There were just the 2 Harriers on the start line for this one - Jane Macdonald and myself, Ellie Sutcliffe. Upon asking Jane afterwards how she found it, she puffed out her cheeks, rolled her eyes slightly and exclaimed, 'After last week's cross country, I wanted a nice easy race this week. Well, I sure picked the wrong one for that! I suppose it's all good training though'... or something along those lines (it's been a week and I can't remember your words verbatim, so please don't sue me for misrepresentation Jane if they are slightly out!!). Jane in fact acquitted herself very well and finished in a commendable time of 1:47:16 (in the region of 9:30m/m pace - very good on this tough, hilly course) and placed a solid 137th out of the 259 finishers. As an indication of how tough this race is and of how good Jane's run was, the last couple of runners took over 3h10 minutes to complete the run, averaging around 17m/m pace! The poor marshalls must have been freezing as there was a very very stiff, cold wind on the starting and finishing field.
I had a little bit of a personal hurdle to overcome with this race as, although I won it last year, I twisted my ankle with about 2 miles left to go and hobbled home on it, so I wanted to avoid the particularly vicious pothole that cruelly singled me out this time round! My plan was to do a few miles before the race started to get my long run in for Grizzly training, so when we started I wasn't at my freshest and so I had mixed feelings about a strong Axe Valley Runner, Amy Greenhalgh, taking the race out to me from the go. It is nice to have an opportunity to have a good, competitive race with another female, but secretly I was hoping for a nice easy run, like Jane was, after having raced hard both previous weekends. But Amy went off hard, my competitivity levels soared, and it was game on! It took me a mile to draw level with her and then we ran neck and neck for the next 3 miles until a long uphill stretch came and I was able to get a gap. I worked hard on the killer hill up to the Obelisk at 5 miles and at the top I had enough of a gap to relax a bit and just keep working hard for home. By the end I'd managed to put 2 minutes between us to finish 15th overall in 1:23:44. 3 minutes faster than last year, encouraging, but I was flagging towards the end so much more work is needed to be done before the Grizzly!
Ellie at the finish - thankfully minus a sprained ankle this year!