Pacing the Ageas bowl

29 September 2019

With exactly a week to go before Clarendon there was yet another early start for yet another race. This time it was the Ageas 10k. Commando was pacing, Kim was tail running and a small but perfectly formed group of Hamwic Harriers were running. That left me to take the photos. The rain seemed to have been falling non stop for as long as I could remember and looked set to continue. It all felt slightly familiar. Remembering the soaking at Winchester last weekend, I decided to wear my dryrobe. This, of course, almost guaranteed the rain would hold off.

Being with the pacers meant we did at least have a quiet place upstairs to prepare for the race start. It wasn’t quite a VIP changing room but there were loos with no queues and somewhere to sit. Once everyone had stripped down to their running gear, put on their pacer shirts and pinned on their numbers, I took a few team photos. This is the easy part, although getting a shot where everyone has their eyes open and no one is gurning like a lunatic isn’t as easy as you’d think.

We couldn’t stay in the warm and dry forever though. There was a race to be run. When we could put it off no longer we made our way through the crowds towards the start line.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t actually raining but the dark sky and the huge puddles didn’t look promising for a race that is mostly along local roads. Using my experience from past years, I found a good place to stand to watch the start and took a few random photos as the runners thundered by.

Frankly, with the number of runners and the terrible light conditions, I wasn’t expecting them to be very good or to capture any of the runners I knew. As it happened, I did catch a few, including pacer and Hamwic runner, Ian, Big Dave, Commando and Hamwic runners Pete, Jo and Trudie. While I’d like to take credit for being an ace race photographer, I have to admit these were all down to sheer luck.

Tail runners, Kim and Vikki were a little easier to spot as they were the last to pass me. I watched the colourful stream disappear into the distance. The sky really was dark and there were a few spots of rain falling. The dryrobe suddenly seemed like a brilliant idea.

As even the fastest runners were going to take quite some time to complete the 10k course I now had a little time on my hands. There was a temptation to go back inside and get a coffee from the bar. If I did though, I’d have to go through the rigmarole of taking off my dryrobe so I’d feel the benefit later. Besides, I wanted to steak out a good place to watch the finish. In the end I sat on the wet seats near the finish line, hunkered down and listened to the race announcer talking to herself.

It was still trying to drizzle and the wind was buffeting me. This was not the most pleasant wait I’ve ever had but I did have somewhere to sit. While I waited I watched the race organiser tussling with the finish sign and chatting to the lion mascot. My companion for the wait, a soggy crane fly who was missing a leg, looked even less impressed than I felt.

The first runner crossed the line in just over thirty five minutes. Speedy, given the weather conditions. Around four minutes later Ian crossed the line having perfectly paced his forty minute target.

Commando and Big Dave were spot in with their fifty minute pacing too. Of course, I expected no less. Pete wasn’t too far behind them. He spotted me in the crowd and came for a quick chat.

Despite being a little distracted I did spot parkrun set up wizard Kali and pacer Sam heading for the finish.

Once Trudie and Jo had come past I knew my job was almost done. Of course, it was anyone’s guess how long the tail runners would be. Their job is to cross the line last, after all, and their pace is dictated by the slowest runner. Often this means walking pace.

Today they turned out to be running with a chap dressed in a slightly bizarre costume, some kind of animal in a army fatigues with a large backpack. It looked like a very hot and cumbersome affair. He was walking as he came into the stadium, which was hardly surprising. When he came to the last bend before the finish though, he suddenly put on a sprint to cross the line. Kim and Vikki, who hadn’t expected to have to run at this stage, chased after him laughing.

Walking down to meet the intrepid tail runners, I saw the strange army animal remove his giant head. It looked as though it was probably a great relief. He seemed very hot and red in the face. Presumably he was raising money for charity and I very much hope he got lots of sponsors.

So, yet another race was over. The rain had more or less held off, probably because I was wearing the dryrobe. The pacers had all been spot on, as usual, and I had managed to get photos of everyone I was supposed to. As we all headed back to our cars it occurred to me that the next race was Clarendon and, just for once, Commando would be the one waiting on the finish line, hopefully with a camera.

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