So a while back, Men’s Team Manager C.MacDog-McCarthy announced that there was a marathon relay in the London Olympic park which could be a good event for the Project to target. He excitedly declared that the £2000 first prize was a near certainty for a strong McCarkiss team, as probably no one fast would enter. In successive week, the MCKEP team read in AW of a handpicked GB elite squad, and then a crack team of top Kenyans who were after a world record and ‘sub 2hr marathon’. Hmm. Still, with a team already entered – winning wasn’t everything was it? It was therefore perhaps the announcement of century and certainly the decade that the elite teams were not eligible for prizes – perhaps a decision inspired by EMGPs recent policies. Game on.
With Adcock on holiday, Simkiss, McCarthy and Jordan were joined by project new boy Matt Poynton, who had agreed to get off his bike for a day to participate. After a text-book station rendezvous Team McCarkiss were on their way, and once Jordan had lead his first expedition of the day from one end of the train to the other to find the best 4 available seats (which looked remarkably similar to every other 4 available seats on the train) an uneventful 51 minutes later (following a challenging decision about which exit of the train would be least congested), the team of bumpkins found themselves blinking in the capital’s sunshine.
Jordan proudly announced that he had memorised the entire London transport network, and confidently led the way on an expedition to an overland train at St Pancras only to discover that the tickets were not valid, and as the project flapped around trying to get the right fare, the train merrily pulled away without them. All this was gold for project troll McCarthy who put it in his sizeable vault as ammunition against Jordan forever. As things turned out there was more than one train to the Olympic park that day – and rather than waste the £6 that Jordan had just spent buying a ticket for the 6 minute train journey, the team invested another £18 buying another 3 tickets for the team, rather than taking the (free) underground – it was well justified paying for the faster train though as the team cut things extremely fine to arrive at the stadium with just two hours until the race start.
By this point the game of spotting faster runners had reached an all-time fever pitch, as for once the UKA registered MCKEP team would actually be recognized by an event organiser. In a seating area with room for roughly 2000 people it took least 6 seconds to spot a good number of proper fast boys such as sub 30 10k man John Beattie. Project heads sank in the realization that there would be at least 3 quality teams in addition to the invitational elites. Jordan tried to pretend that he hadn’t expected to win anything, but no one was remotely convinced.
Runners were called to their pens 10 minutes before the (delayed) start, which was clearly anathema to ‘last minute’ Simkiss, but at the insistence of his team mates the project lead leg man made his way down to a fairly mixed bag of first leggers –certainly a far cry from even the regional 6 stage relays. As video footage proves, the gun went and Simkiss surged ahead of sub 1hr half marathon Kenyan Mike Kiegen. The metres flew by, however by the time the race entered its 6th yard Kiegen had found his legs and instantly opened up a stupendous gap. Team GB’s Hawkins, Beattie of Newham & Essex and Bishop of Team Saucony also passed ol’ thighs of McCarkiss before they left the stadium. However no one else did, and the remaining 3 MCKEP’ers were left scratching their heads about the whereabouts of “Team Thie” known to be made of top quality runners, the twitter feed of which McCarthy had picked up on. 4 legs of 10.5k to go…
Anxious minutes passed with MCKEP nails being chewed to the bone pondering if Simkiss had played blinder or blunder. It was possibly MCKEPs most exciting moment (to date) when Simmers entered the stadium scarcely a minute behind the Newham runner, in 5th place overall, and 3rd in the “prize-eligible” categories. It turned out that team Saucony and Team Thie were in fact one and the same team, meaning a podium finish was back on for McCarkiss (Team Thigh?) Indeed, it was only when Jordan had finished reading War and Peace for the second time that he realized Simkiss had also put a fair sized gap on the next team.
As far as the MCKEP race goes that was about as interesting as it got. Poynton, McCarthy and Jordan all proceeded to increase the gap whilst all running over a minute slower than Simkiss, obviously because they weren’t actually racing against anyone in sight (obviously). The international teams, plus Saucony and Newham all pulled further ahead with the Kenyans even lapping MCKEP. Conditions were challenging for everyone out there with hot sun and blustery winds making it tough going. Having said that, the project combining to finish some 11 minutes adrift of Paula Ratcliffe’s World Best, and the four top Kenyan’s barely scraping inside Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 (having failed miserably to break 2hrs) does put the magnitude of these records into perspective.
In the end then it was 5th (and 3rd prize) for the project, with Jordan doing his best to confuse the organizers by running down the wrong side of the track to finish. Whilst this would surely have led to instant disqualification for the entire team from an EMGP race, leniency was on hand, and MCKEP duly stepped up in their civvies, beer in hand, to collect their prizes, whilst the first and second placed teams (Saucony-Thie and Newham) kept things more dignified in their corporately funded matching kits.
Beer in hand then remained the theme for the evening, with McCarthy leading the way (for once), and the rest of MCKEP struggling to keep up with McCarthy (for once) in the quest for celebratory ales. The only let up in the relentless pace was when McCarthy realized he had lost his return ticket and spent several frantic minutes unpacking then repacking then unpacking and repacking his bag to look for it (unsuccessfully). It was never likely to end well for the 3 lightweights, and McCarthy was really the only one looking strong at the finish (for once). This blog generally subscribes to the principle of “what happens in the Euston area and on the train back to Rugby stays in the Euston area and on the train back to Rugby” however, the glory of Simkiss’ first leg had clearly shrunk his bladder, and all that remains to be said is that I wouldn’t drink out of his sports drink bottle if I were you.