Thursday, 16 May 2013

Holywood Stroll 5 mile race

This little gem of a mid-week race celebrated its 20th edition this week, organised by Dumfries Running Club, it’s a flat fast 5 mile race on deserted country lanes circling the village of Holyrood north of Dumfries. It’s the 3rd or 4th time I’ve ran it and the numbers seem to grow each year and this year’s 128 finishers stretched parking and access capacity almost to its limit.
My training plans called for a 10 mile run, but as DRC always support the Harriers club races to the full I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to reciprocate, add in the fact that I’ve got loads of friends in DRC and it would be churlish not to run it.

I hatched a Baldrick like cunning plan to leave work early, grab one of the limited car park spaces, trot round the 5 mile Stroll route, nip up to race registration, and part with my £3:50, stick on my number and then take part in the race but at a nice easy pace. This would satisfy the conflicting demands of my 10 mile training run, supporting a local race and not exposing my dire lack of pace because all my training has been for Ultra’s, as the meerkat says “simples”.
The route is almost entirely single track tarmac country lanes heading north of the Dumfries by-pass, whilst it’s not billiard table flat, it’s definitely flat enough for a 5 mile PB, and it’s a Scottish Athletics registered event for those aiming for club standard awards too.

Holywood Stroll Route
I changed at work to avoid any potentially embarrassing bare bum moments in the car park and by 5:30 I was heading off. Most of the route is bordered by farms and some parts of the road can sometimes be well decorated with mud and cow poo, but this year we were blessed with minimal mud and no poo. I couldn’t decide between a gentle jog or a full on blast round so settled for a middle of the road 7:25 minute mile pace. I pretty much immediately regretted my choice of a long sleeve polo necked thermal top and a waterproof, quite why I thought this was appropriate attire when the sun was out I don’t know. I was sweating liberally by mile 1 and glad that I’d got more sensible alternative kit back at the car. The wind swirls round on this flat area of land and despite running North, South, East and West the breeze was always in my face. I finished the 5 miles in an uneventful 37 minutes and headed back to the car to change and register.
As usual by this time,the car park was rammed and my fellow runners were demonstrating an ostrich like ability to abandon cars on grass verges with zero regard for fellow runners, I suspect this lack of parking may be the only or main limiting factor in growing this race.

Having traded the sweat inducing winter wear for more appropriate light compression top and club vest I headed up to register at Nunholm Sports club. Registration was low key and quick and with so many chums from DRC and ADAC to say hello to I only made it down to the start 10 minutes before the off.
I’d spotted Paul and Vicky Hart and baby Annabel in her racing pushchair, I congratulated Vicky on her recent 1st lady and 3rd overall at the Crawley 12 hour track race even prophetically joking how embarrassing it would be to be beaten by a bloke pushing a pram!

As I was planning to take it easy I started pretty much at the back of the field, managing not to race for all of 20 yards, before the dafty gene kicked in and I got fed up with slower runners in front. I bounced along the grass verge until the road was clearer and instantly decided that whilst I wasn’t going to risk an injury by trying to beat last year’s 34:28, I far preferred passing people than to just jogging along, game on!
I was only passed by 1 runner over the 5 miles, and you’ve guessed it………he was pushing a pram, Paul went by at mile 1 and remained around 50 yards ahead throughout, embarrassing eh!
Other than Paul I was pretty much passing people over the whole route, even shamelessly managing to milk the applause of the 6 spectators in Holywood village as I ran! My first mile I’d clocked a 7:20 but the subsequent 3 were all sub 7. At mile 4 I was trying to overtake a tall bloke dressed in black, but every time I went ahead he pushed back. Now I pride myself on always having a sprint finish but I resisted the temptation to tell him that he might as well not try as I’d beat him on the last 100m anyway. I’d also been progressively closing the gap on fellow Harrier Hazel Smythe, since the 3 mile mark, one advantage of our distinctive “where’s Wally” club vests is that you can spot them miles away.

As predicted I was neck and neck with man in black until about 300m from the finish, I cruelly let him get a 5 metre lead and held him there. 100 metres to go and I gave it the beans, passing MiB to finish in 34:59. Some 30 seconds slower than last year but all in all not bad given the complete absence of any speed-work in my training and the fact it was my second time round the route in 2 hours. I held out my hand to shake MiBs hand, he didn’t seem too chuffed at that. Hazel finished ahead of me claiming 3rd lady overall in 34:52, I’d narrowed the gap enough to salve my pride but couldn’t catch her.
I didn’t hang around for the prize-giving, I wasn’t being anti-social but it was getting cold and I was starving.

Well done to Race director Sandy Shankland and the team at DRC, see you next year.

Start Photo courtesy of Dumfries Running Club

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