Craig Runs The Old Nottinghamians
Every year before Christmas The Nottingham Boys High School stage a 5 kilometre race where former students are invited back to race existing students. You need to finish in the top six for your points to count. Craig normally gets placed in the race but there have been some pretty good runners here in the past. Just before the race he found out his old High School friend Pete had a time for the 5 kilometre race of only 16 minutes and 20 seconds. That was motivation. Craig set out to beat Pete’s best time. Pete wasn’t there and could not race due to his latest accident (I think he must have had every part of his body in plaster at some time since we have known him); but beating Pete’s time just provided that extra bit of interest and motivation. Although Craig was cross country running captain at school, he did’t win this race and was ill with tonsillitis when he was at his peak during school days. But Craig decided to win his races in recent years instead of finishing second or third. This time, beating Pete’s best time, and his previous best in this race of 16 minutes and 28 seconds made it more interesting.
He decided to wear his running shoes instead of spikes today, but one started to wonder on the wisdom of that as there is one part of the course near the ring road entrance which is always very muddy. You slide all over the place and the mud tries to suck your trainers off your feet with every step. I know because I have run the course with him before. He had previously worn spikes but the last part of the race is downhill on tarmac and he has been overtaken there before because its difficult to let yourself go when your running on 5 or six points of steel. You never quite know what it will be like unless you walk the course before I suppose, and you would have to be very keen to do that on an icy cold morning in the mud. So its pot luck if you have the right gear. Like the tyres on a car, they are your only contact with the track.
The start of the race was delayed as we waited for last year’s winner to turn up. I got the impression from the parent we were talking to that his son was hopeful of winning this year, although he was tired with all the University interviews in the week. He continued to chat with us, then switched to German, when he realised we could understand his conversation with his son, Andreas, in German. One previous winner arrived but not last years. Craig’s aim was simply to beat Pete’s time; a good time, but not the course record. Craig’s friend Alex entered the race too as he has most years, though he is a sprinter rather than a cross country runner. And another friend, Andrew, who I believe has also won the race in a good time in previous years. We were chatting with Andrew’s parents, who we know from orienteering events, and with Andreas’s father. All of us no doubt hopeful their son would win.
The race started with Wollaton Hall as the backdrop. Andreas went off very fast and I couldn’t see Craig at all. It did not help that I was looking for the wrong coloured top and without my glasses on, so that was no surprise. We chatted for a while, guiltily ogling the mince pies and hot chocolate for after the race. I decided to be good this year and not help myself to a coffee as they ran. If it was colder I might succumbed and sneaked a crafty cup of coffee while they were all racing; I have been known to do that before now. But I’m obviously getting better behaved as I age. After 10 minutes it is time to make our way over to the finishing line. They came past the cafe and down the tarmac part of the road and back into view. “I can’t see Craig,” I said to Sue. “It looks like Andreas is still leading . He is still striding out as he was at the beginning of the race.” Oh that’s Craig!” she said. “No,” said I, “Craig is wearing his white High School top. Although his running style looks like Craig.” I didn’t see any white tops and I have to admit I expected him to be close to the leaders; he always is. As I strained my eyes, it got very exciting. No sooner did I realise it was Craig, than the third placed runner started to accelerate and move into second place. Then he started to close in on Craig as he turned into the home straight. Sue said it was 16 minutes. “Come on Craig!” I shouted, “you can beat Pete’s time” even though there were 400 metres to go. Suddenly Craig seemed that little bit quicker and the second placed runner didn’t manage to gain any more ground, then Craig opened up a bit more of a gap. Phew!
“Well done Craig!” he won. Andrew was a close second followed by Andreas, not far behind, and then Alex the sprinter came not so far behind him. I heard somebody say Alex finished in 17 minutes. “What’s my time?” Craig asked. I thought I heard someone say it was 16 minutes and 15 seconds. I “think you beat Pete. 16 15.” “Pete did it in 16 10 ” Craig replied. “No 16 20 was Pete’s record for the Old Nottinghamians.” After checking half a dozen times Craig finally realised he had won this race for the first time and will get his name on the trophy, and he beat Pete’s time as well. I’m not sure which he enjoyed most. And all before 10:35 in the morning.
Finally, I got my coffee and a mince pie. We had seen Craig win another individual trophy for running, and the team trophy as well. And we even got a photo.