After endlessly debating race strategy in the days leading up to the race, Chris Smullen and Neil Prescott headed north on Sunday for the Trimpell 20 Mile. This was going to be a real test of self control, with the target of pb’s in London at the forefront of our minds rather than a fast race here.
Neil: I didn’t have the best preparation for the race as one of my best friends was leaving to live down in London, so I had to attend his leaving doo on the Saturday night. I was a good boy and didn’t touch a drop of alcohol but getting in at 12.45 wasn’t the best idea…..
Chris: Conditions were pretty good but cold, so there were only a handful of entrants who decided to join the brave Wigan duo with the summer vest and shorts combo (although we both agreed that gloves were perfectly acceptable!) As 11am approached, the buzzing atmosphere at the start line on the athletics track was building nicely.
To match our “take it steady” approach, instead of elbowing our way to the front we heading towards the back of the pack almost out of ear shot of the starters pre race instructions. The race was soon underway and it felt so strange as we casually jogged around the track, milking the small crowd, before heading out onto the traffic free cycle paths of Lancaster. We had both decided that our race wouldn’t properly begin until 10 miles, so it was a case of keep the hand brake on and enjoy the scenery.
Neil: The first mile marker passed and it was clocked at 7.38 so we thought “bang on with the plan”. The next 2 miles were a little bit quicker but not much and then from mile 3 – 10 we said we’d run it at about 7.15 pace, so we proceeded just too slightly increase the pace. We leisurely went along our way chatting to each other thinking how comfortable it felt and then noted that nobody had passed us and we were gradually moving up the order passing others who had either gone off too quick or were simply running one pace.
Chris: Once beyond the 10 mile marker, the pace was stepped up to match the target marathon pace for London. It was a real confidence booster to clock up mile after mile, consistently within 5 seconds of this target pace and moving up the rankings as we did so. It was clear that most of the runners we passed did not expect to see us and were wondering what illegal substances the Wigan lads had taken mid-race!
Neil: We upped the pace again and every mile thereafter was around 6.50 so the plan was working a treat. Again nobody passed us and we went on their way to target a group or individual in front and overtook them 1 by 1. At mile 17 Chris said that he was going to increase the pace ‘to no faster than 6.40’ so we both went off and then Chris started to edge in fron. I looked at my watch and it was saying 6.35 so thought, “I’m not going quicker than this”. I did the remaining 3 miles at roughly 6.40 pace but Chris still finished a minute ahead of me although he wasn’t going to any fast than 6.40… hmmmmm.
Chris: At 17 miles, we both pushed on to finish strongly (Chris in 48th and Neil in 51st) out of a field of close to 400 entrants. But the time (around 2hrs 20mins) or position weren’t important on this day, it had purely been a training exercise in preparation for the streets of the capital in 5 weeks. Like all the top athletes, the lure of a chip barm in the sports centre afterwards proved too much…….you can take the boys out of Wigan, but not Wigan out of the boys!