‘We’ve all run the Alsager 5 enough times and we all know it’s the same every year. Even Mik won’t want a race report for this one.’Or so I thought when I entered this year. Then the evening before the race it started snowing...
|Martin demonstrating the one-handed jazz hand|
On the morning of the race, Sandbach was covered in at least 2 inches of snow and a blanket of freezing
fog. A quick check of the alsager5.co.uk website confirmed that the weather in Alsager was the same but the race was still on since the gritters had been out and the forecast had been for rain overnight. Arriving at the sports centre race HQ, the roads looked very icy and the rain hadn’t arrived. Even worse, the final 200 metres to the finish line was covered with fresh snow. And with 40 minutes to go before the start, there was 1 marshal with a spade trying to clear it all! So this year’s race was going to be interesting but probably not a good race for a PB.As usual, the meeting area with the T-shirt collection, registration etc in the sports centre was busy but well organised. I bumped into Liz there, this year the two of us and Andrea were the only three Striders running. The start on Pikemere road was as crowded and chaotic as ever. It’s never easy to squeeze over 600 runners into a narrow residential street then get everyone to move a few yards back so that everyone is behind the start line, then open up a path through the runners for the last couple of cars that want to get out before the roads close (every year there is at least one stray car on the course with the driver getting snotty about getting stuck in a well advertised road race). Despite these difficulties, the race still started on time. At the last minute before the start, the tannoy announced that anyone who didn’t want to run in the snow could claim a refund – they’d have paid out a fortune if they’d put that on the website!
The course is advertised as very fast. That’s normally true, as once you’ve got away from the start line crowds in the first half mile it’s very flat and straight with just a few sharp bends. This year though, things were a bit different. The first half mile was a long puddle of slushy melted snow which everyone splashed through. The next couple of miles, past the old MMU campus & out through the housing estates, were a bit drier but covered in compacted snow, usually with just enough tarmac showing through to let people to run in single file. Fortunately, by the time we came out onto Crewe road & started the run back into the town centre, the roads were a bit clearer. There was also a lot of support from spectators who had braved the snow to watch the event, including Paul Nicholls (thank you Paul).Amazingly the snow hadn’t slowed me down too much, and my Garmin was telling me that I was running at close to PB pace. The race carried on out of the town centre, then back onto Pikemere road, past the start line again and into the last mile. There was a lot less slush the second time around, but still plenty of spectators including Paul again with his camera. I kept trying to push the pace despite still having to dodge the occasional ice patch, and thinking that a PB in these conditions was impossible but I might just manage it. On the finishing straight there was a clear path up to the line, so the marshal with the spade had obviously got the job done. Single file but good enough for a sprint finish. I ended up 15 seconds outside my PB time, but the Garmin said I’d run 5.1 miles at slightly faster than PB pace. All in all a very good race and very different to a normal Alsager 5.Would I recommend it – Yes. It’s also a very good race for spectators who don’t need to move far to see the same runners coming past 3 times in less than 1 hour. If you’re preparing for a marathon, running the race & then running home along the Salt line way makes a good morning’s training (I didn’t risk that in the snow this year!) Finally, well done to the organisers for running the event despite the weather!
For more information check the Alsager 5 website.