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Scorchio! Sod going abroad to work on your tan – just race more often!
It’s kinda crazy going from the London Marathon with 36,000+ runners to the Race for Wildlife 10k with just 137. The marathon is all about energy conservation whilst covering as much distance in as little time as possible. The 10k is about emptying your tank and red lining for as long as possible. Yep, I love running fast and I’m right at home with the 10k.
I first ran the Race for Wildlife 10k last year, mostly out of convenience because Lis and I were in Wales that weekend and they allowed registrations on the day. It proved to be a really great event; it features the flattest course I’ve ever encountered with only 13m of total elevation!
Of course I would add it again to my summer of speed campaign.
Me and my yellow race vest reunited
Arriving at race HQ at Undy Athletic Football Club, the sun was out en force. It was relentless with no cloud cover and temperatures in the low 20s. Add freshly cut grass to the mix and my hay fever was starting to play up.
After registration, I headed out for a 1.5 mile easy warm-up before the main event. Even at such an easy pace, I was already sweating like a pig. Thankfully during the previous day, I was able to spend several hours sunning myself outside so I was a little better at managing the heat. Returning to race HQ, we headed inside to take a break from the vitamin D onslaught occurring outside. See, we Brits are never satisfied; when it’s cold and wet, we want some sun and when it’s sunny, we want it to be cold and wet again!
During the safety briefing, I knocked back a super-strong espresso for that kick to the nervous system. I’ve been doing this lately before Parkruns where I’m hoping to perform well and like the beetroot juice shots, I do believe I get a benefit from them.
Us runners were then walked a short distance to the start line that literally was just a spray painted line on the ground in the middle of a country lane. It always makes me laugh at small events like this where runners are normally quite shy to toe-up right at the front on the start line whereas at larger city events you get the exact opposite where people will put themselves literally on the line, only to then get in the way of everybody behind them. I did plant myself firmly on the start line and after a very sudden and unanticipated “go”, we were released.
The lead runners shot off into the distance with the rest of us in hot pursuit. I found myself gravitating towards a fellow runner in a fluorescent yellow t-shirt. For the next 2k, we would continually run together and overtake each other. I did cheekily tuck myself in right behind him when the headwinds were blowing and would then use the small energy surge to drive past him. Going into 3k, my tighter racing line allowed me to leave him behind entirely although that meant I was running in no-man’s land on my lonesome.
4k proved to be a little tricky on my own; my split times reflect this with it being my slowest km of the lot. I locked on to a San Domenico club runner and a charity runner in a pink vest ahead of me to try and reel them in. Slowly but surely, I was getting closer to them but this could have simply been them slowing down rather than me making any significant push.
At the 5k marker, I sank an Isogel for a nice pick-me-up. I triple checked that I had one on hand because last year, I’d completely forgotten that a small local race would be serving water out of simple plastic cups, which I’m useless at drinking from. My Isogels require no additional water and are very handy in such situations where some liquid refreshment is required, but it would inconvenient to carry an entire bottle on a faster paced run. The organisers had also moved the water station further away and on to the right of the course. I was fully expecting it to appear on my left, so cue a few expletives and then having to dash to the right, cutting through and overtaking the San Domenico and charity runner for some water. I was quite impressed with my cup pick-up manoeuvre where not a single drop was spilt; I also managed 3 gulps of water before chucking the rest on my head to help cool me down.
6k featured an awkward out and back section, clearly slotted in to bulk up the distance to 10k. The three front runners were still running together at this point, approximately 2 minutes or so ahead of me by my calculations. I took the turnaround a little too quickly and ended up running wide to compensate. I clocked the fluorescent yellow t-shirt guy on the way in, also a good 2 minutes or so behind me so he had clearly gone out too quick to have slowed down by so much.
On the approach to 7k, I was still in no-man’s land but had a lovely straight and well-paved road to run on. It was actually a false flat, with maybe a 1% gradient; to the naked eye, it was indistinguishable but my legs could feel the difference. Further to this, I was making significant progress in my pursuit of the group of three runners ahead of me. Once again, I questioned whether I was speeding up or whether they were tiring and slowing down. Looking at my splits, it must have been both and in one stealthy move, I overtook all three runners and not a single one of them decided to go with me.
With just 2k left to go, I started to step down on the throttle a little more and started visualising familiar 2k in my head from familiar Parkrun courses. My breathing was fast but still controlled and I continued pushing.
A sprint finish until the very end – little did I know it was also for a 5th place finish!
At 9k, I turned my head and noticed one of the three runners had broken away from the pack and was maybe 10 – 15 seconds behind me. I continued running for another 10 seconds before I quickly did a double take to realise he was actually very close to catching up to me! Down the foot went and I started to push again, safe in the knowledge that I knew I could handle less than 1,000m at a faster pace. My breathing was now laboured and perfectly in sync with my arms driving me forward. A very short incline presented itself before I saw Lis in the distance with just 300m or so left to go; now was the time to drop the hammer and kick! The home straight towards the finish line is inconveniently on broken ground, but this didn’t stop me kicking hard. Apparently, people in the crowd were gasping, “Whoa, look at that guy!” as I approached the end.
I finally crossed the line in 41:39, exactly 1 minute slower than my 10k PB earned at last year’s Cardiff 10k under perfect race conditions. My breathing was all over the place and I did the only thing could do and that was to collapse on the grass. I’ve not had a collapse finish in a long time which either means I’ve not been working hard enough (not likely) or concrete simply isn’t an ideal terrain to collapse on (likely).
Lis caught up with me and had a strong feeling that I had finished in 5th or 6th place. It was definitely a top 10 finish, which is what I wanted to achieve as my primary goal knowing that a PB was highly unlikely. I was thrilled with such a high finish position; I’ve only ever managed 12th place before and that was at Walsall Parkrun last year.
The goodie bag was very good at last year’s event and this year’s didn’t disappoint either. There was a banana again, along with some High 5 Zero tabs, a Cliff energy bar but also rather oddly, a can of Red Bull! I used to be hooked on Red Bull, so much so that I would have a can first thing in the morning upon waking up like a cigarette smoker would light up whilst they’re still sat in bed.
The Race for Wildlife 10k continued to be a fantastic, low-key race that would serve anybody well as part of an overall summer leading towards either speed or an autumn half marathon. I’ll most definitely be back again next year to try and claim a podium finish.
Here’s the Garmin data for this race.