Wow – What a hot, hot day. After such a miserable start to summer, the sun finally reared its head for the Osmotherley Phoenix 2013.
I had originally registered for the 33-mile option, but over the past few months had started taking a preference to shorter races, and my head was turned by the 17-mile option.
The atmosphere at the start was brilliant. The sun was out and the place was buzzing. There was about 400 people at the start, including some familiar faces.
After a brief warm up I toed the line (the only runner in Vibram FiveFingers!!), only to find that I had lost my wooden chip needed for one of the checkpoints. Hopeless. I made the race director aware, and it didn’t seem to be a problem.
The countdown saw an awesome crowd make their way out of Osmotherley up the first climb of the day before taking a left on to the wonderful Cleveland Way long distance footpath. I used to use this route from Osmotherley regularly for mountain biking years ago so it was nice to re-trace familiar ground.
I sat in 4th behind a lead pack who I understood to have been running the 33-mile option. After five miles I sat back and waited for others to catch up. There was no point me pushing on because I had not done a recce of the route, nor had I read the route description, had a map or a compass, so I had absolutely no idea where I was going.
It was nice to spend the next few miles running with friend Adam Breckon, who runs a fantastic vegan/endurance sports blog here. We ran through woodland, up steep hills, over stiles, through gates, up old steps, atop the Moors. It was wonderful.
“The Fool On The Hill”
Descending from Carlton Bank, I expected to be leading the 17-mile race. I took my time, had a drink and was told that two of the front three had made their way on to the 17-mile route. I turned to see they were a good 4+ minutes ahead so I made a dash for them to try and stick to their heels. A lapse in concentration during a short climb, and I lost sight of them.
I stood at the top of a bank looking out. I spent a few minutes scanning the ground below, monitoring the horizon, and couldn’t see them. I knew there would be no chance of catching them now; that the only thing to do would be to wait for the next runner to catch up so I could stick to them until the finish.
Another five minutes passed and not a single soul passed my way. I decided to make my way back down the way I had come, only to find I had taken a complete wrong turn. What an idiot. I ran as fast as I could to re-join the small group that had formed at the front of the ‘peloton’.
“With A Little Help From My Friends”
Cutting a long story short, I stuck with two runners (one of which had won this race a few years prior) in this group until the last corner of the race. I ran when they ran, stopped when they stopped, and walked when they walked. I would have been lost otherwise. I felt guilty, having been guided by these two runners for the last 8-9 miles, only to speed off from them 300 yards from the finish to clinch third place.
It was a strange race. I loved the route – so scenic and diverse, but my own stupidity of having not recce’d the route beforehand meant I couldn’t race it properly. I don’t think I could have beaten the front two, but I know I could have definitely shaved 10-15 minutes off my final time of 2 hours 50.