By Scott Mills
Weir Archer Academy’s John Smith not only had to overcome harsh weather conditions but he also had to race through runners and unusual road blocks to win this weekend’s 2016 Manchester Half-Marathon title.
Battling through monsoon-like conditions and extremely heavy winds, Smith who recorded a victory with a time of 00:51:08, saw his chances of beating the ever-elusive sub-50 minute half-marathon scuppered when he approached the 12th mile of the race.
“I knew I had a mile and a half to go with 6 minutes to do it in,” Smith explained.
“But when I was about 12 miles into the race, that’s when the aggravation started.
“I remember thinking to myself that my best time for a mile was 00:03.19, so I didn’t really have to sprint for a PB because I had so much time to do it in.
“But then I looked up and my lead rider who was a policeman, literally slammed on the break causing me to nearly go into the back of him.”
As if the last experience Smith had in Manchester wasn’t bad enough, this time it was a lorry blocking the road that crushed any hopes of the Englishman getting a sub-50 personal best.
After being halted for a few minutes by the lorry, the hard-working athlete eventually got back on track but this time he was met by yet another obstacle.
“As soon as I swung around the skip lorry I was met by about 2,000 runners coming at me like a stampede and chasing my PB, I just put my head down and hoped for the best.
“I was just thinking that they are either going to plough over me or I am going to plough over them.
“I saw one runner crash into both Stuart [Smith’s Weir Archer teammate] and the racer in third and I was just thinking that I was quite lucky because when I swung around the truck I had a full wave of runners coming at me.”
Despite the mishap in organisation by the Manchester Half organisers in mile 12 and racing in what Smith describes as the ‘worst conditions he has ever raced in’, the man best described as a ‘beast’ on the track feels that his coach, Jenny Archer MBE was to thank for the win.
“I feel really strong and it is a good thing Jen has conditioned us to training in the wind, rain, snow or sleet.
“I just feel that no matter what we come up against, Jen has conditioned all of the athletes at the Weir Archer Academy to be able to perform in them,” explains Smith.
“I mean Jen will tell you there is either two types of people in the world- you’ve got goats or you have got lions.
“While you can produce 5 goats, there is not that many lions and I am not just saying that about myself, you have Stuart Bloor [who finished runners up] there who was in the trenches with me fighting against the wind, rain and god knows what else and we performed the best that we could.
“So it is just a good thing we have got the right coach behind us, the right team and the right family.”
So with a great start to the winter season under his belt, Smith will now look to regroup with his coach Jenny Archer MBE before continuing to chase after his goals.