Herington goes Schizoid in France
Returning from the vapour baths of Lyon earlier this week, I had occasion to reiterate to my wife a dictum with which she has become all too familiar over the years: athletics is a cruel and fickle mistress. “What,” she countered, “did that 98 year old beat you?” She began to sink into a deep trance as I explained once more the notion of 5 year age categories and proceeded to remind her that, although the World Champs are primarily a track and field contest, her beloved was not a friend of the tartan and had instead entered the cross country and half marathon. At the mention of the word, ‘tartan’, she roused herself to protest that she had never imagined for an instant that I would be running for Scotland.
“Cruel and fickle,” I repeated. I ran like a stag in the 8K cross country, leading the 6 V65 Brits round the first of the 4 flat, grassy laps of woodland before Alex Sutherland of Loch Ness came past, allowing me to use him as a marker for a while as we careered round a course full of twists and turns. All too conscious that team medals were likely to be available if I stayed in the top 3 GB, I ran on steadily, holding my position until halfway round the final lap when Michael Mann, who was 4th in last winter’s V65 International X-C and is an accomplished track man, came hurtling by. Across the open stretch of football fields and into the long finishing straight I was still 3rd Brit…that is, until an old London rival, Pete Hamilton of Blackheath, timing his run to perfection, nailed me and put 6 seconds between us at the line. The team took silver behind Russia and, although I was frustrated not to be amongst the scorers, I did not feel I could have run harder. But the result did suggest that in future I might benefit from a bit of speedwork! GB results: Sutherland 8th 33.02, Mann 16th 33.48, Hamilton 19th 34.07, Muggins 20th 34.13. 44 finishers.
I had no doubt that the X-C was the stronger of my two events but, looking at my rivals in the half, I felt I stood some chance of making the scoring team. From my point of view, it was a horrible course, two dead flat, traffic-free laps, with a number of little loops with tight turns attached. Because it had been so hot and humid, my plan was to run a conservative race and, even though the weather proved not to be a factor as we set off at 7.0 am on race-day, I went off uncharacteristically steadily, in part because I was way back from the line in the mass start of marathoners and halfers who all went off together. Sandy Johnston from Cardiff’s Les Croupiers was our leading V65, well up, while I was running 3rd behind Trevor Edgley from Kent who had won the BMAF 15 mile M-T Champs last year when I was 3rd. He wasn’t as fit now and although he had taken some 50 meters out of me, I overhauled him at around halfway. I didn’t feel I was running with any joy or freedom – flat roads have that effect on me – and the best I can say of myself is that I maintained a pace, finishing, with a groaning hamstring, in the decidedly mediocre time of 1.39.38, a couple of minutes clear of Edgley but a lot more behind Johnston. It was only at lunchtime, which seemed a couple of weeks later given how early we had been racing, that I heard that we had won bronze team medals behind Finland and France. So, while you can lose when you run well, there are also occasions when you win when you have run like a carthorse. As I’m always saying to Carol, athletics is a kind and fickle mistress.