I haven't really run many 10Ks lately, but this was one I only added to my race calendar in the last few weeks as part of celebrating Carmen's birthday. Whilst she would be pacing 65 minutes, I’d be free to run this at whatever pace I could manage. Based on recent races, I suspected early on that would be ‘not very fast’ compared to what I used to manage..
The night before this race I’d pulled a muscle in my neck and hadn’t really slept as a result of this as I couldn’t get comfortable for long enough to do so, and at times it was bad enough that it felt like I couldn't move. I laid in bed until 06:00, and then it was a struggle to have breakfast, so didn’t eat it all, and had some water before we headed out.
When we arrive outside Kew Gardens I did do a short test jog to see how hard it’d be to run, and I thought maybe 10:00/mi pace would be a reasonable estimate of what I could do right now. I figured worst case scenario I could potentially walk most of it, and avoid my first DNF. I'd done the test jog to try and judge whether or not it should be a DNS though.
Inside Kew Gardens, the toilet queue was long, but fast moving. When I joined the pen I decided on sub-1 hour as it didn’t seem entirely out the question. I had to hope even with my neck the way it was, barely able to move it, that it’d ease off during the run. There were two people dressed as the ‘118’ characters that were trying to be motivational, well one of them was, the other was just following the other around.
I started with the 55 minute pacer, and for the first kilometre I took it was and had my left arm touching my left shoulder, which was keeping the problem area steady and unmoving. There was someone dressed as Forrest Gump who was shouting that they’re a really good runner, faster than all of us, but didn’t enter today to give us a chance. I know it’s for entertainment, but as I was running away I thought how out of character that would have been for Forrest.
After that first kilometre I think the adrenaline from running may have masked the pain as I was then able to make very small movements with my left arm. Sure it did twinge every now and then, but being able to move it slightly helped me to pick up the pace a little, and by 2km I’d caught up with the 45 minute pacers and overtook them for a while after having ran with them for a while also. I'd missed the first water station when running with them, but I wasn't sure I could easily have grabbed water on my left side anyway. Later on in the race it was on my right-hand side, and that was a lot easier so did get some water in the second half.
After 5km I was starting to struggle with the heat, and I decided to be sensible, and started taking breaks whenever I saw something I wanted to photograph, such as the pagoda. I knew I wouldn’t be walking over to see it later, so made sense to photograph it now. The pacers overtook me, and I thought maybe I should at least try to keep them in sight, as it would be nice to know I can still do sub-45 when a non-running injury is holding me back.
The course is a very windy one, it’d have to be to manage 10K inside Kew Gardens, but it does somehow manage to remain fresh with every turn, and you never have to retread old ground either on this single lap course. I did take further breaks, not just for photography, but when I got to the final straight I decided to see how much I could push myself without my shoulder giving me too much issue. When I sprint I move my arms a lot, and that wasn’t happening, but I still managed to pick up some reasonable speed without them.
I finished in 45:33, and I’ve no idea how I managed that considering the state my neck muscles were in. Considering Carmen had helped me put my t-shirt on that morning, and even helped me getting in and out of her car, it says a lot about the issues it was giving me. So sure, it was ~8 minutes slower than I’ve done at other 10Ks in the past, but considering the conditions and my neck I thought anything less than an hour might be pushing my luck. If I finished it all. So, I think I can be pleased with a time that for me is usually slow. I managed to finish 87th out of 1,225 finishers, so still within the first 10% as well. Although maybe not a particularly cheap 10K, it’s one I feel I need to enter again, to see what is possible on that course.
At the finish the first thing was a can of water, and then the medal. After a quick photograph with my medal were the boxes of tees, and I walked from there to some shade to sit down and wait for Carmen. I’d planned to walk around some of the gardens, but with my shoulder as it was I decided I’d rather sit. I considered laying down, but was concerned if I did that I might not get back up. After ten minutes I found a spot to wait for her from, just on the last corner before the finishing straight.