It's hard to believe that the conditions for the 2011 Seeley Cup were so different to those faced in 2010. The race in 2010 was almost called off as we were in the depths of an almighty cold snap - ice, snow and a temperature of around minus 5. 12 months later and the temperature was in the region of a balmy 10 degrees, it was mild and dry, perfect conditions for a 10k race around Ormeau Park. My goal was sub-45 mins.
This road race is the last big 10k of the year here in NI and attracts a high class field and there's always a big turn-out from Dromore AC. As ever, I arrived with plenty of time to spare, after 3 years of serious running I still get very nervous before a race - all the adrenalin pumping through me can only be a good thing.
I meet up with a few regular faces (Mary, Janette, Ian B et al) for a gentle warm up and then there's the 5 minute call to the start line. I wanted to line up closer to the front so that I had the likes of Ernie, Aine and Mary just ahead of me - these fellow Dromore runners run 10k's around the 42 - 45 minute mark and if I was to get under 45 mins I knew I had to be on their tails.
The gun sounded and we were off along the Embankment. I kept my pace steady knowing that if I went off too quick I would suffer later. Having run last year, I knew that within the park, there would be a few bottlenecks so I was determined to get a clear run as we entered the park for the first time. I was making steady progress through the park, passing a number of Dromore runners as I did so. Back on the Embankment where it's flat and straight, I had a chance to review my position and grab a breather. My pace was quick but not lung-busting and I had the likes of Aine and Wendy in front of me, so I knew thngs were going to plan.
Could I hit half-way in 23 mins? Oh yes...all I had to do was run at the same pace over the next 4k and then really push hard over the last 1k and a sub-45 was mine.
The last lap through the park was tough but I was gradually picking off Dromore runners 1 by 1 but the elusive Mary was still ahead of me. She was now my target, if I could catch her then who knows what time I would get. I dug deep and I caught and passed Mary with around 1k to go but how was I going to keep it together with nobody ahead of me to chase? Well, I had the good fortune of running alongside 2 Letterkenny runners who pulled me through the last stretch and with one last sprint I crossed the line. My Nike+ said 44-48 which although pretty accurate could've been wrong. At this point I was over-joyed - this was a PB, it knocked 2 mins off last year's time, all that training had paid off. Grabbing a bottle of water, I cheered in fellow Dromore runners and most of the club got home in under 55 minutes.
But what of my chip-time (the official one us runners live and die by)? Well, it was 44-44
and I was ecstatic. This was a great way to end my 2011 particularly after the disaster that was the Belfast Marathon. The question is what will a realistic 10k goal be in 2012??? Another PB would be just grand.