A sudden dip in temperatures meant an icy start to the day as Wigan Harriers headed up the M6 to Bilsborrow for the Guys 10 miler this year. One or two of our number may have been hoping for a postponed race given the marrow chilling conditions and the prospect of 10 miles around the icy country lanes of Preston. Host club Garstang RC put paid to such lily livered hopes with an early morning gritting operation to make sure the route was frost free and good to go in time for the 10:30am start.
Representing the Harriers were Dave Waddington, Kevin Edwards, Chris Burgess, Neil Prescot, Graham Millington and Julie Platt, well supported by Jacqui Jones. The turnout would have been higher were it not for a complete sell out of this popular local event, (318 finishers). A gentle 2 mile warm up jog confirmed both an ice free surface to run on, and the bitingly cold temperatures in which to do it. Our runners were grateful for the still air and clear skies which allowed at least a memory of warmth to penetrate the day from the low winter sunshine. A frozen squirrel just before the mile mark seemed an ominous testament to the weather!
Kit decisions were tortuos, with only Graham Millington bottling it completely and opting for a base-layer beneath the Harriers vest, along with Buff, hat and gloves to complete the Mardy outfit. Dave Waddington who kept the honour of the club intact with just vest and shorts derided Grahams’ faint hearted attire with the words, “you’re running in a Onesie!”
The race starts on the potholed car park next to the Thatched Hamlet pub/hotel just off the A6. The still frozen puddles on the start finish section proved to be the most difficult terrain of the whole event, particular so during the massed start as footing is tricky due to the numbers making their way out onto the course. Once out on the open tarmac, the slight downhill start encouraged a fast first mile on closed roads.
Kevin Edwards led Harriers in the early stages with Dave Waddington in close attendance. Chris and Julie kept each other company with Neil not far behind and Graham bringing up the rear. Sadly, Chris didn’t make it much further than the dead squirrel before his own race expired with a calf pull. Chris began the long walk back to race HQ hoping to get there before the race leaders finished!
The course makes its way out into the countryside for the first 3 and a half miles, before beginning a long 4 mile loop along quiet lanes and back to the main road. The final 2 and a half miles retrace the “out route” back to the Thatched Hamlet Inn. Its about as flat as you are likely to find anywhere, apart from the odd canal bridge crossing and few gentle inclines here and there. The toughest section is the last half mile or so up a gentle but wearying incline and a final short sharp pull up to the car park in the last 200metres.
Kev Edwards relinquished his leading position to Dave Waddington in the later stages of the race and expected to be overhauled by Chris as he felt himself pushing hard to maintain pace. Dave had managed to maintain a steady pace throughout, and with Chris already out of the race it was Dave and Kev who finished in formation as 2nd and 3rd V45 in 1:03:41 and 1:03:47, (34th and 35th overall)
Just 3 minutes behind was Julie Platt who was competing in her first 10 mile event. Julie had found herself settled in with a close matched pack of runners from early on, and had spent most of the race in their company. Running a consistent 6:40 pace she came home in 1:06:47 as 8th lady and 2nd F40. As first F40 was also 2nd placed lady overall, Julies’ performance earned her a race prize to go along with the special commemorative cheese given to all finishers. Anyone receiving a very generous night for two at the Thatched Hamlet Hotel from the Platts this Christmas is entitled to be suspicious…
Running without his Harriers vest thanks to a logistic mix up was Neil Prescott who had the biggest support crew of the Harriers runners in the form of his wife and family. “Are you going to be a runner like Daddy when you grow up?” he inquired of his little one, who took one look at the arctic conditions from under his hood and promptly marched off for the warmth of the pub! Neil pounded out a solid 6:50 pace to find himself in 82nd place in 1:08:34.
For Graham this was the second time he had competed over the distance in a fortnight, having set a new 10 mile best at the Preston Guild race 2 weekends ago. After a steady start he gradually upped the pace in the second half to find himself passing runners all the way up to the dead squirrel at mile 9. It was a matter of holding on as long as possible for the final mile before crossing the line in 114th place and shaving a further 15 seconds off that still shiny PB for a 1:12:12 finish.
With cheeses safely stashed the post race analysis took place in the highly convivial surroundings of the Thatched Hamlet bar room, (coffees only!). Chris Burgess made up for his lack of cheese with a complimentary copy of Lancashire Life as tired runners contemplated how race winner Ben Fish could possibly be less than delighted with his 51:52 finish!