It seems to have become a habit to be racing over the London Marathon weekend. Last year I was running Longhorn, and this year it was Leicester's Big 10K. It's a race I've done previously, and was one of my first ever races back when I was just starting out. I think it's a race that has always been opressively hot when I've done it - so how would it be this time around?
Without Run For All's Leicester 10K in September, I had no target race for a 10K PB attempt. I wasn't sure whether I should make this race an attempt, or whether I should treat it as a tempo run in the lead-up to the Rocket 5K. The last month or so hasn't been the best - it seems like everything has gone down hill since my PB at the Victoria Park Half in March. Sometimes the only solution is to push hard on a run and hope it makes a difference. Ultimately I'd have to see how I felt on the day. If I wanted a PB then I'd be looking at averaging less than 6:19/mi.
This being a local race meant I didn't have to get up too early, and could take my time. After a short warm-up to the race village I saw @jen_f16 and chatted with her for a while, then @amy_everett_ with her sister and mum, and then finally @BillAndrews57 and his sister. I think seeing them all really helped prepare myself mentally for the race ahead - something I couldn't do at all in my last race.
At the race start I made my way to the right place for sub-40 runners. It felt like I was in the wrong place as it seemed too close to the front, especially when I realised I was standing right behind Gemma Steele - not just an elite runner, but the third fastest GB 10K runner ever. I've never started a race that close to one before, and I knew I'd drop a long way behind her.
As the pen opened to move runners up to the front I dropped behind a couple of rows to what felt like a more suitable starting position. I started off at 05:10/mi but had misread it as 06:10/mi so figured I'd be holding that pace for a while to see how it goes. I looked ahead and saw the elite was seriously moving fast - an impressive sight to see in real life. As soon as I realised my mistake with my watch I slowed down, and switched my watch to show predicted lap time instead. I find it provides far better motivation than the current pace, and is a little more accurate too.
Just after leaving Abbey Park for the first time, that was the first mile done in 05:59. It was a little quicker than it should have been - but the words of @Hazeyrunz were echoing in my head.
Remember you know yourself best. If it feels hard in first mile then control it if you feel good go for it. The way you learn is by taking risks sometimes they work sometimes they don’t but you are wiser either way
I felt good, and knew I could hold the pace for a little longer. Though I felt that it was likely I'd start to slow down after the halfway point and then really struggle if I did. Instead, I slowed a little; but not too much. It seemed like a good way to test my readiness for a 5K without completely ruining my current 10K race. I'd say the next mile, mostly outside of the park, was pretty boring and had nothing of note. I'd slowed to average 6:14 for that mile, and made a mental note that if I wanted to get a PB then I could afford to lose no more than 25 seconds in the next four miles. I wasn't going to continue at this pace though, so dropped to what is my half marathon PB pace, and held it there for the next four miles.
The third mile had more points of interest - for some of it this was along the canal path before going back out onto the road and back into the park for the half-way point. Along the canal path were the nesting swans which the lead cyclist had said she'd hoped we'd be passing them fast enough to scare them off for the runners behind. That seemed unnecessarily cruel - I couldn't imagine the RSPB would have been happy.
At three miles I'd done it in 6:30, and hoped that it wouldn't be a problem to hold the pace there. I'd had a lot of runners overtake me at the start; but gradually I was overtaking them again one-by-one as they seemed to tire. I felt I could push harder; but what would that do to the 5K race I want to work really hard for?
The fourth mile was a very windy one. It included the gateway that I remembered being a bottleneck in previous years - but not so much of a problem this year - it was just a matter of timing. It even included an almost complete lap of one of the green area next to where Leicester Abbey had been, and the burial place for Cardinal Wolsey, almoner for King Henry VIII. It's amazing how much history you pass by in this city. After crossing the river soar once more, that was another mile done as the fifth mile took us back out of the park again.
As the fifth mile was outside of the park, it went by without really thinking about anything. The wind did pick up for the first stretch of this; but didn't require too much extra effort - it'd gone by the time I rounded the corner where a car was attempting to turn into the coned off section of road (a marshall was stopping them thankfully). Back inside the park I was expecting it'd follow the same route before; but we joined the canal path much sooner. This is where the steps I'd remembered in previous years was located. They're still a pain for running down without slowing.
This time it wasn't just stairs to contend with - I heard a marshall shout to runners that they'd turned it into an obstacle course this year. I looked back at her in confusion, wondering what on Earth she was talking about. When I looked back where I was running I was seconds away from running into a fallen tree. I slowed down as much as I could, jumped, got one foot on the trunk, and leapt off the other side. It would have been appreciated if we'd been told about tha before the race - either by email, or even in a pre-race briefing. Only those of us at the front even knew about the swans earlier.
Not long after catching up with the back of the race, the course then left the canal path, joined the road, and then went back inside the park to where the start had been earlier. Those of us heading towards the finish were told to keep right, though it seemed everyone else was keeping left only to dart right at the last minute when the turn came up for the finish. I figured once I'd hit six miles I may as well speed up a little to get a faster finish, though wasn't entirely sure how much farther the finish was. Eventually it came into view with just enough space to get up to a reasonable sprinting pace before crossing the line. As I did some they called out over the speakers there's a lot of pressure for bib number 1. No there's not. Go away. At least they didn't say that at the start!
I finished this one in 39:20, in position 21 of 1,090 (first 2%), and 9th in my age category. Sure, this was an average of 2 seconds per mile slower than my PB pace; but it'd been the first run in weeks that actually felt controlled. It was good to feel happy with running again… hopefully I'd paced it right and would now be ready for a 5K PB attempt a week later.
In the finishing funnel they put a big chunky medal around your neck, and then there's some water and a banana you can get on your way out.