Six days ago I ran the Manchester Marathon, and knew at the time that I'd be doing a 10K race soon after. That hadn't always been the plan; but things had changed, and I thought I was going to need to miss a 10K I'd got booked for the end of April, so I booked this. My focus for the days in between was short and slow recovery runs to try and prepare the best I could. My intention was not to go "all out"; but to see where my legs were at, so I'd have a rough idea of how much work I'd need to do over the coming weeks for a 5K and 10K PB attempt. Neither of these would be easy as they'd be very under-prepared, but with my usual 10K "A" race in the Autumn not on this year it felt like I had little choice.
Sadly it's not been the best of weeks, and once again I went into a race with no sleep whatsoever. I guess it's one of those things that just happens sometimes - can't be helped. Fortunately I'd had a similar sleepless night before I did Canalathon a few years back so knew I could still run. I was up at 05:00, and forty minutes later was on the road to London. It felt like I was running early, so took my time and didn't even get on the first tube from Stanmore. It was however sub-zero. Thanks, London.
I got off the tube at Green Park and ran a mile from there to Hyde Park, and through some of that too. I then checked a map to see where the bandstand was for the start, and saw that it was near Kensington Palace, so headed there. After about twenty minutes I wondered why there was no sign of any activity. No race village. No runners.
I headed to the nearest map and checked where I was to make sure I was next to the bandstand. I was! However, I then spotted there was a second over near Hyde Park Corner that I'd not seen when entering the park. I'd now not got long to get back to the other side.
I made it though, and had enough time to collect my number, affix it to my hoodie, and drop off my bag with five minutes to spare. I made my way to the start when they called for sub-44 10K runners and sub-22 5K runners, and waited.
To start with I felt slow and achy - I sped up a little to try and shake that off a little and then slowed back down to the pace I'd be comfortable with for now. I'd spoken to a friend the morning before, and they'd planned 6:20/mi so I agreed to try for similar if I could. My first half mile was ridiculously over-target though so even with the slow down I'd gone through one mile in 6:06. The net elevation change for this first mile was an extremely gentle incline; but it did ease off a little and start to descend a little. My only previous running experience in this park was a tempo training session around the Round Pond last May.
With the end of the first mile, it's not far off finishing the first of four laps - it's just another half mile to the start of the next lap - again on that gentle incline. To be honest, the majority of it felt flat except for that first bit and I think my pace should have slowed more for that stretch. During the second lap I started to contemplate finishing early, I could feel myself getting warmer (okay the hoodie was a bad idea) and my legs were already starting to tire. My second mile had been slightly slower than target and I was starting to doubt I could do another two laps. I took my gloves off, and tried to focus on my goals. I'd come here to run a tempo run, not race a PB - I could slow down, recover a little, and just see how it goes. Realising that helped a lot and I watched as the start line passed by a second time - still half wishing it was over. Now I was committed to two more.
During the second lap I'd had to weave a little to overtake people on their first, but on the third lap it became more of a challenge. In places I had to run on the grass, but fortunately it wasn't that bad. My headache from the morning had gone too - so things were looking up by the time this lap was done. At least I'd only got around a mile left to do.
I noticed far fewer people about on this last lap - I guess this was because the majority of 5K runners had now finished. The people that I were passing now would be 10K runners - same as those passing me. I think knowing I was almost done helped a lot, and it felt like I was picking up pace the closer I got to the end of this last lap. In fact, my last mile was around the same pace as my first mile - so I wasn't doing too bad. I hoped I could get a sub-40 as that would be a promising sign that my post-marathon fitness wasn't too bad.
As the finish line came into sight I joined the funnel and passed the sign saying "sprint finish here". Sprint finish? Nah, not this time - I was happy to keep my pace as it was until the finish.
I finished 13th out of 352 runners (first 3.6%), with a time of 39:20. Not a PB, it didn't need to be - but at least it was sub-40 once again. It felt like things could be looking up again.
They passed me a medal, and then next to the bag drop they had water, bananas, a PB gel (I didn't bother - but perhaps I should have for future trials), and a homemade flapjack.
I'd hoped to meet-up with a friend after, but they'd dropped down to the 5K and had already gone home. So, after less than forty minutes of racing, I was back on my almost three hour journey home. Thanks to RunThrough for the free race photos! I like it when races do that, even if I do look like death in them. Can't be helped.