With 7 days until Marathon Day and no entry at the 12 stage nationals, Simkiss was able to try his luck at the local ‘big feel’ 10k event that would normally clash with other race priorities – the Regency 10k. His first encounter with the race was back in 2008 where after a surprise overnight shower of snow he ran 37:18 for 17th position. 2009 he just missed out on the dream of sub 35min to finish 6th, then his most recent visit in 2013 where he battled with Andrew Savery to finish 3rd in 33:04.
With that needless visit down memory lane done – The race was to be something of a sharpener ahead of the main event next weekend in Zurich, the time was almost meaningless and the position would be dictated by how many of the top local runners turned up on the day (knowing that Saturday’s National Road Relay Champs will have taken priority for many). All of this helped take the pressure off the Marathon trained Simkiss.
With a reasonable warmup complete, race shoes on and a half mile jog over to the start – Simkiss spotted a few familiar faces from his old Kenilworth club mates and Jason ‘Wilfy’ Williams, off of Hermitage and that iconic Simkiss sprint finish performance at Silverstone 10k (2015), that nobody bar Simkiss talked about. When asked how he was feeling, Simkiss moaned his legs were feeling “pretty rubbish to be honest”. (They did! – Rich)
As the race got underway, Simkiss moved toward the front, and after taking the racing line round the first couple of corners he was leading the way. The sound of breathing and footsteps progressively faded and soon a small cluster at the head of the race had dwindled; there was now only one runner accompanying the McCarkiss athlete as they went through 1km in around 3:15. “Go on Andy…” shouted a spectator – with a glance to the right, the white/blue vest of Leamington and effortless stride – it could only be one man – Andrew Savery. A few words were exchanged – Savery’s first race back following a period of injury, so obviously not in top form, but equally we’re sure he wouldn’t have turned up unless he was at least in reasonable shape. Mile 1 done in 5:15.
The head of the race had now reached the loop of the Newbold Comyn Golf Course, which shall henceforth be known as ‘the mud run’. Skating around in his racing flats, Simkiss weaved across the path trying to avoid the huge puddles and find firmer ground. Wearing identical shoes, Savery floated over the puddles and moved away from Simkiss who was wallowing in the slimy mud; only a few metres at first, but as the mud run progressed and turned into a long ascent (with just enough mud and water to make it frustratingly slippy), the lead grew. Halfway up the long ascent and the second mile had passed in 5:35 – Simkiss couldn’t go any faster without detonating and was already telling himself Savery had the race won. More ascent, some flat and a steep descent saw Savery open his gap further as Simkiss went through mile 3 with another 5:35 split – the downhill seemingly helping with nothing. The gap was now a monumental 30 or 40 metres.
No attention was paid to the 5km marker, and it isn’t quite clear from the GPS exactly where 5km falls versus the course map, but it came somewhere in at around 17:10. Mindful he couldn’t seem to go any quicker, but confident his strong marathon prep’d legs could at least maintain the effort, the race was finally back on the road and our MCKEP man turned his thoughts to a few years prior when he lead Savery over the next few KM through the cheering crowds – what good times they were.
Maintaining the effort, the gap was no longer growing, and the fine form of Savery was showing slight signs of deterioration – including the classic ‘paddle hand’ technique. Perhaps there was a chance of a Simkiss victory after all? For the second time in the race Simkiss was again trying to determine the final outcome and write his race report having not long since passed the halfway mark. Along Newbold Terrace the support for the MCKEPian was inspiring, bringing a faster fourth mile of 5:22, and as the course edged the Pump Room Gardens Simkiss was closing the gap and gaining confidence.
A switchback in a course seems commonplace in many races nowadays, and is possibly the most demoralising thing you could come across when you’re running full pelt… slamming the brakes on to turn 180 degrees on a sixpence and try to get yourself back up to full chat once again takes a huge effort. Regency 10k is blessed with 3 such turns (well, two and a half) in the space of about 50m as the course navigates itself onto a pedestrian underpass. Tactically, this coincided perfectly with Simkiss closing in on Savery, and with a surge at every turn, Simkiss had closed the final 15m gap by the time the race had reached the Leamington Bowling Greens.
Simkiss knew a big effort to move past and open a gap would likely break the elastic, and it did. Rounding Victoria Park saw a split of 5:13 for the mile (including the switchbacks), and perhaps more importantly a new Strava segment CR for ‘Victoria Park Clockwise’. Eyes focussed firmly forwards Simkiss could sense he had an increasing gap but kept the pressure on as he approached the Band Stand at 9km. Support from Phil Gould and comment on the size of the gap gave confidence, and with it the ability to mentally relax.
Round Jephson Gardens, there was now a sizeable gap and whilst Simkiss had relaxed, the pace hadn’t really dropped; the slightly uphill mile had been ticked off in 5:18. Two right turns and a show boating home-straight later, the finish line was crossed in 33:08, Savery following in 33:35.
Whilst the time was a little slower than 2013 (4 seconds), the mudrun opening half of the race more than accounted for this. Notwithstanding the fact that the mudrun 5km split wasn’t accurately taken… if we assume the first 5k was indeed around 17:10, then the second 5k by calculation must’ve been covered in around 15:58 – only seconds slower than Simkiss’ 5k PB. A fantastic confidence booster for next weekends Zurich marathon.