Report by Peter Simpson on our Midlands targeted event. In the photo from the left: Cedric David, Peter Simpson, Kevin White & Andrew Knight.
Arranging overnight accommodation in Birmingham with a friend, I still had 5-6 miles to cycle in cold conditions but no frost. As soon as I started pedalling, a bus went by and thoughts went through my mind! I started (cycling) so I will finish the journey by bike, at least it was mostly downhill on the fold-up bike and the roads were almost deserted so could safely use the dual carriageways. Reaching the boundary of the city centre and thinking I had plenty of time and not far to go I decided to warm up the lower legs by walking the rest of the way. As the crowd of runners started to build up, it was not obvious where to find the National Indoor Arena despite the odd permanent sign. There were pathways in all directions and buildings everywhere that seemed to have some connection with the event. By the time I entered the NIA it was 8.25 with a 9am start. The officials were also reminding us regularly that the secure baggage area will close in a few minutes! Were the marshals really going to stop us from using the baggage facility after 8.30? Panicking a little I soon got changed but forgot about adding the chip to a shoe! My baggage point was over in the far corner but managed that hurdle!
With 25 minutes to go I still needed to use the toilets and realised that I had not had a drink since before 7am. The NIA toilets were officially out of bounds to runners so had to join the long queue in Symphony Hall. I thought my chances of reaching the start in time were slim but somehow just made it although could not get onto the road until the race got underway. Luckily Symphony Hall was close to the start line so it only took 3 minutes to cross the line but could have easily been 10 minutes. Everyone seemed to just walk to the start line and slowly start running. I was immediately overtaking at every opportunity and had to dodge some charity runners with their buckets. Unfortunately the clear sky was to our disadvantage early in the run with the sun blinding those without sunglasses. Fortunately I did not witness any accidents or come to grief myself.
I was led to believe that the course was fast or flat so was still thinking in terms of a fast time. After about two miles there was a shout of encouragement from Helen Watkinson. I was relieved to reach the first drinks station and soon afterwards I passed Andrew Knight who was not looking his normal self. Later I learned he was unwell but took the risk. The course took us south for the first 5 miles where we did a large u-turn but going uphill. It was not long before we could see runners behind us on the other side of the road that I had not noticed much earlier in the other direction, they were probably too quick and fewer in number. I think we saw the backmarkers before turning right towards Edgbaston cricket ground where I saw Helen again and onto Cannon Hill Park where we completed a loop. Back in 2008 there were 4 VRUK members running a 10K here.
The course remained fairly flat until arriving at the ring road and the dip under a major bridge at about 10 miles. My pace was still going well but from roughly 5 miles I could feel my calves so there was some concern what it might lead to later. The climb after the bridge was quite testing but as we turned off the ring road there was still another significant climb and each time we turned a corner we contniued to climb. Fortunately I was still going at a good pace but wondered how long I could keep it going before slowing. It was during the climb that I met Cedric who tried to keep up with me. Reaching the top I was anticipating a long descent towards the finish but in fact it was mainly flat with only a short downhill going under another bridge. I hardly noticed the miles markers throughout the race and the last two miles seemed long especially when we took a detour to compete a loop.
Throughout the race I had not checked my time which is quite normal nowadays so when I approached the finish, despite the slow start I was still hoping to be uplifted with a fast time but in fact the clock was showing about 1.38.45 which translates to a chip time (had I worn it) of about 1.35.50. The support in the suburbs and at the finish was superb. We saw Helen twice more and how she managed to reach the various points to support us was an achievement. Maybe she ran? Crossing the finish line was not the end of it apart from stopping your personal clock. There were various stalls spread out along the ring road, one for each size to claim your bag of rewards. We also were given a foil blanket although the noticable wind here negated any benefit. Leaving the ring road we still had a long walk back to the NIA.
Given the complexity of the start/finish, it was no surprise that we did not meet up as planned, in fact Brindley Place was shaded and cold but luckily Cedric & Helen found a warm spot in Centenary Square near the music stage. Getting lost on my way back from the NIA, I bumped into Kevin White (still in his VRUK kit) who directed me to find Cedric. This was Kevin’s first meet-up of club colleagues. The suffering Andrew Knight was also present. Approx chip times of our runners: Cedric 1.38, Peter 1.36, Andrew 1.52, Kevin 1.47 and Chris Dhondee 2.10. One other vegan runner that we know who finished was Joel Lawson who we believe achieved the fastest time of 1.35.19.
Four of us rounded off the event with lunch in the Symphony Hall cafe nearby followed by a walk back through the city centre where we found a campaign stall being run by Animals Equality. It was also an opportunity to distribute some flyers for the West Midlands Vegan Festival in Wolverhampton on 30 October.