On Sunday 20 July, 9 LBAC runners made the relatively short trek to the Luton 10k, which this year doubled as the county 10k championships and also the club 10k champs.
It was an overcast but very muggy morning, with the mercury loitering around the 20-degree mark. Various barbecues and weddings the previous evening provided plenty of material for the usual pre-race excuses, but once 11am approached the excuses were replaced with game faces.
The race took place at Luton Hoo (Luton I said), with the Venue 360 complex acting as race HQ. The facilities there are fantastic, with nice changing rooms, showers and, most importantly, a brand new bar on the top floor for post race bevvies.
It was also the final race in the Luton Road Race Series, with the previous races being the John O’Callaghan 5 Mile race on 29 June and the Luton 5k on 13 July. Each race has individual awards, with additional trophies for the fastest 3 runners over the whole series. Glen and Chris were the only two LBAC runners competing in the series competition, and went into the final race first and second respectively. Chris’ lead over the Luton AC runner in third place was a paltry 7 seconds, so there were no seconds to waste.
Just before 11am we made our way to the start line, and after a pre-race briefing that was interrupted several times by passenger jets taking off from nearby Luton airport and taking a flight path directly over the start, an air horn sent us on our way.
The course is run mainly on a mixture of country lanes and cycle paths, and I think it’s fair to say that most of the runners consider this to be a much tougher and slower course than it appears on the map. The opening few hundred metres of the course is along a dodgy stretch of crumbling bitumen, with a sharp right turn taking runners up a short slope onto some football pitches and then out onto a long downhill road to the first kilometre sign.
Simon and Andrew Inskip from Beds County set a cracking pace, passing through the 1k mark in around 3:10 while Glen, Pete and Chris clocked about 3:30 for the opening click.
Soon after the first K marker, the course rises steeply for the next two kilometers through Stockwood Park Golf Course. It levels off at about 3k, with a gradual descent along a country lane taking runners through the half-way point and left onto a slightly busier road. After a few undulations, there is a steep 400 metre decline, with a sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill taking runners onto a cycle path, just before 7k. At this point in the race Simon was pulling away gradually into the lead, with Glen, Pete and Chris separated by only about 100 metres a couple of minutes further back.
Unfortunately, Kate’s injury from earlier in the week had flared up and she had been reduced to a walk. Nevertheless, in true Kate fashion, she was determined to finish the race and was battling on.
Just after the sharp left turn onto the cycle path, the bike marshal in front of Glen, Pete and Chris clipped his pedal on the curb and snapped it off, sending the jagged piece of metal into his calf as he went sprawling onto the pavement. A quick check after the race would prove that he was okay apart from a bloodied leg, but his 12-year-old mountain bike had not fared so well – an entire new gear set would be required to fix that old girl.
The final 3kms is run predominantly on a cycle path, and with another bike marshal taking on guiding duties for the chasing pack it was a case of push the downhills hard and try to keep the momentum going on the ups, as we followed the twists and turns of the course.
Eventually the route emerges alongside the football ground that we had run along at the beginning of the race, and after a 180 degree u-turn at the top of a short slope, ran onto the pitch and under a big blue finishing banner.
Simon produced a wonderful performance to win the race in a cracking time of 33:41, with Inskip from Bedford & County second in 34:10. Glen (36:33) led home a procession of LBAC runners as he finished third, with Pete fourth in 37:05 and Chris fifth in 37:38. Four in the top five for the LBAC men meant that the Luton 10K men’s team silverware – or wine in this case – would be on a one way trip back to the ‘Buzz. Chris’ effort had also clinched second place in the overall Luton series.
Adam Haylock continued his fine form to make it 5 LBAC runners in the top 10 as he crossed the line in 38:29. Next home was Katie Haylock in 49:54, with Andrew “the secret runner” Hallworth posting a new 10K PB of 51:49. It’s only a matter of time before Andrew is down into the 40s, and after that, who knows…
Liz Miller was the next Buzzard home in 62:44, with Kate Johnson producing a heroic display to work her way round the course and still not finish last despite having to walk most of the race. Hopefully this will prompt her to take a bit of time out to let her weary legs get back to their best, and no doubt this will extend to making Andrew do all the chores around the house. So normal service we expect…
Many hours later the presentations were finally held in the bar, with:
Simon picking up the race and county champion medals;
Liz winning the Female Vet 65 award;
Glen and Chris collecting the first and second place trophies for the Luton Race Series;
Simon, Glen, Pete and Chris collecting the men’s team prize.
All in all it was a small contingent from LBAC, but a successful one at that. The race – and the entire series for that matter – is an efficient, no fuss affair on moderately challenging courses on mostly traffic free roads and paths, with cheap race entry fees (particularly if you sign up for the series). Certainly one to keep in mind for the future…