A cold, crisp and sunny Sunday morning had team Braine (plus a few bags of snacks for the kids) skipping into our van, actually on time, which is miraculous—I knew this meant it was going to be a super day. We were lucky to get a spot in the car park at the school before meeting the rest of the Hoops in the school hall. All were arriving in dribs and drabs, greeting each other with smiles, high-fives and hugs.
I love the buzz of this event. As you enter the hall, the smell of unwashed vests and deep heat remind you that this is real amateur club running, with no glamour or glitz (apart from the various Nike Vapour Flys spotted being pulled from bags with a glow). My favourite part of the morning was Ella and Jessie being reunited with Eva and Maryam Pask, huge grins on their faces, commencing play like they left off a few weeks prior.
Numbers pinned on hoops—some straighter than others—and it was a quick huddle for a photo before heading off to the start line, a blur of 36 hoops shuffling 700 metres up the road. My objective today was to race, and get close to my PB if I could maintain the pace.
After the starting gun and a tight funnel in the first 500 metres, it was open country roads for the next
nine miles. It is a beautiful course with ups and downs providing views across farm lands, gliders overhead...all in beaming sunshine. I was glad Emmie convinced me to remove my base layer as it was plenty warm out there.
My race went well, spurred on by the awesome St Albans Striders marshals all along the course, I managed to take 41 seconds off my PB so was very chuffed.
Everyone met back in the hall to discuss their different race experiences, warming up over copious amounts of free tea and cake. It became quickly apparent that we had won the men's team event; Birthday boy Matt Kitching, Ed Mooney, Nathan Pask and Sam Sutherland as first four QPH finishers collected prizes. What a buzz for the whole team. It was an exceedingly good show for the Harriers, nearly half of us I think were Fred Hughes first timers, also an excellent start to the Club Road Race Championships A huge well done to everyone; those who got medals, those who got PBs or managed to keep to a pace, those guiding (and being guided!), those who ran for fun or with friends and also to those running with niggles, or with child! Fred Hughes really is a race for all. To find out how all the Hoops did, check out the results here.
Lastly, thank you to Sam who organised a space in the Island for our return. It was a great atmosphere, even joined by some hoops who were unable race. I was so hungry my roast barely hit the sides!