I better do something before I start getting too fat

I’m no stranger to running. As a teenage I was quite a handy athlete on the local / regional scene up North, concentrating on 800m. At 17 years old I ran 1min 53secs over that distance and represented the County and ran in the English Schools Championship on track and cross country. In those days I lived less than ½ mile from the local track and there seemed to be little else that occupied my time. If you go searching Google, unfortunately, you won’t find anything. We are talking about the late 80’s / 90’s when I used a telephone box to phone home, my first car had a manual choke and the TV had four channels.  I then went off to Staffordshire University with thoughts of progressing academically and athletically. Staffordshire University at the time was considered to be one of the best educational establishments for athletics behind Loughborough, Birmingham Uni and some of the London Colleges. Distracted by independence, cheap beer and girls perhaps my focus waivered somewhat and I didn’t quite achieve what I wanted to athletically. I moved to Cambridgeshire in the late 90’s and picked up the Senior Men’s 800m crown around 97/98 before hanging up my spikes.

As the years rolled by I dabbled with running on a very ad hoc basis, until the summer of this year (2014) when an expanding waist called for immediate action before it was too late. Encouraged by Claire and Sam, a trip down to Ramsey Road Runners beckoned. I had paced Sam around the Abbey Fun Run for the previous two years and was out kicked by my 8 year old in the last 100m of this year’s event. Back in the day, my sprint finish was an attribute I relied upon to beat the opposition, now I couldn’t move my legs fast enough to beat my 8 year old son. Whilst, Sam had improved his time by over a minute and ran 11mins 2secs, and I was really pleased for him, I was not mentally prepared for him to take the bragging rights. I was brought up in a competitive environment and the knock I had taken had ignited my fire to compete again and set myself some targets. I also realised my diet and lack of exercise was not doing me any good. I wanted Sam to see his dad competing again and hope it encourages him to do better himself.

My first attendance at a Ramsey Running Club training night was a welcoming and friendly one. It was good to hear banter and the tales of the previous weekend’s races. I had done some training on my own in the weeks before whilst on holiday to try and get back into running. I also did a few Parkrun’s at Hinchingbrooke. I had been told most midweek runs are a 5 mile circuit around Ramsey & Bury but I also heard mention in the training room of ‘efforts’. Darren looked and talked like a decent athlete and it was too early for me to be doing ‘efforts’. The others there also looked pretty serious. I decided to tag along and despite being dropped pretty early one it was good to get round. I wasn’t to be disillusioned and tried to establish a routine of getting out for a run each week at the club and when I get back from work, rather than putting on the TV. I decided to join the club. The training became easier, I recovered quicker and my competitive edge has started to return.

My introduction back to racing was on a very warm October morning at Priory Park, St Neots for the first Frostbite Friendly League. It was great to see so many people participating and demonstrates the healthy appetite for these type of events. To get round was an achievement, it was hard work and in hindsight I went off too fast. This event had shown me how much I’d missed running. Whilst by its very nature an individual sport the event requires a team score and this fuelled my motivation and adds to the togetherness amongst the runners.

Onto the second Frostbite Friendly League event at Bushfields, Peterborough and in the lead up tales amongst club members of this being a fast course and a large field would be assembled. Conscious of my over exuberant start a month earlier I decided to position myself further back at the start line. It seemed to do the trick and I hit the first mile mark at my target pace. I felt good and going into the last mile could see the familiar gait of Gavin Stokes in his red Ramsey vest ahead. Despite my best efforts I could not get close to him. The training was starting to pay dividend though and I was happy with the run. I had finished 44 places higher than St Neots and it was a bigger field. I’d also average under 7min per mile. Again, I qualified as a team counter and for me this is a huge motivator. Others were dependant on my performance.

The latest race instalment came in the mud bath of Hinchingbrooke Park for the third Frostbite race. In anticipation, I’d purchased a pair of ‘Trail’ shoes but nothing on my feet could have compensated for the deep claggy mud in places. It certainly was a challenge. Following my previous performances I’d set myself a target of bettering my finishing position at Bushfields. I considered times pretty irrelevant on the difficult terrain. I felt though that Gavin, an experienced season campaigner might be in my sights. Approaching the last mile or so I’d not seen Gavin and was expecting him to come surging past with the sprint finish so many had talked about. Thankfully, I’d got the better of him this time but I’m sure the competition in the middle order will continue. Again, I improved on my placing, finishing 23 places higher than the previous event and I was encouraged to see those ahead of me (Simon Mead, Steve Hall, Darren Paine, Shaun Walton, Andrew Brett and Lisa Marriott) congratulating me as I approached the finish line.

As 2015 approaches I hope to continue improvements in the Frostbite League and would like to crack the top 100, run some 10km’s, 10 mile races, possibly a half marathon and hopefully run in some of the team relay events.

I have found Ramsey Road Runners to be a very friendly welcoming club, incredibly encouraging and there is a great atmosphere on the Monday and Wednesday club nights and at races. Thank you to all those people who make it happen and seeing so many juniors turning up on a Wednesday night bodes well for the future of the club.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. Good luck in 2015.

Neil

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