The Alan Seddon Thank You 10k in Blackpool on Saturday, (05.05.13), was the perfect opportunity for four of Harriers finest this weekend. Gary Fitzpatrick, Gary Wane, Peter Mills and myself, (Graham Millington), all felt the pull of this fast, flat, PB perfect course to capitalise on recent good form. Held on the paths and roads around Stanley Park this race followed the same route as the rest of the Fylde coast Running series with a fabulous finish on the race track itself.
Gary Fitzpatrick had a PB still shiny from the Bolton 10k a couple of weeks back, whilst Peter Mills’ own all time best was only set at St Helens 10k. My own PB of 43:57 was achieved at hilly Langdale Daffodil race 3 weeks ago leaving just Gary Wane with a PB older than his shorts, (circa 46 minutes dating back to Amberswood trail last year). It was Gary who was most inspired to smash a few records with the pre-race banter suggesting it was time for “eyeballs out”, “run hard or die trying”. I settled for a quote for the King of Running Excess himself Kev Edwards with “time to open the pain locker”.
The pre-race nerves were palpable as our fear-filled foursome ran through their various warm up regimes. For Mr Fitz it was a solo trot and a set of stretches whilst myself and Peter settled for a few laps of the track and a some strides. Mr Wane warmed up in his car…..
Alan Seddon himself was in attendance and raised a chuckle when he informed the runners assembled on the start line that he had originally objected to the event being held in his honour. His grounds: “I’m not dead yet!”. It was handshakes all round and last minute words of wisdom to “take it steady” and not go off to fast. Wise words indeed – and immediately ignored as all 4 runners took off at 5k pace for the first lap of the track as soon as the starter sounded. Gary Fitzpatrick soon disappeared towards the front of the pack with Peter, Gary Wane and I doing a bad job of a steady start at around 6 minute mile pace as we exited the track headed off into the park. Within a mile Peter Mills came tearing past me and we both settled in to a testing rythym over the first couple of miles.
I had wangled permission to attend from my good lady wife on the agreement that post race activities would include treating the family to a day out on the Golden Mile. So it was that both kids, my dogs and the prettier half of Team Wane, (Mel), were cheering us on in fine style at the 1.5 mile point. It always gives me a boost to get a cheer from my family, but not as much as Peter Mills it would seem. The kids shouted “Come on Daddy”, and Pete suddenly put 6 yards on me with a burst of speed. I’m still thinking that one through….
We went through the 3 mile point shoulder to shoulder in 20:14; close to 5k PB time for both of us. Pete was on a mission and I have to confess that his presence and his urgent speed acted as the an ideal pacemaker for my own PB ambitions. We re-entered the track for the start of the second lap in team formation; two black and red stripe vests working together in perfect step; the epitomy of teamwork.. Pete reached for a bottle at the water station , as did I. My marshal fumbled the pass and dropped the bottle..
“Never-mind”, I think, “I’ll finish Petes” as he glugged back a mouthful.
“Pete”, I said, as he threw away his bottle and gasped “What mate?”
See. You can’t beat teamwork like that!
As we left the stadium for the second time Peter dropped his pace slightly and I took the front for the first time since the early stages. Along the outer pathway I slowly reeled in a group of yellow vested runners and bagged 4or 5 places with Pete in tow. Then we hit the bridge. The barely noticeable, gentle incline of the little ornamental bridge in the middle of the park which by lap two had taken on the proportions of that big red one they have in San Fransisco! Lactic levels began to rise at this point and even using the tactic of counting strides to twenty couldn’t hide the fact that quads and calf muscles were finally beginning to tire.
We passed the support team another time but our cheery waves had now turned to weak grimaces. I didn’t know where Pete was but by now I was running alone with no-one ahead to provide shelter from the noticeable headwind around the lake, and no-one close enough behind to give me that vital push! I was reduced to counting to 100 as a last defence against the knots in my legs and the leaden feeling creeping over me and dragging down my pace.
At last the track loomed into view and empty legs found fresh urgency with the promise of the finish line. I gasped my way across the line certain of a PB but not certain of the actual time. Before I could gather half a breath to recover I found myself warmly greeted by Alan Seddon himself who was shaking the hand of every runner and having a few words as they passed.
Alan and his mate recognised the Harriers vest and passed a word or two with me of memories of Wigan Harriers of old. I’m ashamed to say I had no breath available to do more than nod and smile – but what a wonderfully touching thing for Alan and the race team to do -quite unique.
Barely had I collected my medal than Peter came hammering home and we re-grouped to see Gary Wane safely over the line. If there was any doubt how hard Gary had run, the sight of him on his knees holding on to the stadium wall unable to clear the finish chute spoke volumes.
We re-grouped , caught our breath and dissected the various performances. Gary Fitzpatrick was set to shave 3 seconds of his PB before a mix up at the finish saw him running 10 yards the wrong way, re-tracing his steps and finally finishing with no idea of his time. Gary sweated it out till the official results were published and was delighted to discover he still got a 38:37 to nick a second off his best time and 16th place.
I crushed my previous PB taking over 1 min 15 off for a 42:44. I was even more delighted to discover this was worth 39th place overall and 5th vet 40. My pace-maker Peter dug deep but just missed his PB by a few seconds in 43:32. This gave him 45th overall and 6th in his age group for a fantastic, gutsy performance.
Staking his claim for “run of the month” was Gary Wane with his tunnel vision finish, wobbly legs, near vomiting on the line and all round heroics to take a stunning 43:54. This was massive 2 minutes plus off his previous best time and is more than a little worrying for those of us just a minute or so ahead of him…
Maria Lowe came home as 2nd lady in only her second race back after recent injury. Maria runs for Horwich but there are more than a few Harriers who wouldn’t be competing at the moment without her magical physio skills. Well done and thanks!
The sun shone, the PBs tumbled and according to Gary Wane and his unofficial reckoning Harriers took 2nd place in the team competition of there had been one, (but there wasn’t). A cracking day out all round and perhaps the best medal I have collected so far!