Grand Prix #1 – Club Mile race report

The first race for the club “Grand Prix” season is always the club mile which is held at Kingsmeadow Athletics track, which is just up the road from the club, next to the picturesque Cambridge Estate. This year’s club mile was on Wednesday 4th June, when there had been some rain during the day but by 7pm the sun was out and the track had dried out nicely. Things were looking good for a nice summer evening run. Even our nemesis at the track, the lady with the wheelchair athletes was being helpful, laying out cones for her athletes to use lanes 4-8 and seemingly not minding we were sharing the track for a change.

We had a huge turnout of 52 runners (which equates to roughly 32% of our total number of current club members), plus helpers and family members so Kingsmeadow was awash with blue, red and white vests. Unfortunately it was also shortly to be awash in a different manner. During the warm-ups an ominous black cloud was approaching on the horizon accompanied by the sound of distant thunder. The first few drops of rain resulted in everyone shifting their belongings to the covered stands which proved to be a wise move, as shortly after a lot of heavy spots of rain came down from the apocalyptic clouds above.

So in the true British style of “it’s only a bit of rain” the first group of runners lined up to start their race, with the rain rapidly changing from “a few drops”, to “steady”, then “monsoon” conditions. This year the decision had been made to drop the usual men’s and ladies races and run two “pace group” races divided into those expecting to run the mile faster or slower than 6 minutes 15 seconds. In my opinion this worked really well as it allows people to have a proper race with others, rather than running on their own for the majority of the race because they are much faster or slower than the other runners. Being one of the runners in the slower group I really enjoyed it as I had a nice battle with a few people of similar pace and didn’t feel completely demotivated like I would have at the end of the faster group race.

The first race seemed to cause much amusement for the spectators, with Peter Grecian commenting he hadn’t laughed so much in ages. It was certainly tough going out on the track, the back straight was ok with the rain and wind at your back, but in the home straight you were battling against it with the added bonus of sucking up water through your nose with every heavy intake of breath. Someone had managed to flip the tannoy system switch in the stands too, so on the back straight there was some odd noise that sounded like you were being heckled by someone just out of sight. My running shoes were properly squelching with water by the end, but those who ran the New Forest Marathon a couple of years back inform me that this was light drizzle compared to that.

The first race finished but the rain showed no sign of doing the same, so the start of the second race was delayed for a while with a number of people warming up in the rows between the seats in the stand. Eventually we realised the rain wasn’t going to stop any time soon, so the second faster race started. Alastair McGeoch-Williams took an early lead with Chris Wilson on his shoulder, but by lap 3 Alastair had a good lead of 100 meters or so and finished in a time just over 5 minutes to win the race ahead of Chris. Libby Marchant was the first lady across the line to take the first trophy of the season. Full results will follow when Libby and Richard have processed them.

Richard Kirk provided some helpful technology for the race, with a race video to appear on YouTube in the near future, and race photos available by clicking here.

A big thank you has to go out to the volunteers and finish line crew who stood in the rain so we could all run! It was also great to see a few races returning that we haven’t seen in a while – Zoe Foster, Wendy Ashburner and Dominic Collier. Also thanks to Ann Bath for supplying the cakes after the race!

Next Grand Prix race is the Richmond 10K on 22nd June.