McCarkiss marketing officer had secured elite entries for the McCarkiss athletes at the Cheshire 10k, Arley Hall, Cheshire – more commonly known as ‘oop North’. As the squad assembled for the journey and piled into the team bus, it was a half-fit Simkiss in the drivers seat, and his oversized kit bag for company – for nobody else would be coming.
After careful consideration in the preceding days over whether to bother racing in Cheshire or not (for various reasons), Simkiss reasoned he could stay sat on the sofa being lazy on Friday evening if he agreed to make the journey to race on Saturday – which was an easy decision to make whilst already sat on the sofa late on a Friday afternoon. A comfortable and clear 2hr journey on the M6 saw an early arrival into the partially flooded and muddy car park – a trot along the ‘gravel’ (read: rocky, muddy, gritty, hard packed and puddle filled trail path) onto a wet field and back over a waterlogged field via the portaloos saw race number collected and feet soaked and cold – the organisers did in fairness warn this may be the case and suggested bearing in mind that it might be a little muddy when choosing footwear, which resolved the problem entirely. After careful consideration Simkiss opted not to race in wellies and was content warming up with numb feet.
2mi warmup completed and Simkiss’ calves were still feeling the effects of Tuesday’s surprisingly spritely track session with Jordan (the non-boobed male runner from Nuneaton variant). With 5 mins to go until race start, Simkiss stripped to his skimpy race kit and fresh footwear, and toddled towards the start line, performing a few strides along the way and doing his best to avoid the puddles. Noticing there were more athletes still warming up than normal with 2mins until the start time, a bemused Simkiss arrived at the start line, amazed that for once he wasn’t the last to arrive… it turns out the race start had been delayed… well that or Simkiss had got his timings wrong.
With the option of being 15mins early for once, Simkiss swiftly departed heading back towards the car, partially to keep warm, partially so he could check he’d got the correct race start time before casting blame and judgement on others.
9:45(ish) and the race was finally underway, in what felt like the start of the National XC Champs, a crowd charged towards the first corner, limbs clattering between athletes and muddy water being splashed and sprayed to head height and beyond – after 200m Simkiss was regretting his decision to race without socks, as his race shoes were already filled with gritty water which would’ve undoubtedly caused great discomfort over the course of the race had his feet not already lost all sensation through numbness. With calves giving an unsubtle reminder of what a stupid idea it was to race in shoes with virtually zero cushioning, the only thing preventing Simkiss from pulling out the race was the fact he’d spent a few quid on diesel to get there.
1km and some cheeky sod cuts off about 20m off a corner by running across the grass –
“I’m all for taking the racing line, but this guy was taking the piss – I took mental note of his vest so I could complain after the race if he beat me”
There would be no looking at the watch today – it was to be run purely on feel, but in the interests of including some actual data relating to the race, the first mile was unknowingly completed in 5:14/mi, and mile 2 in 5:13/mi – on track for a 32:30 finish. Positions were changed between a cluster of runners including Simkiss, and aside from the screaming calves and numb feet, the legs generally felt good, the limiting factor was undoubtedly the lungs. After a gentle elevation gain in mile 3 saw a slower split of 5:23, Simkiss began to lose out and fall away slightly from Graham ‘muscles’ Green, having passed through 5k (again unknowingly) in 16:29.
With fatigue setting in, the mental battle becomes a strange thing – “how do I feel? Am I going too fast? Can I maintain this to the end? Do I need to slow down? Could I speed up?”, no sooner have the questions been answered, they’re being asked again, only more intently… By 6km, I’ve usually given up answering and tell myself to ‘just keep running’…
Gaps were starting to open and the gentle downward slope had seen Simkiss re-pass Green by 7km. A fragmenting field saw Simkiss moving away from Green and closing in on a fading fast-starter, whilst losing ground to another he’d jostled with in the early km’s.
4th mile done in 5:15… 5th mile in 5:12 as he caught and passed the fader, followed by a lactate enriched 6th mile slowing back to 5:21… Simkiss had made the journey North hoping for a time of 33:0X (or better), and was accepting of the idea of a time up to 33:30, so to be pushing down the muddy home straight to see a blurry vision of a timing clock reading 32:XX was far from soul destroying. A finish time of 32:40 is certainly encouraging given the level of training since the post marathon break, and could suggest a possible PB challenging performance at Telford in December.
Berlin Marathon report…? Who knows… it may get written one day…