Fastest local in Fountains 10K

Tuesday 29 April 2014 08.01 AM

This weekend was the first of my 2014 'challenges' - the Fountains 10k, based in my home village of Grantley near the world-heritage site of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal in North Yorkshire. For only the 2nd time in its history the race was full with 353 entrants setting out to test their mettle against a route which has earned a reputation locally as one of the hardest 10k's around.

This weekend was the first of my 2014 'challenges' - the Fountains 10k, based in my home village of Grantley near the world-heritage site of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal in North Yorkshire. For only the 2nd time in its history the race was full with 353 entrants setting out to test their mettle against a route which has earned a reputation locally as one of the hardest 10k's around.

As newcomers to the village, obviously I was keen to take part so decided to use it as part of my training plan for the Ripon Sportive in July and Nidderdale Triathlon in September. My wife also took part - she was actually the slowest runner as the official back marker! - and the kids played their part with some strategically-placed cheering.

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Just after the start running up the lane towards Skelding - come on No 1!

The course is a one-lap, multi-terrain route on country lanes, small roads, bridleways and moorland with approximately 500 feet of ascent and some fantastic spring views across Nidderdale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The race starts in the village centre and climbs for the first 2 miles - on country lanes for the first mile and then following the Ripon Rowel route on a mix of firm bridleway and moorland. This year wasn't quite the 'bog fest' of some previous years but nevertheless gave a good test of off-road skills and route finding! The route continues along seemingly innocent country lanes until the killer hill coming back into the village, which climbs approx 40m over the last half mile. This is where I'd asked Grandma to take the kids to give me that last boost and it worked a treat - there's no pressure like performing in front of 5 and 6 year olds!

For the first time in years I decided to do some structured training - including hill, fartlek and pace sessions - to see whether it would actually help me run any faster. Without any doubt, it really helped improve my time, especially on the hill climbs where I took great delight at picking off club runners who had just passed me on the downhill (apart from the Wetherby Runners guy who pipped me on the last climb - you can see him slipstreaming me in the photo)!

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The horrible climb back into Grantley just before the finish

As well as the challenging route, extremely well-organised event and warm Yorkshire welcome, runners come back year after year for the free refreshments at the end of the race! This year the village Mums (and Dads of course) had been mobilised to produce tons of home-made flapjack for all finishers, which went down very well with the free banana and Harrogate Spa water in the goody bag. However, the pièce de résistance of the goody bag was no doubt the free Sub Sports technical t-shirt generously provided by the locally-based technical sportswear brand - an amazing memento for a race that costs as little as £10 to enter.

The men's race was won for the second year running by Lee Dalton (Nidd Valley Road Runners) in 35:59, nearly half a minute slower than last year to give some idea of conditions; and the women's race by Sharon Barlow of Ripon Runners in 40:02. My time was 44:36 (38th overall and 7th in my category, M40) - but I did get the fastest local prize, which is open to any runner who lives within a 4 mile radius of the village. So not only did I get the fantastic Sub Sports technical top in the goody bag, I also won another of their technical tops - and all for a £12 entry!

Update (2/5/14) - I've just heard from the race director that there's been a glitch with the local result! Some whipper-snapper from Azerley finished in just over 40 mins so he's actually the fastest local by a good country mile, so well done - and don't worry about me having to break the news to my kids! Think I'll suggest there should be a fastest local for each category next year, I might stand another chance then!

Needless to say, my kids are still talking to me and they seem quite relieved that their Dad isn't quite yet in the knackers yard! They did ask at one point why I didn't win - I was actually running in number '1' (it's a long story, don't ask) and they seemed to think this would make me the fastest runner. If only it were that easy!

One of the unexpected outcomes of training for this was my 6 year old daughter starting her running career! I used the lane outside our house for training a few times and one evening just before her bed time she came out in her onesie and asked if she could run. A few weeks later and we're running around the village on a regular basis and last week she completed her first Fountains Abbey Park Run in 38:40 - which isn't bad for 6.

My next goal is the Ripon Sportive - 8,842 feet of climbing over 104 miles on tyres pumped up to 100psi and a saddle you could cut butter with. I can't wait.

If you fancy trying the Fountains 10K next year, the provisional date is Sunday 19th April 2015 - Sean McKeag, the race organiser, is expecting another busy year so book early to avoid disappointment.

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