I'm just back from the inaugural Breamore 10k. Breamore is an Elizabethan manor house completed in 1583 that sits on a hilltop north of Fordingbridge, on the edge of the New Forest.
M had gone off to a race in Dorset, so for the first time I was going to a race on my own. I like to arrive an hour before the race starts, just to be on the safe side. All was going well until I realised I'd turned left instead of right at Fordingbridge and so ended up in Ringwood with only half an hour to go before the race started. The forest has strict speed limits so I couldn't whizz the nine miles back to Breamore, which in any event is tucked down a little-signposted narrow and ancient country lane. I turned round and tried to stay calm as I went back up the road I'd just driven down, arriving with ten minutes to spare and a heart rate elevated before I'd even run a step. I parked in the field, pulled off my warm layers and hurtled round to the registration tent to collect my number and tie the timing chip round my ankle.
The race director was in full pre-race briefing mode by the time I got there. I spotted my friend Anna so made my way over to her and asked if I'd missed anything important. Only a word of warning about pheasants loose on the course, she whispered back, grinning.
We walked to the start, up a small
We were in mid-chat when a horn sounded and suddenly everyone was running. The start took you up a reasonably significant hill which after a few minutes had some people walking. I said goodbye to Anna and surged off, feeling relatively fit and strong despite a fast parkrun yesterday. I'd put in an 8 mile training run over some hills with the hounds on Wednesday and could feel the benefit of it in my legs.
I got past a few folks and tried to settle into a rhythm, but soon realised this race was either up hill or down; there were relatively few flat bits. After a couple of miles the competitors were pretty spread out, with the same four or five people up ahead and one lady running with me. I'd get ahead on the hills; she'd whoosh past me on the downhills. She was a triathlete, about twenty years older than me and fit as a flea. I knew I was going to have to work hard not to let her get ahead of me.
One long hill half-way round bit, and lots of people were walking. I was dead chuffed to run the whole way up, even if it was snails-pace running. The downhill reward was short lived though- we rounded a corner in a field and were faced with a long, steep hill that wound up into woods. I ran about half way then decided walking was a better option.
Once at the top I picked up the pace again as a nice downhill carried me back to the start. Here the 5k runners finished and the 10ks went round the loop again. Sometimes laps can be helpful- you know what's coming and you can prepare, but on this race we all knew that it was hills, and more hills ahead. I got half way up the next one (on gravel tracks) and decided to pull back some energy by walking. Anna was coming down the hill so we waved and consoled each other about the gradient.
The walking break worked; feeling restored I pushed on and managed to overtake a couple of people ahead, including the triathlete lady. She stayed just behind me though; hearing someone breathing on your shoulder puts the pressure on and I was waiting for my breath to come back so I could put a bit more distance between us.
The huge hill came round again before I knew it and this time I knew I wouldn't be able to run up all of it. Just as we came out of a farmyard and started the ascent, the lady I'd run past moments before suddenly tripped and fell, flat on her face; a swan dive onto the ground. I stopped and helped her up. Luckily she was OK but I expect it shook her up.
I carried on, the triathlete ahead of me again. I was on her heels though and as she was by now walking she kindly moved to one side so I could get past. Then I needed to walk and she got past me again. Cat and Mouse.
Down the hill, along the hedge line, round the corner, back up the big steep hill, another lady in her 60s ran past me. I congratulated her, then she started to flag so I ran by, then I needed to walk again. The tri lady was hot on my heels, I glanced at my watch and told her we'd only got a km to go. Her watch had stopped working so she was pleased to know that. There was a guy standing at the top of the hill who knew her: less talking, more running! he said, grinning as we trotted past him.
Once at the top I knew the final km was all downhill. There was no way I was going to let her overtake me on the final stretch so I pushed on, trusting that the improvements in my knee over the past fortnight particularly would carry me safely down the steep, pebbly track. It did and I flew, resolutely refusing to think what would happen if I tripped....It was my fastest km of the race: 4.34, I was chuffed. I am getting faster again after a summer of nurse-maiding an injured knee and not really being able to compete and that feel's good.
I got back just under the hour, which shows how steep the race was as I can usually do a 10k comfortably under 53 mins, and if I'm pushing it, closer to 50. I got my medal, grabbed a bottle of water and then chatted to the tri lady who came over to congratulate me and to say thank you for helping her get round. I grinned and told her she'd made me fly down the last hill because I knew if I hadn't, she'd have come past me.
Then I went to wait for Anna. She wasn't far behind and I cheered and clapped as she ran down to the finish, looking elegant as usual. The organisers had put on tea and cake for everyone, so we sat in the sun-dappled courtyard while the prize-giving happened eating the most delicious stodgy, gooey, chocolatey fudge cake and drinking tea from china cups, nattering about the race and about her daughter, who is an ultra marathon runner and has a second attempt at a 100 mile race coming up.
It was a top race, which I really enjoyed, and a lovely setting too.
Hope you're all well?
|The only flat bit - the car park!|