Pier to Pier

It was hard to find anyone who was feeling good. Runners are notorious for grumbling about their form, but we were all in top grumbling form today. One day I’ll chat to runners before a race and someone will say they’ve never felt better and fully expect to PB. Not today though – I was treating the race as a fact-finding mission after a viral infection that has messed up my running for most of the year. The first fact I found was that it was going to cost me £25 to run the 7 miles or so from South Shields to Roker.

Pier to Pier – May 2015

I calculated that I’d be running at £3.63 mile pace, which is still slightly cheaper than a Brendan, but that didn’t worry me too much either way. The weather was fine and the race is an old favourite of mine.

In common with the Coastal Run the start is a faintly tribal mass of running shirts stretched across the beach. I was disappointed that the organisers hadn’t drawn a line in the sand with a pointy stick to indicate the Start Line. I do miss that touch.

A few minutes after 10 and away we charged along the beach. This was my first running race in about 6 months and I was curious about how it would go. It was clunky at first and I felt I’d got out of bed 10 minutes earlier rather than the actual 6am start it had been. That extra Espresso had been a bad idea too (I knew it would be, but I never learn), and I had to dive into some bushes to redress that balance. This was a bit awkward as I’d only just passed George and Karen and we’d done the whole ‘Well-Done’ routine – now I was going to have to pass them again and explain myself.

We approached the lane that extends down from Redwell Lane and the usual bottleneck was there as runners queued to get down the steps. There’s big seconds to be gained here by running down the grass, jumping down the wall, across the lane, and up the other side. I’m not sure whether people are just not keen on the wall scramble, or they just don’t realise how much shorter and quicker it is to avoid the steps.

I had to pull over for a bit of quality retching as we passed Souter Lighthouse but on the whole I wasn’t feeling too bad and for the remainder of the race I steadily picked up my pace and picked off runners all the way to the Finish. The sand was firm underfoot at the finish (has that changed?) which was a relief as I’m sure in previous years it’s been a painful comedy sprint in soft sand for the last few yards to the line.

My time was a few minutes slower than the last time I ran the race 5 years ago so I was pretty happy. It could’ve been a lot worse. Graham Daglish was grinning at the end of the finish tunnel as I coughed in, not doing too badly for someone who hasn’t raced in 3 years.

There were a few first-timers today, including Andy James who made the classic mistake of pushing for the line too early. It’s easy done – the Finish looks tantalisingly close, but on closer inspection morphs into a flight of steps with the real Finish another beach away. In fact, the more you speak to people, the harder it is to find someone who hasn’t made this error.

After a chilly start we had fine conditions for this race today. And thanks to the bus driver’s daughter we had plenty of room on the coach as she’d insisted on coming along … and when the coach is already full, you just have to get a bigger one out the garage.

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