Saturday, 21 October 2006

The road from Peterborough

This is my pre-New York sign-off. I have been training for the marathon on 5 November, and all is going well. Perhaps there haven't been as many miles as there might have been, but there have been some long runs, and some very fast ones, and the taper now begins. However, before getting down to New York, allow me to describe the joys of running through suburban Peterborough. Peterborough has a cathedral, therefore it must have a suburbia, right?

The Great Eastern Run, very much a poor cousin of its northern and southern cousins, was held in Peterborough on Sunday. A few more than 2000 runners lined up in pens that didn't seem to have entrances or exits -- you had to vault into them. I was in the second pen. Yes, there was a whole pen of people who were (meant to be) faster than me. The pens appeared to be equal sizes. Judging by the results, that means that there must have been close to a thousand people in the rear pen, and about 20 in the front. They were doing their warm-up sprints at the front.

Peterborough is relatively flat, and sufficiently built-up to be wind free, at least away from the river. Along the way small groups of local residents drank their tea and offered lukewarm support. Lukewarm is actually pretty good when you're failing. At the front it grew quite thin. By about six miles I was occasionally passing people, but for the most part formed temporary alliances with others temporarily travelling at similar velocity, before they fell away. At eight miles a guy pulled up alongside me. "What pace are we going?" he asked. "Six twenty-seven," I replied, "if we keep going at this pace we'll break 1:25". "Right," he said, "it's just that it's my first race and I had no idea what to do, so I've just been following you." Which he continued to do until falling back a little no more than a mile from the end.

At nine miles I spotted a female runner slowing in my direction. She had very nice form, and lots of dark curly hair. I caught up with her. "Hi." I said. She looked at me like I shouldn't have been there. "Copenhagen marathon, right?" "Yes," she said. It was Sara, the toothsome and very speedy (PB at marathon 3:01, which takes her to the elite start at London with 43 minutes to spare) runner from Leicester I'd spoken to at the end of the Copenhagen marathon (see previous posting). "Well done," she said with a hint of bitterness as I pulled away.

Things were feeling pretty good at that point, and a good sprint along the river for the last quarter of a mile or so meant that I came in at 1.24.39, taking 32 seconds off my PB. Other runners from my club showed up in due course and broke down in tears having destroyed their PBs beyond all expectations. I'm not sure why it's such a fast course -- perhaps it's the desire to leave and go somewhere where the main attraction isn't the passport office -- but it is to be recommended for fast times.

Sara showed up in due course. I think she exploded at mile 9 and limped in at 1:29. I'd like to think it was all down the arrhythmia caused by my smiling at her at mile 9, but it was probably just that she started out too fast. She was annoyed with that, but here's the irony: she was collected by her coach and taken to the winners' tent to receive her prize. And I wandered alone back to the car.

New York on the 5th. Target 2:59.59. Think good thoughts.

J