It's been a busy month. It started with a surprising PB at the Greater Manchester Marathon, and then last week I was running The Longhorn half marathon. This week's race was a little shorter at only 10K. I'd already decided this wouldn't be an "all out" race as I'd like to attempt a PB at the Rocket 5K next weekend. So I figured sub-42 would suffice.
Since last weekend the weather has gotten considerably colder, and wetter. In previous years I've done this race I've been injured before starting it, and then overheating before the end. This year, there's no inury, and with the weather as it was I figured overheating was unlikely unless I dressed wrong.
Before the race I saw @BillAndrews57, @jen_f16, and Ian. Chris, who I'd not met before, was unable to meet up with us before I made my way towards the front of the start pen. This year the race was starting from a slightly different location to where it had previously so I was already thinking this could be quite different. I stood with Ian who was aiming for sub-41, and then the race started.
For the first hundred or so metres it was difficult to get going as those directly in front of me had set off at a 09:00/mi pace with nobody in front of them. There's nothing wrong with that pace, in fact it's pretty brilliant, but that's the way it can be when pens aren't divided by time. Wow, I sound awful saying that.
I'd say there was no real impact though as once I managed to find an opening to pass them I went for a quick burst of speed just to recover that lost time. Sure, if I was going for a PB I might regret it but I wasn't so it's okay really. The first mile was a large oval inside the park, and then out the gate onto the road. Just after my watch buzzed for the first mile a 4x4 sailed passed having come inside the coned off lane. It was moving slowly, but was still getting close to the runners in front.
In previous years I've found the section outside the park to be hard: partly because of the gradual incline in places, but also because it's fully exposed to the sun. This time neither were a problem. So was still feeling pretty good when running down the ramp alongside the tennis courts back into the park. From there I joined the canal path, forgetting that there were steps down to it, and was running behind a couple of runners running shoulder to shoulder that I couldn't get passed. At the first opportunity, I ran on the grass to go wide and overtake them both before leaving the canal back onto the road and into the park.
It was now time for the second lap. This started the same as the first lap but then turned off to go around some more of the park insides. When I reached 5K I was under 20 minutes and knew that as long as I continued to feel how I did that I could get a comfortable 40 minute time. I was surprised though that one runner I was just starting to overtake was using an energy gel when there was probably 20 minutes left of running to go. I thought to myself that using a gel for under an hour of running, maybe they needed it to manage diabetes or something similar.
We then crossed one bridge, and then moments before reaching the gateway that in previous years had been a bottleneck, a runner in front of me slipped on the mud but was fortunate to recover during the slide. He confirmed he was okay to the runner next to him, and carried on. The route then crossed back over another bridge and back around to where the start and the park exit were.
Back out on the road it felt harder this time, but I was determined to carry on. Some of the runners were starting to struggle which let me overtake a couple more during my 5th mile. My own pace had slowed during the previous mile, but managing to overtake a few people helped me find some confidence to go back to my normal 10K pace.
The last mile was hard work, I admit that, but I knew I could push harder. I needed to be sensible though. Instead of immediately joining the canal path after the car park like the last lap, it instead went inside the park and across a path that hasn't existed in previous years. This was then back onto the canal path and followed the same route onto the road and then looping back into the park.
This time with 400 metres to go the course split again to take a smaller loop around to where the finish would be. I couldn't imagine it being only 400 metres so held back… not yet willing to sprint. Then I saw the 200 metres sign, but couldn't see the finish so still held back. Eventually I rounded a corner and saw the grass I knew led to the finish but also saw it was churned up and muddy. Perhaps I could get by without sprinting this time - sure it's fun, but I'd rather not slip over on the grass from speeding up to quickly. And so, I crossed the finish line at the pace I'd been going at for much of the last lap.
I finished in position 36 of 1,187 with a time of 40:02. Not my fastest, but I think I could have squeezed another 10-20s off that. It would still have been slower than the PB I got last September, so I think holding back turned out to be a good idea. I was handed a medal, and then went over to the tent to collect a bottle of water and a banana. The things we do for fruit.
After the race I wandered around the course looking for people I know to cheer on. First I saw Bill and his sister, then Jen, and then I saw Chris so ran with him for a while to see how his race was going. They were all doing great!
Next week is the Rocket 5K in Milton Keynes, just 2 days before my 35th birthday… I'm hoping that will finally get me a sub-19. That'd make a nice birthday present.