From Redcar with Love
By Jason Richards
No, not the title of the latest James Bond movie filmed in the North East of England but still a story of passion and desire.
I’ve raced a number of times this year including a win at the Thirsk 10-mile race, a tough London Marathon, promising 10ks at Croft and Manchester and the Great North Run, where I improved my time from last year by over a minute and a half. However, I have never once sat at the start line filled with the same passion, desire and determination as I felt when I was racing for Great Britain.
It’s strange what inspires those emotions and self belief and as I drove up to Redcar in October in my Ford S-MAX it was less about analysing the situation and more about enjoying the journey.
Even as we warmed up, my body and mind felt in tune, there was urgency in my muscles and a longing for the gun to go and the race to be underway. The snap in my muscles surprised me a little as I had trained hard in the gym the Thursday before the race with my friend and mentor Simon Bassett of Fluid Training and we had really stretched the boundaries of what we thought my body was capable of. We’d been working hard on trying to develop core strength through my back and have found new ways to make muscles fire that I didn’t think even worked any more. The day before the race I had been out for a steady five-mile push to try and loosen off my triceps which seemed really sore, so I wasn’t expecting to feel in such great shape. My body seemed to be responding to the demands placed upon it and wanted more.
There were only 5 of us that lined up in the cool autumn air but that didn’t stop it turning out to be the most exciting race I have had all season. Simon Lawson, on the right of the photo, shot off at the start and left three of us to do battle as we surged forward into the strong outgoing headwind. Ian Thompson joined us on his hand bike to add a little encouragement and pacing into the mix. The three of us swapped places, attacked and took turns at the front of the pack as we left Redcar centre and headed out on the trunk road. By the time we turned to head back towards the start line I was in fourth place. Jade Jones and Bret Crossley had pulled out a 40 to 50m lead on me but as the tail wind swept us along at a faster pace I slowly began to claw them back in. As we sped back through the start line and out along the sea front I had reduced the gap to around 10 to 20m but there was still a long way to go. The gap remained constant until we turned for the second time at the ten-mile marker and we were into the final three mile run to the finish. I found a steady rhythm to my push and as the power surged through my triceps I could feel the strength and support in my back as a result of the work in the gym. I caught Jade and moved easily past, her fatigue from the Paralympics showing as she failed to give chase. The gap to Bret was still around 20m but at that moment the red mist set in.
A sudden overwhelming surge of adrenaline coursed through my veins and my eyes focused on the chair just in front. The years of racing experience, tactics and desire led me to keep a constant strike rate on the push rims, stalking the athlete in front of me. Then I was in his slipstream, tight up behind his rear wheels. I pulled alongside him without glancing across to show my presence as Bret kicked to retain his lead. Once again I picked up the pace as there was no way I was going to let him shake me at this point. Then I saw ahead that the line of cones was about to funnel us from two lanes down to single file. I kicked and sprinted past him, just tucking in as the lanes narrowed and the cones zipped past close to my wheels and hands as they attacked the push rims.
I knew now it was up to me to maintain my cadence and pace to the finish. It would be difficult for Bret to pass me in this narrow section and I dug deep to make my pass stick and to remain in front. I dared to glance back as my muscles burned with lactic acid to see that Bret had not come with me.
As I crossed the line in second place it felt like I’d won a major championship. I have had so much disappointment in my life and racing this year but here it was to end on a high note.
I now hope that the passion I found for my sport will survive a winter of training and help me emerge next year nearer to the form I had back in 2007 when my racing was at its peak.