A flying quartet of Musketeers were successful in the Bideford Half with Vic, Lucy, Craig and Guy flying the flag in N.Devon.
Small in numbers, but not lacking in quality -- from Lucy's long legged stride to Vic's rubber-burning starts and Craig's lung-bursting finish.
Having run with him I at least know Craig's efforts were rewarded with a fantastic PB. But not sure about the others. The course is renowned for PBs which is surprising considering there are flatter courses at Cardiff, Bath, Exeter and Bristol for instance. Maybe the secret is in the lay-out which is ideal for Musketeers who train for negative splits - faster second halves and on hills.
The course begins in a tightly packed crowd with the field only thinning out about a mile later when we sadly had to pass Lucy. The route is very pretty on a wide gently undulating road above a wide river which proves a welcome distraction from the running sometimes, as does a special bagpipe band accompaniment.
This was probably the coldest start in the race's 19-year history which took everyone by surprise. There was a scramble in kit bags for long-sleeved shirts before the start. At least after the first hill we were warmed up considerably and it was easier then to get into a regular breathing and running rhythm.
Now was time for Craig to crank up the gears and consistently over take those running 'targets' in front. It is sooo easy to run at the pace of the surrounding pack. Overtaking also gives you a shot of adrenalin and confidence - especially when it is Vic. But it took us an amazing five miles.
Once over the river bridge, not long after half-way we came down to the canal and onto the Tarka trail, a more or less flat cycle and walking route. This is where Craig injected a surge of pace and settled into it until he felt comfortable - though he might dispute the comfort...
However, his leadership seemed to inspire others to tack onto him and a small 'peleton' formed with non-Muskies tagging on. The pace settled at about 7min 30sec until about three miles from the finish when the interlopers dropped off the hot pace.
The only danger of running on a straight flat path is that it feels unrelenting and can lead to a lack of concentration. This is when mind games kick in and you start spotting more running 'targets' and looking forward to lunch as distraction.
After exiting the spookily dark tunnel (which did not take us into the bowels of the earth) we maintained the pace for a while until Craig slightly slowed. But still managed to push on past the old railway carriage café and then into town across Bideford's splendid river bridge and cheered along the quayside to a famous finish.
I saw Vic and Lucy finish and they may also have PBs. But whatever the times, deserve credit for finishing strongly on a race where you can't help but give your all due to the fast finish.