Back in time, before Christmas and pre-lockdown three, at Sportlink we set up a challenge to our customers.
Run a mile as fast as you can, a classic distance. The four-minute barrier broken by Sir Roger Bannister at Iffley road Oxford in May 6th, 1954, just a few months after my birth.
Well, the response to the mile of Smiles was quite staggering. Rather than be put off at the thought of running out of “comfort zone”, many people embraced the challenge, myself included.
It was only a bit of fun for which over 200 people took part. The next stage was to hold a series of knockout round on the UEA track, whittling a potential 24 (men and women) down to six, to find the eventual champion.
For my virtual attempt, I ran Palgrave to South Acre Road on a lonely miserable day in early November. 6.29 was my time, my running partner and coach, Jane Clarke managed to shave a second off that.
Neither of us was anywhere near reaching the final 25 as the competition hotted up towards the end of the month. We were both fortunate enough to be picked for the series of “Wild card” races also on the track.
This was for people who had submitted times but not fast enough to be in the final rounds. Now neither of us were strangers to track running as I spent many earlier years competing in Southern Men’s League races all over the south of England, running 5000m and 1500m in the same meeting. Jane had competed successfully in international Masters events.
However, that was a long time ago and I’d forgotten quite how hard running fast was. I had a word with “coach” Jane about the best way to approach this. In addition to Tuesday night training I was to do sets of 30 seconds fast off 30 seconds recovery. I hadn’t realised quite how long 30 seconds could seem, when you’re out of breath.
With a few weeks to sharpen up leg speed, a whole day off running and a day of waiting for race time, I was quite nervous.
I cleaned my track spikes, dried grass mainly, which had last been used at least four years ago for a 3000m event in a Master’s Final at Bedford (Paula Radcliffe’s home track).
I hand designed my race number (a covid safety requirement), I sat down to relax, got up, sat down etc.
I finally drove to Norwich, arriving 45 minutes before my race, as per instructions as we had to be aware of social distancing and numbers inside the track.
I got chatting to a few of the other runners in my event, all of whom hadn’t been on the track before. Where do we start? What lane do I use? Do we have to stay in lanes? How many laps is it? We went to the starter at 6.10, only to find due to a misprint, the ladies’ race was at 6.10 and we were off ten minutes later.
Stripping off the outer layer, once again, and we were under orders - a right rag tag group we looked.
As soon as the gun goes, so do the nerves and I was back 20 years ago chasing round the top bend in spikes. One of the guys, “I’m looking for something under seven” set off like it was just one lap.
I settled into my pace and just ran, gradually picking off the field. Brenda Hutcheon was calling lap times,89 seconds for the first lap, 3.04 at 800+9 metres. I didn’t get the time at the bell and I wish I had, still wondering what my time for the last 400m was.
I eventually finished second, being out kicked by a younger Stuart Gollands. I’m very happy to say my finishing time of 6.08.2 ranked me 1st in the UK in my age group, for now. I am currently considering whether, with a bit of extra work I could get back under 6 minutes again?