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Lucky number 071
The London Marathon clearly robbed me of speed in my legs, leaving my Parkrun 5k times a shadow of their former selves, with a particularly bad 21:45 finish at Cannon Hill recently, a time I’ve not had since November 2012.
In a bid to restore some kick to my performance, I’ve dedicated the remainder of the spring and majority of the summer to speed work to improve my 5k and 10k times. Like Elsa, I’ve entered myself into a handful of 10k races to give me something to train towards, with the first being the Race for Wildlife 10k that I ran yesterday in Undy, Wales.
I only found out about the race a few days before actually running it and seeing as Lis and I would be in the area anyway, it seemed rude not to!
Judging by the 300 person limit, I knew it would be a small, local race. It made me smile that I’d be participating in an event with fewer runners than even my local Parkrun; a rare novelty for any runner, I’m sure.
Lis, Philip and I made our way to Undy Athletic Club which is where registration would take place. Entry to the race was a reasonable £12, though this did not include chip timing which I have seen used for other small-scale 10k races of a similar price. There was a quaint local feel to the event, something I’d not experienced before due to participating in big city races. Everybody seemed to know everybody else with a few running clubs in attendance, namely the Chepstow Harriers (they helped organise the event) and San Domenico.
I’d had a panic earlier in the car when my GPS watch refused to link with any satellites. It had worked perfectly at Cardiff Parkrun the day before and I couldn’t understand why it was refusing to connect to anything. I reset the watch and my worst running nightmare came true when the watch wouldn’t switch back on. A quick Google online suggested it would reboot if I plugged it into a USB port. Thankfully, Lis’ Beetle has a powered USB port in the glove box and this managed to kick-start it back to life and it also locked on to a satellite after only a few seconds. Crisis averted!
I decided to set off on a warm-up run for 15 minutes down the road. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with my warm-up, adjusting little things here and there. My routine consisted of:
- 10 minutes jog/9 minute mile pace
- 4 minutes half marathon pace/7:30 minute mile pace
- 1 minute sprint at faster than 5k pace/6:15 mile pace
This left me breathing fast and elevated my heart rate; exactly what I wanted to go into the race with.
At around 10:15, we all ventured over to one of the fields at the athletics club for our safety briefing, which was very brief. I could see there were fewer than 200 runners, so congestion and bunching would not be an issue. We all walked to the start line, which was just a spray painted line in the middle of a country lane. I positioned myself very close to the front runners in the third or fourth row, conscious that I wanted a fast start without any hold up.
We all waited for the starter’s orders and seconds later, we were off! The course took us straight into a descent, so I held myself back slightly to avoid going off too fast so early on into the race. I was running alongside a guy for a few minutes and quizzed him about his desired finishing time. He said he wasn’t really going for a time, but looked concerned when I said I was hoping for somewhere between 43:00 and 43:30. He immediately reconsidered his plans and slowed down to drop in behind me.
Due to how quiet the country roads were, it was pretty easy to hear somebody coming up behind you, especially if they were breathing hard. A gent in his 40s or so caught up to me and we were running side by side for a while. Like before, I asked him if he was going for a time and he said he was roughly going for the same 7 minute mile pace as I was. We began to run into the wind and it was almost as if we were running through treacle. We took it in turns for a while to block the wind for each other; it was almost like night and day when I had the wind blocked for me, with a sudden surge in speed available. I took over with leading duties and I must have lost the guy at around mile 2 or 3 and continued the race on my own.
About 200 – 300 metres in front of me was a guy wearing a Cardiff 10k 2012 t-shirt. I focused on him as my target for the next mile or so, conscious that I didn’t want to suddenly increase my speed at the expense of a surge towards the end. I eventually caught up to him whilst he was slowing and silently passed him and focused on my next target, a gent in a fluorescent yellow t-shirt.
At around the 5k mark, I could see a table with cups of water on top of it. I’d forgotten about the water stop entirely and the thought never crossed my mind that it would be water served in cups and not bottles. Of course they would be serving water in cups; it’s a small local village race! As I ran past, I slowed slightly to grab one of the cups, spilling some of the water as I picked it up. As I held it to my mouth, more of the water ended up on my face, over my vest and bib and up my nose than down my throat. At best I had maybe a sip or two; just enough to quench my thirst temporarily. I should have packed one of my orange Isogels; it would have given me some liquid refreshment and also perked me up for possibly an even stronger second half.
This was the point where I pushed the pace up slightly. I was aiming to run a negative split of 22 minutes for the first 5k and 21 minutes for the second 5k. By my calculations, this was roughly 7:05 minute mile pace and then 6:46 minute mile pace. I was already slightly off on my first 5k by about 10 – 20 seconds, so I had some hard work ahead to make up the time.
My next target became a lady from San Domenico Running Club. She had taken off quite quickly at the start and built up a large gap between us. Like before, I chipped away at catching up to her and after about mile 4, I finally pounced and over took with a slight surge. For the remaining 2 miles, I was constantly looking over my shoulder. I could hear her behind me, though there was easily 100m between us, so no fear of her catching up.
I had to run the remainder of the race on my own, with the next person too far ahead for me to catch them without blowing up prematurely. All I could do was keep them in my sight and I simply follow.
The 8k marker came and went and a marshal told me I had 1k left to go. I hate when marshals lie and say you’re closer than you actually are to the finish. I had GPS to tell me exactly where I was and I knew there was at least another 500m left to go before I would see the 9k marker.
Not entirely sure what my hands are doing…
I really pushed on in the final km to make up for lost time. I had nothing left to lose and the only thing standing in my way was a slight incline back towards the athletics club. I began to sprint on my toes and saw Lis and Philip outside the club grounds and put everything I had left in my legs for a final kick towards the finishing line. I crossed the finish and stopped my watch, registering a 43:18 finish, almost 3.5 minutes faster than my last official 10k race at Cardiff in September 2012.
The final kick towards the finish line
Making my way over to the finishing area, I had to collapse on my knees as I regained my breath. A chap and his family came over to congratulate me, after I’d helped direct them to the club grounds during my warm-up run. He’d completed it in 41 minutes or so; a fantastic effort and not far off the hallowed sub-40 minute 10k all of us amateurs dream of. Lis came over and congratulated me once I’d recomposed myself and we went over to grab some water. They were also handing out goodie bags and I honestly wasn’t expecting one because only pre-registered runners were guaranteed something. The bag deserves special mention because it actually contained stuff that was runner centric, such as a couple of High5 energy gels, a High5 energy drink mixture, a banana, a pen and some leaflets about the wildlife trust that the event was in aid of. Last but not least, a medal was also included which I wore proudly around my neck.
A shiny medal and a shiny 43:18 10k PB
I thanked a few of the organisers for what was a great, little race and told them I’d see them again next year.
Breaking the race down, I was pleased with my performance. I finished 18th out 118 for a top 15% position. I thought this was slightly high but looking at the top 20 finishers, almost all of them were club runners. My finish time would have netted me a top 8% finish or 750th out of 8661 at the recent Bristol 10k, or top 9% at the Cardiff 10k with 256 out of 2735, so much more representative of the running population out there. I could have finished in sub-43 minutes if it had been a calm and still day; thankfully, the rain held off and the cloud cover kept things cool for me.
The Nike+ run data can be found here.
The medal was unexpected and a nice touch
I have just entered the Aldridge 10k to be held in June. It’s a road race with chip timing, averaging around 600 runners in the 4 years it’s been organised by Aldridge Running Club. I hear it’s an undulating course with a hill right at the end to keep things interesting. If I can equal or better my 10k PB then I’ll be a happy chappy, considering the harsher course profile. I also have the Wythall Hollywood 10k in July, so there are plenty of smaller races for me to keep working towards in my summer of speed.