Sunday, April 20, 2008

Redcar 0, Eden Runners 5

Julia King passed a late fitness test at sunrise to travel across the Pennines with a skeleton squad for the showdown on the tarmac at Redcar in the prestigious Tees Valley Half Marathon. The stakes were high, as ever, although team coach Paul Saager, who had travelled East ahead of his squad in order to check out the conditions, remained relaxed. 'I remain relaxed' said Saager (26) when I caught up with him after squad training in the week. 'We've got nothing to prove, everything to gain, nowhere to run (baby) and nowhere to hide' said the Eden Runners supremo, reclining in the bar at The Queens Head. 'Our preparations have been, as ever, meticulous, with no stone left unturned in our quest for honours. We've been careful not to underplay the dangers of overstating the importance of this fixture, so we haven't done so - and that's down to the squad. Our strength in depth has been put under the cosh in recent fixtures, where we've been asked to field teams in at least 4 races in the past 2 days. For a small club like ours, that's no mean feat. This is a massive club, and I have every confidence in my squad. Probably'.


And of course on the day, Saager's confidence was to prove well-founded. Dave Peacock was asked to reprise the holding role which earned him our Runner of the Race award at Lancaster's Three Bridges recently. His majestic performance at Redcar was testament to a training regime which would make a lesser man weep. Once again he held the team together. His midfield anchoring role enabled Saager (24), Julia King and a tiring Alan Marshall to pressurise the opposition further forward. King was surprised at the effectiveness of her own performance, coming as it did so soon after the away fixture at Hawkshead. North-East fans are steeped in sport, and they know an honest 100% performance when they see one. The accolades coming King's way at full time were no less than fully deserved after she had put a gruelling schedule behind her to once again put in a mighty performance for her Club. Meanwhile Saager (19), in typically self-effacing style, hailed his own performance as his best of the season.


Peacock, likewise, was pleased that his efforts are beginning to bear fruit. 'That's two bananas and an apple' quipped the South Shields-born maestro. Marshall was left to rue a mid-race blip which, he felt, cost him dearly. He spoke exclusively to me at full time, and revelaed that, sensationally, he was apparently assaulted by an insane kickboxer, which disrupted his rhythm early in the second half. Retrospective disciplinary action from the authorities is unlikely though, as the contentious (alleged) incident was not caught on camera.

Confidence (yes, again)

Kevin Whitemore was employed in the role of sweeper, which he carried off with his usual swagger. He was untroubled throughout, and, in difficult conditions, proved again that he is capable of competing at this level. ' I now feel I can kick on with confidence' said a tired but happy SuperKev '. Indeed, I put it to the ageless libero that, having got a few fixtures under his belt, his fitness levels are much more betterer than at any other previous time in his career so far, and to date - 'You're not wrong there'. insisted the Watermillock stalwart.


And so, another stern test for Eden Runners passed with flying colours. This performance will give the Club's supporters great hope, not to mention expectation, as the Championship moves on to the next phase. If the squad can remain injury free and reproduce the sort of gutsy performance on display here, then this Club can look forward, mostly to the future, with optimism.

Above, incidentally, is a profile of the course. That massive hill in the middle pinnacled at 180ft above sea level. And that sudden fall at the start is unexplained, as I've seen steeper gradients on a pancake.

The Anniversary Waltz

It is fell-running's answer to the London Marathon: crowds of runners at the start, a jostling squeeze through the narrow streets Town...and of course, the prospect of being overtaken by a man-sized broccoli. Or at least I thought I was. Must have been hallucinating.

A race of immense scale and proportion, the Anniversary Waltz seems to have grown into a legend. And each year, more people are drawn to running the Waltz. With a sell-out field of 400 and something, it's also one of the most supremely organised of races.

But perhaps it's most enduring quality is that, well, it is quite enduring. There's a point on the race (for me, around High Spy) where the physical side just melts away and all that is left is a mental struggle. The pain barrier is hovering close at hand, and all you are aware of is this primeval battle of mind over matter. An altered mind state that would have a street value of a good deal more than the 6 pound entry fee.

The crowd was so big that it's anyone's guess how many Eden Runners there were at the start, but I think we all had a great time. Here's Anth on his way down Robinson (photo courtesy of Borrowdale Fell Runners). Go to their site to view other photos if you must, but viewers should be warned that there are scenes which some may find offensive...(why are fell running photos so unflattering?)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008