Those dreadful school sports days aside, I've only ever run in 2 proper races before..
The first race I ever entered was a 10K run on the flood meadows in Burton on Trent, that's the one I followed up by giving myself shin splints, then deciding ignoring them would eventually let my body sort it all out. I've since learnt that doesn't work, and what actually happens is someone of the medical persuasion tells you not to run for at least 12 weeks...
My second race was much more recent and very much a fun event, the Hairy Helmet Relay, which is a 4 person team relay race where each runner does 2.2 miles in Derby's lovely Darley Park. It's a great event for running with a few friends, and afterwards everyone gets a free pint. What's not to like about that? I sort of got the running bug back after that, and decided I'd give the half marathon a go.
Anyway, back to the unplanned 10K. Despite having started running in the week again and completing that one small (and not too serious) race I decided that I'd still no idea if I'll ever be good enough to make it round a full 13.1 miles, or how I'd stand up when I actually had to push myself a bit. To be fair my confidence had taken quite a big knock back after the injuries and I'd become a bit paranoid that if I try to go faster again I'll end up back at square one. The only way I could really tackle that was head on.. So, with a bit of cajoling from my friend Matt, I convinced myself 6 miles of trails and tracks was the best way to find out, and signed up.
It decided to rain, and rain, pretty much every day leading up to the race. The night before the big day it still hadn't let up completely. If there's one thing I hate, it's that feeling of water squishing up between my toes once trainers become waterlogged. It's at that point I got a a top tip from Nel over at 3 Good Things that what I needed were 'amazing waterproof socks'...so that afternoon I got myself over to The Derby Runner and picked up a pair. Finally I was all set for whatever nature decided to throw at me...
So, the race.. There was quite a crowd starting to form by the time I got there. I bumped into a few people I knew and some I didn't, had a chat, and tried to take my mind off what came next. At one point I even resorted to stretching for a bit, which it turns out is actually quite calming. After a while we were summoned over to what would be the start line, some race announcements were made. If I'm honest I'm not exactly sure what they all were, because near the back of a crowd of 500 people sound doesn't carry so well. The important one however was 'keep left so the faster people can get past you'. I kept left for most of the race!
Without much further a do there was a whistle blown and we were off. Along some dirt track, through the woods, and then it was time to encounter the first patch of mud, a few puddles, some quite deep, it's fair to say the course definitely wasn't a full scale mud bath, but my feet got submerged a few times every lap. Thanks to the magic socks I wasn't avoiding the puddles where others tiptoed round, and I never got that squishy feeling once. They really are amazing. (Thanks Nel!)
|Nike Pegasus 28 - Not in the slightest bit waterproof.|
I'd decided when I signed up that I'd be best just to just treat the race as my weeks speed work, and as long as I managed 4 miles at around 8:41 then all would be good with the world, with a bit of luck I might manage nearer six and get myself under the 55 minute mark.
Two miles done and I was ahead of where I needed to be. Common sense got the better of me at that point and I decided I needed to pace myself and live to fight another day, the real target is still the half marathon. I started to think about breathing again and got myself back on track at the right speed. It felt like I was running within my limits, but not to the point of it being too easy.. maybe 9 tenths.
More mud, more splashing, and despite the fact I was starting to look like I'd been dragged through a hedge backwards I was actually having fun. Round about the middle of my second lap it happened, that thing I'd been dreading, one step slightly wrong, the ground underneath my foot turned out to be a small rock, and I turned my ankle... Thankfully it didn't bear my full weight, I staggered slightly then got back on with the running, my heart in my mouth.
By the third lap I was starting to feel it a bit, I even grabbed a cup of water at the drink station. I've never actually tried to drink from a cup when running before, turns out it's not easy.. Lucky I only wanted a sip because at the third try I managed to get one.. The rest of the cup went straight over my head - just what the doctor ordered... 2 more miles to go and I was feeling good again.
I think on that last lap I overtook a few people, my pace picked up slightly, every so often I got the reality check of someone overtaking me too. With half a mile to go I'd got into a pattern of changing places with a chap in a blue t-shirt which kept going most of the way to the finish line. (I think he beat me at the end.)
And there it was, the clock had some numbers on it, I knew there were 50's involved but my brain didn't really process them. I was across the line. After wandering round for a moment I realised I should probably stop my watch too. Amazingly it showed my time was better than my previous PB, I'd no idea quite how much by, and in many ways it didn't matter - this wasn't about being the fastest, or about the time, it was about getting myself back some of the fitness I'd lost, feeling OK about running, and along the way maybe starting to find my mojo again.
It's fair to say I'll never be a record breaking runner, but having now seen the timings I managed to finish over a minute faster than the last one, despite a faster 10K not being my goal. It actually feels like I'm making progress again.
Total Distance 6.2mi (10K)
Duration 51:54 - A new PB! (Spilt times: 08:14, 08:26, 08:41, 08:44, 08:31, 08:24, 00:54)
Avg Pace 8:26
Here's the race log on mapmyrun.