Whilst a number of Harriers were enjoying a muddy 12k in Redditch, I was on a solo mission to Kingswinford for the Gavin Tipper 5k race. I was looking forward to a mid-week test and an opportunity to see how I was progressing towards my target of getting back under 25 minutes. Although I’m usually found parkrunning on Saturdays I haven’t otherwise raced much over this distance. The Run Britain Rankings system is not showing parkrun results at the moment (apparently they’ll be back soon) so my handicap graph isn’t looking great and here was a chance to give it a boost.
I arrived about half an hour before the start at the Dudley & K-ford Rugby Club and the car park was already nearly full. I’d travelled with my Birmingham Half Marathon t-shirt over my BvH vest and realised just in time to take it off and leave it in the car – much to the amusement of a nearby marshal who said he was glad I’d changed as the 13.1 would be intimidating… Funny that, I used to feel more intimidated by a club vest than a half-marathon t-shirt!
The race is run annually as a memorial race, and is timed to coincide with the completion of their beginners course. It is all on the grass pitches around the club; a twisty two-lap course, and fllat, albeit there are a couple of banks to deal with. As it isn’t on open roads juniors can run too, and because of this, the number of DK beginners and the course itself which looped around about four pitches, it felt like the number of spectators was higher than usual for a local club race. Over 200 were running, with a good turn-out from DK, and a few other local clubs were represented, including some juniors from Tipton. I didn’t see any other BvH vests – I guess it was a bit too far to go on a weeknight for a 5k.
The atmosphere was really good around the start, and the number and chip collection was well-managed in the clubhouse. About 15 minutes before the start we all made our way over to the pitches together. My shin had felt a bit sore all day and I toyed with taking it easy, but once we were lining up I felt much better and decided to give it a proper go. Although it isn’t far from my hometown in Wolverhampton, I hadn’t told anyone I’d be there so wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew and just enjoyed chatting to a couple of fellow runners and listening to the excitement from those running their first 5k.
It was a really warm evening but the first mile or so felt reasonably comfortable and I passed a couple of runners and felt confident of a good time, beginning to think I might manage to duck back under 25 minutes. I tried not to look at my watch, smiled at all the marshals and just kept pushing. The middle mile was a bit of a challenge – being able to see virtually the whole course at every point, it just made it seem like a long way to go. On the second lap I passed the marshal I had seen earlier who said “good running, but this is easy after 13.1!” Which made me laugh and gave me a bit of a boost.
On the final stretch I thought I heard someone shout “Go Stak” – all my family call me Stak or Stakka, so I thought for a split second they were calling for me, however, it soon became clear they were cheering someone else, and sure enough I was just pipped at the line by a junior called Zak. I looked at my watch and was really thrilled to see my time beginning with a 24, and even though the course was slightly short according to my GPS, I was very pleased to come in at 24:33, which is a new 5k PB for me. Although, until it’s corrected the website says that it was Stacey Martson, rather than Marston that finished in that time.
Following the race it took a while to cool down, but I soaked up the atmosphere and cheered in a few of the other runners, especially those wearing the DK beginners t-shirt. The goody bags contained more water, some sweets and vouchers and there was also a technical t-shirt for all finishers, and medals for those graduating from the beginners course. Overall, a really fun, friendly race with good PB potential – perhaps one for the diary.