Alsager 5 – 5th February 2017

Fiona Bradley – Alsager 5 – Sunday 5th February 2017

The day of my Stone Master Marathoners debut had finally arrived!  Waking that morning, I wondered why on earth I put myself through the stress of races and, rather unhelpfully, noted that this was not only my SMM debut but also my NSRRA debut, first race after the Lanzarote Marathon and the first race after my first ever injury (cue the violins)!

After forcing down my usual pre-race porridge, I was instantly lifted by putting on my lovely new vest which Tim had kindly presented to me at the fantastic Gala Dinner.  Armed with my fabulous SMM race clips, my Bat days had begun…

Arriving at Alsager, the weather felt unusually warm and I was incredibly pleased to have abstained from wearing a base layer.  I was even more pleased upon parking, when I spotted a familiar black and red uniform: looking dashing in his recently presented ‘Captain’ jacket, I made the walk to the Race HQ with Bernie.  Taking full advantage of Bernie’s vast race knowledge, I bombarded him with questions – predominantly regarding the NSRRA as I had signed up on the recommendation of another new bat, Laura Slack, but knew little of how it all works.  Imagine my horror when Bernie congratulated me on being part of the ‘L’ group (husband had earlier had a good chuckle at me being a ‘Learner’) and I discover that I am battling for points against our super speedy Kirsty, Amy, Angela and Ros!  I resign myself to the fact that it will all be good experience!

Walking in, we see Birthday Bat aka Emma arrive with Michelle, who was also making her NSRRA debut.  I instantly feel calmer and I now understand the comforting support of a club.  I’d always avoided the ‘pressure’ of being part of a running club but it was after the Flying Fox when I spoke to Victoria that I felt compelled to give it a whirl; she raved about SMM, reassured me that there was no pressure and, I must admit, part of the draw was the gorgeous red and black kit!  Our colony of bats grew and the fantastic atmosphere heightened – race nerves were overshadowed with the enormous sense of belonging.

Heading to the crowded start, we completed a gentle warm up before heading our separate ways.  Impressively, some of our bats had completed a 19 mile warm-up, running to the start – from Stone!  Well done Roger, Phil, Mike and Indira!  On a gentler note, David Dunsmore, another SMM newcomer, had mentioned a target time similar to mine (I wanted to beat my previous time of 37:55) so we hovered around the same area; I was pleased to find out David’s NSRRA group after being initially concerned that he was intent on finding ‘Es’…

The race began and we fought our way through the mass of runners.  Supporters were out in great force and, as always, the cheers spurred us on our way.  We were pretty surprised at the handful of runners taking a bit of a shortcut on the first left-hand turn but, as I teach my children, I thought ‘they’re only cheating themselves’!  The PB course of the Alsager 5 is flat and there are no hidden surprises.  Last year, I had joined a friend running with a sub-40 (unofficial) pacer but had found the course lent itself for a tad more speed so I had left them at around 2 miles; my main memory of that race was my sprint finish recorded on film by my father-in-law and I couldn’t wait to relive that moment!

It is always nice to hear the crowd cheering you on, so it was particularly special to see some fellow bats in a supporting capacity.  I couldn’t help but chuckle when they cheered: ‘Well done, Victoria!’ and then, looking a little confused, engaged in an ‘actually, who is that?’ conversation!  I can forgive Pam for not knowing me but who was she talking to?  Only Bernie!  I was then forced to use a little of my conserved energy to shout out my name!

Throughout the race, David was in sight, as was Ros, looking strong and experienced.  As the Garmin told me I had less than a mile to go, it was time to turn it up a notch and ensure I did my absolute best for my team.  I couldn’t wait to see that famous finishing stretch and when I did, it was a great feeling!  With my sights firmly set on the inflatable finish line, I saw my chance to make up a fair few places so I fought my way past the tiring runners and managed to part a formidable pair of men with a little encouragement from my elbows…

My Stone Master Marathoners debut was made!  With a PB of 36:30, I couldn’t have been more pleased.  Seeing Kirsty and Pippa laughing at the finish put an even bigger smile on my face!  We cheered in the rest of the team before heading off to a ‘debriefing’ at the George and Dragon.

Looking back at the results, The Bats really are a force to be reckoned with.  Our chairman’s PB of 29:42 shows that Tim really does lead by example.  There were also PBs for: Mick (29:55), Kirsty (33:07), David (36:07), Neil (39:34), Laura (40:01), Emma (40:12), Bonnie (42:18), Kathryn (42:20), Michelle (47:04) and me!  Our long run bats managed amazing times on (surely?) tired legs with Phil coming home in 32:20; Roger in 33:30 and Indira in 47:24 – true commitment!  Pippa ran a phenomenal 32:39; Amy 35:06; The Queen of Baps, Angela, 35:39; Ros 37:04; Lisa 39:13; Sam came in at 40:18; Richard 41:13; Anne-Marie 43:38; Mac 44:50, Margaret 48:24 and Joyce in 52:16.  Proud of you all!

In a bid to prevent this report being of record-breaking proportion, I won’t enter into discussing the NSRRA results other than saying ‘Watch out world, the bats are on fire!’  Let’s hope that our season continues as it has begun.

It would, however, be unfair to end my report without the mention of the public house debriefing.  Huge thanks to everybody who attended – particularly those who brought consumable treats!  I was privileged to experience one of Angela’s deliciously soft baps and sample a multitude of Emma’s birthday cakes!  After a fantastic weekend of celebrating achievements and running as part of a truly special team, this, for me, really was the icing on the cake!