As McCarthy revelled in glory following his emphatic victory at the Warrington Parkrun, the foundations were laid for the MCKEP “Weekend of Winning” and the buck was passed to Simkiss to follow through with victory at Stratford-upon-Avon’s Shakespeare Half Marathon, the home town half of MCKEP’s Stafford born athlete.
As is this case every year – Simkiss half heartedly skim read the entry list and became lulled into a sense that the win was there for the taking. Pending no disasters, Simkiss should take the victory – on the proviso that better ‘unknown’ runners up – sound logic.
Much consideration had gone into race tactics – whether to race for position, or run to a set pace, and if so, what pace? After deciding that 5:27/mi would be the target pace (because 5:25/mi psychologically felt a smidge too quick), and once excuses for failure had been promptly conjugated following MCKEPs chief meteorologist forecast of headwinds from 8-12mi, it was ultimately a technological disaster which would dictate Simkiss’ race strategy.
Having specifically checked to ensure his Garmin was fully charged (96% charge was deemed within tolerance and could still be considered “full”), pressing the power button on race morning produced a beep, and a blank screen – a secondary deployment of the power button prompted the standard power-up screen – alas, ’twas accompanied with the dreaded “Low Battery” message. Today’s race would be, as them foreigners would say “sans Garmin”.
On the start line – Simkiss was now prepared to run on feel and had spotted a few challengers that could prove a notable threat; Orlando Corea (formerly of Bournville Harriers) being one. Orlando historically finishes ahead of Simkiss, but with the home crowd behind him, and to some extent a long absence from running for Orlando – Simkiss hoped he could come out on top. Another lean looking machine was spotted – not recognisable as being local, but he looked like a proper runner – lean physique, no beer gut, and porn shorts; not looking around nervously to eye up the competition, he showed the confidence Simkiss yearned for.
HAAAAARRRRRRNNNNNNN!!!! The starters horn sounded and the race was underway – 100m gone and ‘Runner-X’ was away by 10m… 200m in he was 20m ahead – and without a single hint of effort or fault in his form; “Well there’s the winner then” Simkiss and his lowly compatriots in the chasing group thought. Any thoughts Simkiss had of pacing himself off the lead vehicle’s timing clock were to be short lived as the leader went through the 1 mile marker in approximately 5:00-5:05… Simkiss and the chasing group passed through in 5:27 – perfect pacing against target pace but a long way adrift from the leader. This was the last time Simkiss would have any idea how his race time/pace was progressing.
By the second mile marker the timing clock was indistinguishable. Simkiss ran side by side with the Bourneville athlete known only as ‘Dean’ through the early miles – opening a gap to the next bunch. It wasn’t until 5mi where Simkiss began to edge away and assume his usual position in no-mans land. The steady incline up through Welford passing 6mi was enough to blunt Simkiss’ edge and for the first time the legs felt like they were starting to work. Athlete ‘Dean’ later confirmed passing through 6mi in 33:00 – 5:30/mi pace. Simkiss being a good 10+seconds up on this would’ve been marginally behind his target pace on 5:28/mi.
The big climb of the course approaching 8mi really began to drain Simkiss and the lungs were now working overtime too, the subsequent descent was steep and harsh on the quadriceps and core alike. The 5mi run-in to the finish now would be, for all intents and purposes, flat. (Huzzah!)
Passing 9mi Simkiss was unsure of his gap to 3rd place and was trying to maintain a comfortable pace to the end – yet the only pace that would’ve fulfilled the requirements of comfortable required the presence of an armchair and a banoffee pie. Easing off was not making things any easier – so the only option was to get it over and done with as soon as possible. Push on lad!
The course hit the monotonous ‘Greenway’ and Simkiss was flagging – his form was gone and he was grade ‘A’ Wombling. Could this be the after-effects of Operation Big Smoke? Could the Marathon still be in his legs after 2 weeks? The logical man would perhaps say so, and wooden legs McCarthy would certainly agree – but Simkiss was still stuck in the mindset that because it wasn’t a 100% effort, it can’t have taken that much out of him.
As the end of the Greenway came into sight, and with it a crowd of supporters – not even an injection of P.S. could lift Simkiss’ form and pace – it was Bristol all over again; thank f#ck there was only a mile (and a bit) to go.
Along the river, and around the final bend, the clock read 1:12:21 – which was satisfying to see “Not a bad effort that given how crap the last 5 miles have felt” Simkiss thought, “I’ll take that” – although by the time he’d reached the finish line the clock had ticked over to a less satisfactory 1:12:38.
Faster than last year [by 13 seconds], which is something positive to take away – but it’s still not where I want to be.
Simkiss will take this result and build on it – time now for him to bury his head in running theory and make drastic changes to the MCKEP plans for the coming months in desperation for a step change in running performance, not content to just train consistently for a reasonable period.