Friday, 19 November 2010

Reflections on Dublin Masters

This was my first outing for Scottish Vets and a great experience, although my selection for the M45 team was far from straightforward since I spent most of last winter side-lined with a persistent adductor problem.

To re-gain some fitness I hiked 500 miles across the Pyrenees in July, and then only started running again in August with some ridiculously slow times.

Not surprisingly, I wasn’t initially selected. But in October at the West District Relays I found some form, and asked Alastair Macfarlane if there was any chance of getting a run at Dublin. I wasn’t hopeful, but in the end I was squeezed into the M45 team.

Race day at Santry Park dawned bright and sunny, but just as the M35 race was about to start the rain came on to nicely soften up the already muddy course. I started slowly and smoothly, sploshing though the wet muddy ground with mud and elbows flying.

After 600 metres the race was settling down. John Bell, Alan Derrick and Matt Ward all drifted by before I closed the back door and started moving up the field clawing back three Scottish places as I jumped Scott Martin, Tony Devlin and Louis O’Hare, with Denis Williams on my shoulder. I pressed on, and was caught by nobody else apart from Ian Johnston of Shettleston near the end Lap 2.

I stepped up the pace to go with Ian, and got dragged along in a bit of daze, concentrating on the 5-lap course to gather all my resolve for the final lap. As we hit the bell, things were really hotting up. The commentator was screaming with excitement as first 5 runners were all exchanging the lead, battling it into the finish.

In my own private hell I had 3 runners champing at my heels, all M45 category, two Northern Irish and one Welshman. Each time they pulled alongside I would jump back in front, feeling increasingly unsure I could fend them off for much longer.

With 600 metres to go I suddenly made a move, dropping these 3 runners as I charged up the hill towards Ian Johnston. I was closing him down fast, but then panicked and decided life would be simpler if I just held this gap.

I was now in the last couple of bends assuming any threat from behind had been dropped, when suddenly Northern Ireland’s Declan McCarthy came barrelling past at unbelievable speed. I was completely taken by surprise and had no response. But as we turned into the final 70-metre finishing straight, I decided there was still half a chance.

I sent my heart rate off the scale in a death or glory attempt to close that gap, but the finish line arrived just too soon and as we hurtled into the finishing funnel, and I was pipped by 1 second.

I don’t know why, but I find it incredibly frustrating to lose a place right at the end after working so hard to hold position, but of course all’s fair and all that, and this might be just the lesson I needed to learn to sharpen up my act for next time.

Overall, I was enormously pleased my run and delighted to make the team, and really enjoyed the whole weekend. I found it inspirational seeing all these older athletes still running at such a high standard. I certainly hope to get some more mileage out of my Scottish Vets vest in future!

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