impending signing for MCKEP but was beginning to get fed up of the ongoing requests of “show us your boobs”. Stretching, changing, more stretching and more toilet stops ensued before panic began to set in. McCarthy has finally found an compatriot in Jordan for pre race timing anxiety.
Jordan and McCarthy paced around furiously whilst Cool Cucumber Simkiss faffed vaselining up his feet. Finally they were on their way to the start (besides another toilet stop, this time for Simkiss) – things were getting close to the wire and the brisk walk turned to a jog, turned to a steady jog and Simkiss was struggling to keep up as Jordan and McCarthy led the way battling through the deep crowds desperate to make the start line in time; were they going to make it?
Yes… by the skin of their teeth; arriving at the start line in a state of panic there was only twenty five minutes to go until the gun. Simkiss contemplated going back to sleep but felt he owed it to the organisers to give the photographers what they wanted and pose for photos.
The race got underway not far from the famous
Myjetski Majesty Jamdeski Madejski Stadium, a big opening charge saw Simkiss falling away from McCarthy and the large lead group that McCarthy himself was hanging onto. Kenilworth Runners’ athlete Paddy Roddy, who is focussing solely on track events this season, had fought through the fun runners and was now with the lead group. Simkiss fell away from the lead group and formed the front of the peleton, he had seen gaps like this form in Tour de France, which was irrelevant but proved a catalyst to launch Simkiss into a surge to rejoin the back of the lead group despite his legs screaming at him to slow down.
Having rejoined the group, which was going far too fast for Simkiss and McCarthy, the pair (plus Jordan) went through the first mile in 5:14 before they (minus Jordan) promptly fell off the back of the group they’d worked so hard to be a part of, and prepared themselves for the ‘much improved and less hilly’ portion of the course, which started and finished at exactly the same elevation as last year, but was apparently better. Simkiss took the lead of the MCKEP group here and worked his battered and complaining legs up the hill whilst Paddy Roddy and Chris Jordan disappeared off into the distance ahead.
It was during this hill that McCarthy seemed to fall away, and by the 5km mark Simkiss had gapped the northerner by 8 seconds, taking a split of 17:08 versus McCarthy’s 17:16, both athletes notably faster than their other recent 75min attempts. The second 5k was McCarthy’s roughest patch – losing ground and motivation for running and indeed life as a whole, losing another 24seconds to Simkiss. 5k split of 17:09 for Macca, 16:45 for Simko. McCarthy played cat’n’mouse with Helen Clitheroe which gave some motivation whilst Simkiss wondered just how long he was going to hang on for, and at what mile McCarthy would come sailing past. 15k down with 5k splits of 17:23 & 17:27 for Simkiss & McCarthy respectively.
Simkiss had been running alone until these late miles and was grateful of some company from behind to pull him along before he managed to push on and away from the group through 20k with a split of 16:34, McCarthy too managed his fastest 5k split of 16:53.
Kicking hard, Simkiss entered the
Majjeski Madjeski Reading Football Club Stadium hopeful his suffering was worth a sub 75, maybe even a sub 74min finish; he nearly tripped over his instantaneous hardon when the clock ahead still read 1:11:42. Utter disbelief.
He turned and waited for McCarthy, and waited some more, went and had some tea and cake, a quick shave and shower and then McCarthy came into the stadium just ahead of Clitheroe to break the 73min mark in 1:12:57. Well down on his heavily fatigued counterpart, but a season’s best nonetheless.
Both athletes have shown that ridiculously fast starts, combined with no expectations of a PB are the key to half marathon PB success. McCarthy is showing signs of fear that with his 11seconds improvment in 3.5years, it will only be a matter time (47 years at current rate of progression) before Simkiss sets a new MCKEP Half Marathon Record.
With both athletes ruined, a walk back to the carpark was deemed sufficient cooldown – attention turned immediately to how the feck they were going to make it to Tuesday’s Loughborough training session in one piece.