After our exertions at the Kent Roadrunner last week, I’ve been a bit knackered to be honest with you. I was expecting to feel sore and tired, but I forgot how it can also make you feel a bit jaded and flat mentally. However we had signed up to do the Harvel 5 the following Saturday so needed to get our game faces on. For Claire it was the final run in her epic trilogy of races to fundraise for Cancer Research UK (after the marathon the week before, and a 5k Race for Life the week before that; she’s a loon). For me it was a chance to run with and support Claire, and run a race I’ve really enjoyed the last two years.
Harvel 5 is put on by the Harvel Hash Harriers and they do a great job. It’s well organised but more importantly a lot of fun. They don’t take it too seriously and although there are some fast runners and times, the main theme is getting together for some fun. It starts with the Henry VIII lookalike who’s there every year directing traffic into the small village where it’s based, and continued with a grown man dressed as a traffic light/cone who gets you situated in the car park (see maniac below left).
The race HQ is based in the village green, where you pick up your running number and timing chip, and has a nice village-fete type atmosphere. That’s added to by the dressing up and ‘theme-ing’ of the toilets set up for the race. I’ve no idea how this started but it’s been the same every year. (See below for my particular favourite entry) They also have a urinal on the edge of the green for male runners to use and in a change from last year, where you got to pee on the political candidates for the General election, this time you got to pee in large buckets to cast your vote in a Brexit straw poll. (I didn’t take pictures of this for fear of getting thrown in one of said buckets..) Now I know it’s juvenile, silly, maybe even vulgar but so am I and it made me laugh.
The race was also the first ever for our friends Laura and Sarah, who have been getting into running over the last few months. Both were understandably a bit nervous at running in their first race (and over the furthest distance they had attempted) but Claire was on hand as running-guru, providing advice to help ease nerves and make sure that key items were brought and key issues concentrated on (safety pins; use the loos before the pre-race rush).
The race itself is held on roads for the first mile or so before heading onto trail through the local woods and park before getting back on the road again for a nice, mostly downhill mile on tarmac again. Fifteen minutes before the race was to start I wished the ladies luck and wandered somewhere towards the front of the crowd. I was really pleased with my race last year, and covered the 5 miles in just under 32 and half minutes for a heady 32nd place. This year though my legs (and head) were still full of the marathon and I was considerably under-trained compared to last year. I planned then to run around just under 7 minute pace and try and use the downhill for a fast finish.
A few minutes early by my watch, the starter shouted a ten second count down and we were off. There is an 800 runner limit on this race, which makes things a bit tight on the narrow country lane to start but within a few hundred metres the speedsters were gone and there was plenty of elbow room for everyone as we settled into our respective paces. The roominess probably got to my head a bit though and I ran 6:40 for the first mile (slightly uphill) which was too quick for me to sustain and faster than my pace last year. Plan gone right out the window then…
As we entered the start of the trail section I dropped the pace a little to try and get some control back and also adjust to the new terrain. It was warm and dry on Saturday, but it was wet during the week so the trail was a bit muddy under cover. I found myself running with what appeared to a local chap, Chris, who received lots of support from the marshals and people dotted about the course by name and I was happy to pretend they knew it was my middle name too and were shouting me on as well… I slowed a little again during the third mile as I needed to drop down another gear to recuperate still more, with my legs feeling increasingly heavy over the broken ground. I wasn’t spent but I knew I needed to even out my effort if I was going to finish well. I was also waiting for the fourth mile which is downhill to start and then has the steepest hill in the race towards the end.
Inevitably it came and I worked hard to get up the 200m or so climb as quickly as possible without losing my second breakfast (bacon sarnie). The climb was conquered, but that led to the muddiest section of the trail with lots of mud and even more deep puddles. I tried to pick my way round them, but it was too time consuming and was slowing my pace even further. I decided to just rip through the middle of them and apologise to the washing machine after. I managed to get through that bit of the course and then began to look forward to the downhill that bring you to the finish. I was so concentrated on getting to the sweet relief of the descent that I didn’t notice our friends Jo and Neil screaming at me until I was right next to them and ‘Keep going fat Adam!’ was ringing in my ears from 5 yards away. I had just enough energy left to wave at my loyal supporters and say hello.
The downhill section started and I began to think about ramping up the pace a bit. There were two runners in sight ahead, so I started to try and catch up with them as they in turn started to race each other to the finish. They didn’t seem to get any closer to me and my breathing and legs were frankly all over the place. Then one of the runners seemed to break ahead and I started to gain on and then pass the other left behind. At this point I was ready to kick on and go for it.
Without wishing to sound arrogant (ok it is a bit, but hear me out) I have quite a fast finish on me. Normally I pass a few people at the end of races and don’t get passed myself very often. So I set my sights on the runner in front and prepared to engage warp drive and give it the beans. After a bit of static an intense Scotsman shouted that ‘she was giving all she’s got’… Oh dear. Even a thoughtfully placed cone telling me I had 15000 centimetres to the finish didn’t help speed me up. I could feel my legs start to seize up and my form break apart. I feared the runner I had just passed, so kept clawing at the air to make progress. I wasn’t going any quicker but I wasn’t slowing down much either thankfully.
There is a right hand turn to get you to the finish line and I lurched towards it. With our other friend Nita’s shouts ringing in my (until then) good ear I crossed the line in 34:04 for 45th place. I was knackered. I collected my medal and bottle of water and waddled on shaky legs to get my bag and join Nita at the finish to wait for the others. Within a few minutes Jo and Neil joined us from the course and we clapped fellow runners home, while I dripped sweat all other the place and tried not to look too broken and illicit a response from any medical practitioners. (We also got to see Les [middle of first photo] who decided to start his well-earned beer from Roadrunner the week before on the finishing straight. Dude) In a few minutes Claire came into view and stormed to the finish (and resisted the urge to boot another runner up the arse, who’d cut her right up on the way round the corner). We shouted like loons and added to the fulsome reception all of the finishers were getting.
The cheerleading team then had another member to make noise for the arrival of Laura and Sarah. Before the race they had both talked about getting under 70 minutes as their ‘A’ goal for the race. After some anxious waiting (and ensuring high drama) they came into view with exactly 69 minutes on the clock. We screamed as loudly as possible to get a wriggle on and in the process made the rest of our fellow supporters jump out of their skins and make room for the bunch of idiots trying to deafen them. The ladies heeded our shouts and burst into a sprint to cross the line, well under 70 minutes. Boom!
With all our races run we wandered about a bit to congratulate one another, take lots of pictures of ourselves and generally bask in the glory and pain. Then it was off for a lovely meal together and argue. I really enjoyed the race again and sharing it with friends made it even better. It will definitely be a fourth entry next year for me and hopefully with the rest of the gang again (and some of the supporters in their too as well).
After a pint or two the pain had ebbed and I felt more positive about my race time. It wasn’t as quick as last time obviously and I had gone off too hard, but it was a good time for a week after a tough marathon and not being in good shape. The beer helped with these rationalisations enormously (I can recommend Copperknob wholeheartedly). Since the race I have been easing back into training and slowly increasing the mileage to hopefully get back to my previous training levels. I’ve got a place at the City of London Mile on Sunday 19th June so might do a bit of speedwork for that (cautiously), but if the trains are wonky on the day or the weather’s crap I may forego that and do my own Medway version instead. I’ll let you know…
You can read Claire’s take on our adventures here.
Happy running. Adam 🙂