Sunderland Road Relays Sunday 2nd April 2016
Grappling in the dark, I turned off the alarm as it bleeped away at the god forsaken hour of 5.30am. Opening my eyes to a pitch dark room, I reluctantly stumbled out of bed and peeled the curtain back to survey the world outside. Rain was pouring persistently down the window pane. Yep it was another lovely day for the Red Army to race!!!
Arriving at the usual designated pick up point, the troop clambered aboard the bus, ready and eager (if a little bleary eyed) for another invasion…..this time the Northern Road Relays in Sunderland
Like a true dedicated professional athlete Linda Huart tried to make the most of the long bus journey by conserving energy and having a powernap. Now as we all know Linda is a very quiet (some would even say shy) soul. Unfortunately those around her where a little more raucous in their behaviour with Paul and Steve going so far as to have the audacity to selfishly conduct a conversation and disturb her sleep. Bear in mind gentlemen that your thoughtlessness may have played a part in the results of the mother / daughter battle….more of which later.
I’m not sure if the driver had been misinformed about the climate up in Sunderland, but he seemed to be attempting to acclimatise us to higher temperatures by whacking up the heating system on the bus. Anyway I certainly gained a good idea about what hot flushed may be like…… which I was kindly informed by Linda and Mandy I will start experiencing when I’m 45. Thanks ladies……can’t wait for this year’s birthday now!!!
As the bus proceeded on the journey up north, with endless amounts of sweets, cakes and nibbles being passed up and down the aisle, the sky remained the colour of Tupperware and the rain continued to come down. Pulling into the sports ground it was clear that this weather was set in for the day. On the plus side for some of us it was still going to be a doddle compared to the elements in Blackburn!!!
The course consisted of a 2 mile loop around the Sunderland Harriers and Silksworth Sports Complex park (two loops for those runners doing the 4 miler) with two lovely short but significant hills, one at the start and one at the end of the course. These proved to be very effective in taking a little air out of the lungs and power out the legs. Well we don’t want running to be easy do we!!! The men’s race was a 12 leg relay, while the women’s was a 6 leg relay.
As I took my place with Debbie Jacketts at the start line on the track for the first 4 mile loop, I tried to subtly suss out the competition. Conversations I had with other runners led me to believe that I stood a fair chance of doing ok against this field. How wrong can a runner be?!?! As the gun went off I got swept up by the moment and (with hindsight) set off way too fast. By the top of the hill I was gasping for breath as the majority of the other runners trotted off into the distance like a herd of gazelles bounding across the savannah. I soon realised that the standard of the competition was going make this a harder race than I had anticipated. There were plenty of marshalls along the route and all were extremely encouraging with their praise ….I like to think the words “Go on East Hull Harriers” helped a little in getting me up that damned hill for one last time on the final lap. As I came hurtling down the hill back onto the running track towards the finish I found an extra surge of energy as I could hear my fellows harriers spurring me on. This encouragement was there throughout the long day for each and every Harrier as they came in to the finish line.
As tents and marques were being packed up Mike Peterson did a great impression of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, being the last runner for the Harriers men’s B team and I think the last runner of the day to complete the loop. In the words of Roy Castle
“if you wanna be the best, if you wanna beat the rest, oo-ooh dedication’s what you need.”
Good on you Mike for powering through a rather desolate loop to the finish.
There was some fantastic running from every single Harrier throughout the day. Alec Gibson started off the men’s team A with a fantastic time of 20.48 for the 4 mile loop passing on to Johnathon Frost who came in at 11.47 (2 mile loop). For the women’s team there was again effort and dedication from each one of us. There were two particularly great times from Lucy Jones in 14:51 and Demi Johnston in 14:58.
Kadi Huart showed again that she is coming on in leaps and bounds with a brilliantly strong run, completing her 2 mile loop in 15:59.…finally beating the mother by 2 seconds!!!! While Linda was quick to point out (again) that she wasn’t well the stakes have clearly been raised for the next Huart battle.
The final results were as follows, with the Men’s Team A successfully going through to the 12 stage nationals in Birmingham (Saturday 16th April).
- Men’s Team A – 18th 3:08:09
- Men’s Team B – 44th 3:38:28
- Women’s Team A – 27th 2:00:12
- Women’s Team B – 33rd 2:16:27
This was my first time taking part in a relay race (thanks to those who explained to me when we arrived in Sunderland how it actually worked….. hahaha!) and it was fantastic to witness and feel the great team spirt throughout the day, from sharing food and drink (thanks Debbie and Lucy for the tasty baking!) to the cheering at the start and finish line.
Will I be getting up again at 5.30 in the morning to sit on a stinking hot coach for 6 hours to run 4 miles in the rain? Of course I will….even if my family is beginning to worry about my sanity!!!
So….what was the biggest achievement of the day? For me without a doubt it had to be learning how to put the infamous marque down. Hope I did ok with that Nige…. I truly feel like a Harrier now that I have completed this initiation. J