I was advised by my fellow club mates to give this race a go. I'm not fully race fit yet, but it would act as a good marker post to see where I stand.
I did the race back in 2009 where I won my Lancashire U23 medal, so I knew roughly what was in store.
Before the race I was confident that I would do alright so long as the likes of the Hope brothers or some unknown young lad came along to spoil the party.
As it turned out, my fellow clubmate Chris Farrel stood in for the Hopes and had as good as won the race before we'd even paid our £4!
Alastair Murray also appeared, and I resigned to aiming for 3rd place behind these two.
I train with them both each week, and I know that Chris is lightning fast and I'll never be at his level no matter how hard I train. Ali is a beast, and can climb well and is quicker than me on the flat, but I know I can do him on the descents.
Out of Bold Venture Park, it's pretty much a solid 1 mile or so very runnable climb from the start line to the Jubilee Tower on the top of Darwen Tower. Then it's a case of heading downhill down a track, loosing all the height you've just worked bloody hard to gain.
Out of the park, Chris, Ali and myself formed our own breakaway group pretty much straight away, although last years outright winner, Annabel Mason I think she's called, didnt loose complete sight of us straight away.
I stayed with Chris for the first half mile, with Ali dropping off a little, and I had to ease back into my own pace and let Chris have a race with himself.
Once you've reached the bottom of the descent, you have another long gradual climb. It's all runnable, and the wind was battering us, so it made for hard running. I was constantly expecting Ali to catch me, but I was able to maintain a gap.
I felt like I'd gained on Chris slightly at the top of the climb, as he'd pulled out quite a lead after the initial descent.
On the top you veer left and take a generally flat trod and work your way back across the hill, before reaching marshal who told me it was all downhill from there - which was great news because I was still worried Ali might reappear.
The final mile or so is the route we took on the way out, so it was literally down hill all the way, first down the track, through the woods, across a road and back into Bold Venture park.
According to Strava, that mile was the fastest mile I've ever done: 5:07. I know that's nothing to write home about, but it felt good to set my own little mile pb when running "fast" is my real weakness.
Chris won in 24:22, and I came in 20 seconds later. Had there been another runner of the same class as Chris, that 20 second gap could easily have had a minute added onto it if he was pushed.
Ali came in in 3rd securing a Horwich 1,2, 3. Although I couldn't count for the team prize due to my recent change of clubs, Graham Scofield came in around 15th to allow the lads to take a bit more beer home.
Really pleased with my run. Still lots of work to do, but I know I'm responding well to the hill sessions.