Breaking the Duck after 25 years

Ed: Started running on the road when I was 25 years old and run my first event in Reading, the Golden Arrow 10K, 20 October 1985. At that time cloth badges were quite common as a memento and still have my original tracksuit top covered in sew-on badges.

Into my thirties, my times for 10K were still not great, around 40 mins and occasionally as low as 43 mins when the standards were higher than today. The mid to late 1990s was the breakthrough when times went as low as 38 mins and 37.53 is my PB on a flat course in West London.

Shortly after the millennium I began to suffer regular calf strains but was not prepared to have a long break. Times of course suffered and were generally no higher than 42 mins for several years. I also found it difficult to build up enough fitness to attempt many half marathons and the marathon was out of the question. It was only when I left my desk job in 2006 and became more active during the week that the injuries reduced which allowed improvements. Times lowered to 41 mins and at the Chichester 10k in October 2007, achieved 40.55.

Competition in the V40-49 age group has always been high so chances of an individual prize have not been worth considering. It was only when I ran the Watford Autumn 5 miles off-road challenge in November 2007 with a field around 200 I began to see that a category prize was possible in the over 50 age group. Still no chance in the V40-49 group. Two weeks after my 50th in November 2010, the Watford Autumn Challenge was scheduled. I was feeling confident especially as I only had a short ride across town from the railway station.

Given the lack of competition so I thought, I lined up close to the start line and went off at a fair but sustainable pace, uphill early on. Many did pass me but they were generally young (or senior) runners. I did rein back many of these runners apart from one runner who appeared to be in my age group and finished a few seconds behind him. At the presentation I was still anticipating victory as the other runner just ahead was a V60 so not in competition for the V50 prize. Unfortunately there was another V50 runner about a minute ahead.

My next target event for the V50 prize was the Prestwood 10K, an event of similar standard and numbers of entries. I ran it in May 2010 aged 49 and despite returning from injury, still finished the course in 21st, time 43.22 and noticed that the 1st V50 time was only 44 mins. I immediately thought that I must run it again when I shall be a V50.

The build-up to the 2011 Prestwood 10K was not ideal, missing some training in April and in the days leading up to the event was not in the best of health. I still went but there were delays on the local train to Tring thereafter cycling the 13 miles or so, leaving me only 40 minutes for recovery at the venue. Starting the race I was soon feeling somewhat tired but did not let it dissuade me from my goal of the V50 prize. Once again many runners overtook me early into the race but gradually I reined them back until there were few in sight in the last 2K or so. I was still struggling, not helped by the wind this year in the later stages. I was not sure of my time at the finish but guessed around 43 mins. I did not get too excited as at Watford last November, especially as the presentation was quite low key. The male V50 prize winner was almost the last to be announced and it was indeed me. Unfortunately like all other prize winners I was given a box of Cadbury’s Roses chocolates. It was what followed that was more pleasing when some of the audience present noticed that I was a cyclist and were interested in the double achievement. On that occasion I was in fact running (& cycling) for the Vegetarian Cycling & Athletic Club who had 5 members running the event.