So 2017 was now coming into full flow. In early April I tested myself on the track over 5000m. The distance has always held some magic for me personally as I’ve had grand plans for many years to try and run a 5k in 15 minutes something . At the time I knew that I was in what is for me good shape so I took the race out at 15:50 pace. I stayed on pace for the first 2km then hitting the 3km mark I was on 15.57 pace. I rallied hard as much as I could for the final 2km and finished agonisingly close to my target sub 16 time finishing in 16:03. Frustrated to not get the sub-16 job done I was pleased to know I was getting much closer to achieving the time.
At the end of April I was competing in the European Duathlon Age-Group Championships which were held in Soria, Spain. It was my first ever experience of international competition and it was pretty darn cool. Soria is a small-ish Northern Spanish city with a nice town square. Thousands and thousands of locals came out to cheer and watch the competition along with all the supporters for the 100s of athletes taking part from across Europe – this all created the most unique and exciting atmosphere. I was delighted that family came out to watch and support and I could share the experience with them. The startline was an intense atmosphere as having 100s of crammed stressed athletes hunched up together in a restricted space is never a good thing. Various athletes around me were being very territorial with their space, using their arms to create as much space as possible around them. For sure its all part and parcel of competition where you have to take ownership of your situation. That meant for me abruptly removing the French guys hand from my arm as he was trying to create more space around him. Completing the first 5km run at about 2000m altitude was harder than I expected and my breathing was stressed. All the age groups compete in the same race together so results are provided as overall within the race and then broken down into age group performances. Overall I was around 40th (out of the 337 athletes that finished) after the first run. The cycling leg went as expected which was pretty bad given the woeful amount of cycling I’d done in the build up. With my running improving month on month I really didn’t want to compromise that development as I was finally getting to a standard that I was happier with. This meant cycle training took an absolute back seat which I knew would show come duathlon competition time.
I was overtaken by half to two thirds of the field on the bike leg. Reeling in some competitors who’d got ahead on the bike on the final run section was inevitable but it was always going to be too much too late as there is a limit on how many places you can gain when you have only 9 minutes for Run 2 and you ride 11 minutes slower than the quickest cyclist. I finished in 228th overall and 26th for my age group. From a positional point of view I was never going to be pleased with my result but I was absolutely thrilled to have experienced the atmosphere, competition and whole incredible experience. There were a lot of lessons learnt to take away if I ever do it again.
In May I ran 10km a pb of 34:06 and after that was excited and interested to see how I would fair over the summer.
My main track championships target race took take place at the beginning of June. I was entered for the 5000m at the Warwickshire Country Track Championships. I’d targeted the races based on unfulfilled goals when I was much younger. Between 1999-2003 I competed in numerous Warwickshire County Championships and got know where near a medal. Once I’d felt myself getting fitter in recent times I really wanted to try and amend this and secure my first county medal. I went off near the front pack which included a fellow Herne Hill runner Dave Mulvee as well as a very good athlete I recalled from my school days in Paul Andrew. Feeling good I maintained a good pace throughout the race with a strong finish. As it was a championship race and I was focusing on my position I was oblivious to what pace/time I was running at so was pleasantly surprised to see I’d ran 16:06. Far more significantly however I’d finished in 2nd place and had finally achieved the medal I’d first tried winning 18 years earlier.
Other races in June included a 4:21 1500m and 4:40 mile. It was during June I began training with the Soar 6 in preparation of the Soar mile.