It’s a balmy easter bank holiday weekend in Wardle village, and the R.O. has just done about his fifth lap of the square encouraging all runners to drink plenty of water (the dangers of heat exposure are real, folks, he’s seen it before on this race, etc, etc). Even the whiteboards at registration advise that there’s no mandatory kit today, but that water is recommended. In Phil Davies’ words: a heat stroke warning at 15°C might just be the most British thing ever! On a very pleasant warm-up jog to the reservoir and back we’ve discovered that there’s a decent breeze though, and I’d go as far as to say conditions are pretty much perfect. The Marathon des Sables it is not.
I do my usual trick of setting off mid-pack but starting fairly strongly, gradually making up places on the run out of the village and on the first climb up Brown Wardle. I manage to get behind a Rochdale Harrier shortly after as well, and get the unexpected bonus of a few nice alternative lines to follow. After the second climb up Middle Hill the route undulates over the next few hills and I start to slow down and lose a couple of spots but the route is excellent, the views open up going over Rough Hill and a distant Stoodley Pike is visible on the horizon.
An only partially-healed blister I picked up the weekend before starts to burn on the long descent back towards Wardle and my heel, which is propped on a bag of frozen sweetcorn as we speak, starts to twinge worryingly (excuses excuses!). I’m not carrying enough speed downhill and lose a few more positions over a painfully long section of lethal cobbles. The route description promised a sting in the tail and a draggy climb of around a kilometre on tarmac delivers a tough finish. With the village square in sight I hear feet closing in behind me and manage to find a sprint finish to cross the line without losing another place. After catching my breath I look up to see that Phil has come in just behind me after a strong descent.
As we all know, the post-race spread is crucial, and the scout hut put on a terrific array of cakes. Sadly I didn’t have a brew so I’m unable to confirm the type of tea on offer, though this was Lancashire so we should probably fear the worst. The real drama of the day was that the front runners all managed to miss the tag drop at Rough Hill though, and our own Jonathan Coney looked set to be denied a brilliant sixth-place finish as a result. The world held its breath…until Thursday morning when the official results dropped and confirmed no disqualifications! There may yet be protests from the first of the tag-less finishers, a formal enquiry, and almost certainly rioting in the streets of Wardle. Watch this space!
6th – Jonathan Coney – 00:51:06
56th – Nick Flower – 01:04:40
57th – Phil Davies – 01:04:44