A review of the Potters ‘arf – 14th June 2015

Whilst the Orange hoard had a massed at the Southend Half in Memory of Nick, I was on a solo Flyers mission of my own.

I had booked the Potters ‘arf (this is not a spelling or punctuation error) way back in October, as it seemed like a good reason to visit the in laws.

I had been forewarned by my father in law that this event was notoriously hilly, and a difficult course to participate in, so as a result I was feeling quite apprehensive about it.

I hadn’t really done much training specifically for this run, a couple of hill sessions on Wednesday nights, and a couple of LSR trial runs. My mileage had dropped on average to 19 miles per week, so I wasn’t expecting anything to spectacular.

For those who are not aware, Stoke on Trent, is the home of the pottery industry. It is a polycentric city, having been formed by a federation of six towns in the early 20th Century. It’s name derives from one of the six towns, where the town hall and railway station are located. Hanley is the primary commercial centre, and the four other towns are Burslem, Tunstall, Longton, and Fenton.

Race day arrived, and having had my number sown on by my mother in law (she said it looked scruffy with the pins I had used) I arrived at the starting area at 0930 with an hour to kill before the start time.

The start was in Hanley town centre. I wondered around, picked up a free orange lucozade sport, which was a bit of a result as I had left mine at the in laws! Chatted to a few runners as they began to mingle, and saw a stand for the Potters Marathon, which I wondered over to and thought, “well may be next year, definitely not ready for that”.

There was the usual local fitness centre mass warm up, which included a giant sun flower doing some stretches. Kick off was at 10:30, and at 10:20 the tannoy system started calling people forward into the respective time slots. I trotted forward and stood next to the 2 hour Pacer, who then wondered off. “oh well” I thought I’ll just stay here then.

We then all edge forward, and started walking around the corner, and eventually ended up on a dual carriage, by this point I had somehow managed to get in front of the 1:45 pacer. There was a bit of a fan fair, and we were off and a very gentle run. The first half mile was a steep down hill, and I thought, “where there’s a down, there’s going to be an up!”. The next half mile was looping back into Hanley and back out again, but going steadily up. By mile 2 we had reached the top of the first hill, and there was a very steep decline.

My pre-race strategy was attack the down hills, as hard as possible, and then use momentum to keep me going on the way up or on the flats. So for mile 2-3 I clocked a very happy 7:51! We then hit a serious hill, mile 3-4 was just a massively long and steep incline, so pace dropped to 9:09. The next 9 or so miles consisted of pretty much ups and downs, and not many flats, but I kept an average pace of around 8:40. Mile 12 appeared and most of it was quite pleasant, but then I hit what felt like a 1 in 2 gradient hill (it wasn’t but it was the steepest hill on the course). It lasted for about 500 metres, short, sharp, and pretty aggressive. Most people were walking up it. There was no way I was going to do that, so dug deep and ran up it… well it was more of a shuffle! My pace for mile 12 massively dropped to 10:11, which indicates how steep it was.

The last mile was mostly down hill, and upon entering the finishing straights, there was a lot of noise, and people cheering you on, as I came around that final bend, I saw the time was at 1:54: and seconds, I had plenty left in the tank, changed gears and sprinted the last 50 metes or so, gently (well almost) moving people out my way as I came through, with a shout of “MOVE”…..”COMING THROUGH”. I heard one of the crowd shout “Go on Duck” (but its sounds like “Dook”), “Ran lad”! “Duck” is a term of endearment in Stoke.

The course was really well supported throughout, with regular drinks stations, but what was really nice, the locals had set up their own drinks stations giving out bottles of water, fruit shoots, oranges, ice pops and the like.

The finisher prizes are good, Flap jack, Lucozade, ceramic finishers plate, Technical T’shirt, and 4 different medals. For those who finish between the following times: 1:15 – 1:30 – Gold, 1:30 – 1:45 – Silver, 1:45 – 2:00 – Bronze, and 2:00 plus – standard finishers medal.

Final results came through the next day in a 4 page spread on the race itself in the local newspaper, sadly I’ve not been able to find any pictures of me running, but my chip time was 1:55:28. A new PB by 2 minutes. I’m now very seriously considering the Potteries Marathon on the 5th July this year! I will keep you posted.

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