So, my first competitive race in quite some time saw me take part in the Kirkstall leg of he Yorkshire Veterans’ Grand Prix yesterday. I have mixed feelings about being a “veteran”. On one hand, it’s something that very much just snuck up on me and a sign that I’m too old to stand a chance of successfully competing against more youthful opposition. On the other hand, it feels good to know that as I’m still turning up to run as a “veteran”, running is one of a very small list of interests I’ve had during my life that can genuinely be considered to have been a major part of my life and not just a brief fad.

Registration for the race was in a weather worn building that looked like it was built to deal with hundreds of muddy trainers or boots regularly walking over it. Brilliantly and politely organised by wonderful volunteers both inside and out, the race was ready to start at 7:15 on the dot (I love a punctual race start) just next to the ruins of the old abbey.

The course started with a slightly odd loop of the abbey before almost ending up back where we started and down along a path, through woodland, by the River Aire. As always I set off too fast and this perpetually annoys me. However, I will continue to do this as getting stuck behind people slower than me annoys me even more.

Setting off too fast (though it really doesn’t look like it)!

The course then spat us out on to the A65, a pretty uninspiring section of the course but a good opportunity for the field to spread out and for idiots with no sense of pacing like me to get set into a suitable rhythm for the rest of the race.

By about the 2.5km point the mother of all hills loomed in front of me and it was clear that the pacing I was keen to get right after already getting wrong was just not going to happen at any point in this race. At the top of it, after being heckled by some pretty cool individuals in a souped-up Audi, the course went back into woodland and around Bramley Fall woods. This was a great section of the course with plenty of ups and downs. I settled into a pretty steady effort, if not a steady pace, and had a good run with another chap with a good few years more experience than me. My (relative) youth got me up the climbs quicker than him, and his experience got him down the descents quicker than me.

A loop around the woods brought us back to the top of the aforementioned big hill and by this point, as is often the case when I run long, I actually wished I was going up it again rather than down it. I’m not sure what it is, or if other people feel this, but the impact of the downhill makes for a pretty unpleasant feeling from my shins up to my knees.

Then back onto the A65 again and, safe in the knowledge that the end must be nigh, I decided to step things up a gear. It felt like a strong finish and probably was but was undermined by two people coming from behind in the last 200 metres to pip my at the post. Having said that, my desire to not get overtaken so late in the race probably resulted in a few seconds quicker for my overall time.

Getting well and truly out-sprinted. Number 106 also came past me.

The course was 9.16KM and I finished in 39.18. That’s the sort of time I want to be doing in Blackpool in just under three weeks time and I feel quietly confident that the extra 740 metres will be more than offset by the significant reduction in climbing it’s going to require.

A well earned rest followed whilst cheering on the other members of the club then back to the clubhouse briefly for an excellent selection of Mr Kiplings laid out on the pool table. A pretty satisfying outing was completed with a short drive home listening to The Stone Roses knowing I could officially call myself a veteran runner.

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