All optimism that I had for the Harborough 5 ended on my drive there. Heading for the Foxton Locks car park, I followed the sat nav and turned left at Lubenham. On the same corner was a sign on the path pointing the same way, which was clearly a direction for the runners in the upcoming race. Almost immediately after turning, the road began to climb, and climb…
The mile marker at the side of the road shortly after turning implied that almost the entire second half of the race would be uphill, and what a hill it was. Following the logic that, if you start and finish in the same place, then what goes up must come down, surely the first half of the course must therefore be downhill?
With that in mind, and without actually checking the rest of the course, the decision had to be made as to whether to go easy to begin with, and save some energy for the second half, or whether to make up as much time as I could during the first half, with the knowledge that time would be lost during the second half. In the end, the decision was almost made for me.
Surprisingly, after a small lap of the field next to the car park, the start of the course was slightly uphil, but then came the long downhill section that I expected. It was almost such a decline that you had to slow yourself down to avoid the risk of injury. During, and following, the almost two mile downhill section, Strava clocked my estimated best effort half a mile (3:15). 1km (4:04), mile (6:41), 2 miles (13:51) and 5km (22:03, although I did do a 21:51 at Wolverhampton parkrun, but that was 4.99km so therefore didn’t count apparently!).
Then came the dreaded uphill section, and it felt far worse on foot than it seemed in the car. Whereas the first two mile splits were 7:14 and 6:42, the start of the hill towards the end of mile three gave me a 7:21. The third, 8:06, my slowest split of the series, and possibly one of the toughest hills I’ve ever faced. I recovered in the final mile to achieve another 7:21. Coming off the top of the hill, I could hear footsteps and heavy breathing behind me. I was determined to keep them behind me, hence the final split.
We turned off the road section and back into the field for a final lap, one for which a Strava segment has been created, called “the field of stupidity.” As this is where most of the support crew are situated, it’s quite noisy and a nice pickup at the end of a tough race. I swung the legs with everything I had left to finish in 36:54. Consistent finishes for the 5 mile races during the series, although a disappointing finish given the fast splits at the start. Given the profile though, I suppose that was to be expected.