Same time every year, the Lilleshall 5 always seems to mark the end of a hard winters training and the start of spring Wednesday racing, the end of running round muddy fields and a chance to run on tarmac with the sun on your back, but the sun was far from the thoughts of most runners driving across a wet Shropshire in torrential rain. Luckily the rain had ceased by the time most had parked up, stripped off and got ready to race but coming in between marathons it is always interesting to see who is on the up and who is on the down and it’s always a hard test and the quality of the field always means there’s nowhere to hide. It’s probably the first gun to the head race of the year and it’s fast, or at least 50% of it is, the downhill 50%.
The race starts alongside football pitches on a narrow path, made narrower by the near 400 entrants, many already signed up for the overall six race series. It’s a mad dash for the first corner, a left, about 200 yards and a right where you reach the road proper, the course widens and the elbows give a little more space to ribs as runners find their place in the field. For the first mile or so you are racing downhill, the start line adrenalin pumping and the legs driving you onwards, possibly a little quicker than is comfortable, you try to forget that you’ll be running back up the same hill in another 3 miles time. As the road flattens a little it still feels like you’re flying, you reach the road junction about halfway down the driveway, turn right and take a back lane that brings you onto the main road. After a few twists and turns and ups and downs you reach the main road a turn back through the gates and head back towards the hall, 2 miles of gradual uphill that gets steeper and steeper as the Hall comes into sight. At 4 miles the hill starts to bite, the mad rush at the start begins to pay and it’s an effort to keep the legs pumping, you reach the top of the hill and pass the car park, it feels like you’re nearly there but still have a good quarter mile to go, you hang on and keep driving turning right and left still on tarmac run alongside the football pitches and a last gasp sprint towards a blessed slight downhill finish and over the line.
With Paul Ward absent it was left to Daniel Soltys to claim first place, the Stone Master Marathoner crossing the line in 26.49, Tom Holden of Tipton Harriers took the runners up spot in 27.12 and fellow Tipton Harrier, Stuart Hawkes claimed 3rd place in 27.17, a remarkable time considering he was “fresh” from winning the Brighton Marathon only three days previously. The ladies race was won by Telford ACs Claire Martin clocking 29.11 in 25th overall, Lucie Tait Harris made it a Telford 1 – 2 by taking the runners up spot in 32.02 and Helen Tromans of Dudley Kingswinford claimed 3rd place crossing the time in a PB time of 32.24. Of the other DK runners in attendance Simon Hughes was first back for the club over the 5 mile distance coming home in 30.25 in 42nd place, Dave Norman finished in 48th in 30.52, Simon Blizzard was 56th in 31.41, Mark Judge was 63rd in 32.11, Mark Homer was 67th in 32.25, Gary Bonner was 82nd in 33.31 and Stuart Perkins was 89th in 34.12 having missed the start and given everyone a few minutes lead. Kieran Pitt was 91st in 34.17, Richard Jones was 117th in 35.40, Rory Campbell was 151st in 37.29, John Andrews was 158th in 38.02, Mark Gatenby finished in 42.11 in 223rd place, Samantha Hemming was 249th in 44.10, Jane Campbell was 254th in 44.44, Meg Dowen was 297th in 47.47 and Preston Grundy was 302nd in 48.11 claiming an age group prize.
One done and five to go, the next the mad cap race round the streets of Dawley in the Phoenix Flyer, another gun to the head race but at least the first one is out of the way and in a few weeks time the sun might be out. Either way most of the near 400 that turned out tonight will be out too.