Mick Hughes (Clayton-le-Moors Harriers) has penned a great write-up of his Grand Prix experience from ‘unattached’ to Club Runner :
“Despite years of being an ‘un-attached road runner’, this time last year I knew nothing of the existence of the PBGP series. I had done the obligatory big city 10k’s from Burnley to the various capitals and was a long suffering, self training bling collecting road runner and, to my knowledge was training hard enough and certainly self driven enough to train without a club. Don’t get me wrong I have raised a good sum for multiple charities and kept myself in reasonable shape. I was however naive to what I could achieve and to the extent of the superb local competitions available to local runners right on my doorstep. By the end of last spring, I was curious to how far forward a club and coach could take me in improvement and the only club that had ever crossed my mind was Clayton. By June 2016, the decision was made and I was waiting for my membership at Clayton to be approved in July 2016 as I turned up to Trawden 7 Trail Race (still un-attached and in road trainers!).
I had started training with Clayton and been informed of the PBGP. I completed in Trawden 7 and was hooked, I would go as far as saying this changed my mind on trying multi terrain races, after indicating on my club membership form that I was only interested in road, my mind was opened to pursuing trail, fell for beginners ! and even a season of cross country followed.
Fast forward to 2017, having completed a winter of hard training, several purchases of decent types of running shoes and a challenge from a fellow inspirational club team mate, I have the completion of all 14 PBGP 2017 races as my main goal this year. So this will be my first full Grand Prix experience. The more you think about it and consider the GP, the more it becomes a complete no brainer and an absolute must (and understandably a main fixture of many a local runners yearly agenda). Its a series for runners. run by runners’. The race fees are around five times cheaper than many big events, safe in the knowledge that the local hospice gains massively from the funds, the organisers understand what the runners really need and everyone down to the last marshall tend to be enthusiastic. The main factor to me though, is that special atmosphere that this series automatically generates, whether you are having friendly rivalry pre-race banter with a Trawden runner, Blackburn Harrier, discussing tactics with a fellow team mate or simply, the enthusiastic person on registration that has a smile and four safety pins ready, there’s certainly something magic at these events.
I managed 5 races last year and therefore anything before Trawden 7 was an unknown quantity for me. Having now raced on multiple terrains I lined up at the start of race 1; Hameldon Hill with the confidence that i was stronger and fitter than last year, at the very worst (if my fell technique was mediocre, resulting in a slow time) a finish of each race was the bigger goal. The one factor i hadn’t really give that much consideration to was… heat & humidity!
A record number turned up and the sun was blistering.. the climb was unforgiving, and as much as I kept an eye on the Garmin to keep pace easy to the top, crossing some technical slight bog was sapping my energy and I had to dig deep to push on to the eventual decent. But, during all four of the races this year there have been instances where you look out and are stunned by the views and the support around you (regardless of club allegiance), it is an unbelievable, addictive, welcome companion…the sense of “we’re all in this together”. I came down off Hambeldon in the respectable ‘Fell rookie’ time of 54;22. Next up was Pinhaw Moor Trail Race, a straight up. straight down 5 mile, 700ft race, and again, a humid evening, but the support in the town as you set off and return back pounding the pavements hard into the finish is enough to keep you going as much as any city gathering. Although the climb tests even the most accomplished fell runners, on turning at the trig mount, our beautiful Lancashire rural landscapes are reward enough as the legs control braking in the fast and steep exhilarating descent down. 39 minutes later I was discussing the trials of the course and putting the world to rights with members from many clubs back at the cricket club in Earby over a well earned pint.
Still buzzing on reflection from the first two fixtures, Wholan Nook Trail Race came upon me quickly and on a night after a hard day at work. At a modest 5 miles (and trail paths on which i was familiar), I don’t think I gave this little feisty course enough respect. A team mate warned me of the need to keep some reserve for the second big climb (one of which I was unaware was 4 miles in !) this was a tough race but the morale amongst all runners was great and after a lung busting climb and some elevated trail paths, the reservoir of Clowbridge was soon insight, glimmering in the early evening sun and many team selfies were taken in the backdrop of the boat club and surrounding hills. Just over 38 minutes was satisfying enough as I looked towards a return to my usual surface of strength – the road! with a positive eye still on the final prize of completing the G.P as I carried on, thankfully fit and injury free, aside from the usual odd aches and pains of competing.
Burnley Lions 10K came on the hottest day of the year! A 2 lap road race with a few twisting country lane climbs that certainly included the most scenic areas of Colne I had seen but at roughly 25 degrees, it was the most brutal and draining race of the GP thus far. I set off well, support was great and the locals were out in force with impromptu unofficial water stations, shouts of encouragement and local cheer. A massive turn out once again from Clayton, Trawden, local clubs and gifted un-attached runners (in general across all age categories) and I believe a record once again for this race made the atmosphere a force to be reckoned with. The second lap asked everything of me and I struggle to recall a hotter more challenging 10k, but nevertheless, the 4th race was soon under the belt and several bottles of water later all was good as I opened a celebratory beer and looked at the pictures kindly taken by David Belshaw capturing the highs and lows of another tough but rewarding race.
As I write this, next up will be Kelbrook Fell Race, I hope I have improved enough in technique and fitness to remain fairly competitive and to do my club proud, but one things remains…
My eye is still firmly on the goal of picking up that precious hard earned full GP finishers medal and furthermore and more importantly I believe, more than ever in the fact that this is the best race series event locally, bar none. Challenging ? …Yes, no doubt (across all disciplines) but worth it?… absolutely…
The magic of the ‘Grand’ challenge (PBGP) lives on…
Best of luck to all fellow athletes for the remaining 10 races… may the heat be moderate and the spirits remain high.
Thanks to all who work tirelessly in the background to make this event a success.
Mick Hughes (V40) Clayton-le-Moors Harriers
Photos: David Belshaw
If you would like to submit a write-up of a race or how your Grand Prix is going, please get in touch and we’ll all look forward to reading it.