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The challenge came about after I made a comment on an old networking pal of mine's Facebook page, regarding a park run time he had recently clocked. He jokingly (I hope!) took offence to my comment and challenged me to a race, over 10 miles to be age graded. Age grading is based on age categories and expressed as a percentage of the world record time of the fastest person in that category. I am now in the Veteran Male 40-44 years old category (VM40-44) and Neil Capstick was my challenger in the VM45-49 group. He seemed to be sure I would beat him in normal time, and wanted to make sure that we took the age into account. In order to make it worth a challenge there was a prize on offer - £100 to the charity donated by Neil if I won, and a forfeit for me if Neil won. We decided on the date and a venue, which was to be 5 miles out and 5 miles back through Derwent Park.


The day dawned, damp and grey, which was pretty much how I was feeling on the morning, but there was to be no excuses from me - this race was going to be tough for sure. The course was on quite a steep gradient in parts and I knew Neil was in training for an Ultra-marathon of 100 miles in the Himalayas in October so would be more than likely much fitter than I was. So off we set and after only the first mile Neil had a small lead of about 15-20 seconds or so. As my watch beeped to notify me that we had done a mile and as I looked at the time, I knew that as a contest the race was already over. That first mile had only taken 7 minutes! I knew that I was never going to be able to sustain that pace over 10 miles, and that my Personal best over that distance was more like an average of 7 and a half minute miles - and I was nowhere near as fit as I had been when I had done that. Of course I wasn’t going to give up but as I got slower the further on I went, the chances of me getting close to Neil were getting slimmer and slimmer. It stayed that way until the end too, with my only other glimpse of him as he was on the way back near the halfway stage - about 4 minutes ahead of me! That’s when he pushed on, going a little bit faster on the downhill sections and eventually beating me on time alone by over 10 minutes!! Still it was all good training, and another challenge completed and of course Neil was a very generous victor - he still donated to the cause and even upped the donation by £20. I guess he felt bad about kicking my ass so severely! Plus of course there was the forfeit. This means that at some point in the next few months I have to go to a training night at his running club, Tyne Bridge Harriers, and participate whilst wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan 'Neil Capstick Is A Running God'. Its either that or a current Sunderland shirt - and that’s never gonna happen!!