Monday, 22 May 2017
In Which I Run A 10k Race In Rather Hot Weather
Yesterday we headed out to a 10k with 500 club runners. It's not my natural hunting ground, club runners being a fast, focused and highly competitive bunch and this race also being three laps on tarmac, but it was part of my half marathon prep so I was looking forward to it.
There were a couple of inclines on the course which served me well, but otherwise it was flat, flat, flat. It was also hot, hot, hot and I had deliberately turned my usual race strategy on its head and set off far faster than I normally would to see what would happen. I was really sweating after the first mile or so.
The increased pace was fine for the first couple of kms, then I started to feel it in my legs rather than my lungs. I'd run a three mile parkrun the day before so I wasn't as rested as I would usually be before a race, but this was a deliberate strategy- I wanted to push myself a bit as I've been staying in safe mode for a while now.
I decided the only way to maintain the pace was to set my sights on a group of runners a few metres ahead and not let them get out of my sight. I remained broadly with that group for the next few kms: sometimes they were ahead of me, sometimes I was ahead of them. We see-sawed like that until about 7k.
At that point I started to find it really hard work. The heat was biting, the faster pace was telling in my legs and I still had a 3.5k lap to go. I began to drop back from the group and found myself running beside a chap from Salisbury running club.
There's a strange kind of silent alchemy or chemistry that develops between runners in races. When you're tired, the best thing you can do is to find someone to fall in with and run beside who's going at a similar pace. It can make the difference between finishing the race and not. You keep each other going.
After a minute or two I started to feel more on top of things so I said to him: thanks, you're keeping me going, and he said: you're doing the same for me. He was very decent and slowed down at the water stop so I could get a drink first, but I waved him on as I had the Trusty Hydration Vest on. We ran beside each other for about another half a km, agreeing we'd both set off too fast and it was bloomin' hot weather for racing and what on earth were we doing with our Sunday morning, then the next hill kicked in and he gasped that he needed to slow down and on I went, refreshed from the brief respite and the camaraderie of his company.
I glanced at my GPS and saw that I was close to equalling or maybe even improving on my previous 10k time. I realised it would be flipping disgraceful to waste all the hard work I'd already done by slowing down now.
It's amazing the difference motivation makes. I picked up the pace again, caught up with the group ahead whom I'd run most of the race with, over took them and then set my sights on a bloke who'd been running with me for most of the race but who had surged ahead.
We came round the corner with me gaining on him but him still ahead. We ran through the start heading down to the finish; the crowd were clapping and yelling and blowing whistles, and I saw M who roared Go On! Go On! I glanced again at the GPS, realised I was in with a chance of breaking my previous 10K PB if I ran like my life depended on it, so I ran like my life depended on it. Every runner I know has the ability to summon energy to sprint to the finish line of a race, even if a km before they feel like they can't run another step.
There was 500 metres to go. I caught up with and overtook the man I'd been chasing and could hear from his breathing he had nothing left in the tank so I raced on past four more runners, and then to a lady in an orange shirt. As I overtook her she called out well done! keep going! And I gasped back thanks mate, reflecting yet again on the generosity of runners.
The finish line was looming; my blood was thumping in my head, my legs were going like the clappers and felt like they didn't belong to me, the crowd was screaming, my arms were pumping, my carefully controlled breathing had disappeared into rasping gasps and my face was screwed up with the combination of exhaustion, concentration and effort (and of course there was a photographer snapping away at that point, just as I was looking at my most attractive- the photo will be worth posting for comic effect alone). I was almost out of energy but the finishing line was rushing up to meet me. I pushed until I couldn't run any more, crossed it, stopped the GPS, and as I bent over with my hands on my legs gasping for breath saw that I'd smashed my previous PB by over a minute. I then had to sit down quite quickly because I felt faint and sick, but the elation soon put paid to that and by the time M appeared I was grinning like a mad idiot and gibbering about how ecstatic I was to have set a new PB.
The lovely lady in the orange shirt came in and we congratulated one another with the universal sign of Well Done among runners (a high-five), then the guy whom I'd overtaken on the final stretch and we high-fived too.
I haven't felt so chuffed about a race result since the Cub. To give you some perspective, M got round in 38 minutes and the winner in 30, so I was by no means Mrs Speedy Pants in the context of the other runners, but at this stage in my running, if I tried to run that fast I would now be dead, so 51 minutes is plenty good enough for me :o)
Tomorrow, a gentle 4 miler beckons, then on Thursday 9 miles. The Half Is Approaching.....
Hope you're all well?