Blustery conditions at the 2015 Ronnie Bowker 10k – photo by Ben Clarke
For the past two years, I’ve always missed this particular 10k that takes place in Cannon Hill Park, usually on the same day as the London Marathon.
The course bears a striking resemblance to the long lap of Cannon Hill Parkrun, along with a few additional bits that take runners outside the park and past the Nature Centre. Oh, and there’s no finishing hill making it reasonably flat as well.
I was a wee bit apprehensive about this race, due to not racing a 10k since September 2014. My recent 88:02 half marathon at Silverstone (we’ll ignore that I also ran long) equates to a 39:29 10k, whilst my typical 19:20 5k of late only translates to a 40:09 10k. Runners more experienced than me regularly say the 10k and half marathon are better bedfellows compared to the 5k and 10k in terms of complementary training. We would see whether this held true or not – read on to see how I fared at my inaugural Ronnie Bowker 10k.
The near-perfect weather from earlier in the week did not carry through to race day with 40mph winds predicted to hit. That sub-40 finish became more and more elusive as I got closer to the start line…
Lis and I rocked up to Cannon Hill shortly after 9am. There were plenty of runners milling around including, but not surprisingly, many from Cannon Hill Parkrun. We bumped into Neil Muir who I’d not seen in almost a year (since Two Castles 10k to be precise).
After registration, we caught up with Carl and his son, where Lis offered a helping hand with babysitting (she’s a star, isn’t she) so that we boys could race. A quick warm-up run with Ed Barlow and Stephen Dunsby showed the full force of the head wind out there. Due to the long and relatively straight nature of the course, whichever way the wind blew would prove challenging for runners.
I decided to get one last sprint warm-up in before I joined the start line. I had to get moving because everybody had already assembled for the race to begin!
The head wind was wreaking havoc only a few hundred metres in and with such a small field, there were few runners to hide and draft behind. I found myself running with Alex Mold for the early portion of the race, where our abilities were similarly matched based on recent 5k and half marathon performances.
After 2km, I went out on my own in an attempt to get back to target race pace. Big mistake and ill timed because I ended up wasting energy by charging into a head wind. Not long afterwards, Alex came past me and I tried latching on but to no avail; I resigned myself to simply try and keep the gap consistent between the two of us.
On the opposite side of the course, I started to see the front-runners on the return including Dunsby in the lead, followed closely by Carl, and with Ed not too far behind either.
Jort randomly appeared all over the course to offer support and encouragement. This turned out to be a helpful distraction, never really being sure where he would pop up next.
A very sharp switchback finally offered some relief in the form of a tail wind; clearly, there was no way I would reclaim the damage already inflicted by the raging head wind. Equally motivating was everybody on the other side of the path with support offered and received in hearty measures.
I managed to maintain the distance between Alex and me. With nobody else behind for a good while, the race had quickly turned into a suffer-fest of a solo time trial with 6k left to go…
Passing by Lis and Carl’s son in the playground, this reminded me to sink an energy gel so that I could ditch the sachet with water station marshals. Grabbing a cup of water, I don’t think the marshals were expecting me to chuck it over my head from all the gasping that ensued!
I turned for the second lap of the course and my nemesis in the form of head wind returned. It was like somebody had stuck the handbrake on and it became a monumental effort just to put one foot in front of the other. Alex was still pleasingly ahead with the same gap as before; I decided to bide my time before making a move on the final return leg to try and reel her in.
Just when I thought the wind couldn’t get any worse, it morphed into awkward side-on gusts, trying to push me into the path of cyclists and the front-runners on the opposite side of the course. Dunsby had lost his lead and was maintaining second place with Carl hot on his heels.
Tackling the switchback once more, Jort was there to offer encouragement and urged me on to use the tail wind to my advantage. I started to slowly wind the pace up and noticed Alex had begun to overtake the Cobra and Dudley Kingswinford runners who were starting to tire. Before too long, I also made a move to surge past the two of them for the return to home. This was just the trick to break the tedium from the solo time trial!
I moved into the closing stages of the race and with only a km left, I began my assault to claw back as much time as possible from the clock. I moved alongside Alex for the first time in almost 7km, telling her to stay with me as I overtook. Turning the final corner, I faced directly into the head wind and pumped my arms to drive me forward. I could see one guy ahead in the distance and did what I could to close in on him. A crowd appeared along with a fluorescent yellow “Finish” sign and if I had an additional 100m, I’d have taken the guy down that was in front of me but alas, it was not meant to be along with my sub-40 attempt, clocking in at 40:38.
Here’s the Garmin data for the race.
Jort, Andy, Nigel, Alex and Neil: Parkrun regulars at the Ronnie Bowker 10k – photo by Ben Clarke
I watched Alex come back in 20 seconds later. I didn’t feel too bad and did think I had taken things a little too easy even factoring in the windy conditions; I love finishing with a big kick but to do so with 600m left of the race signifies I probably could have worked a touch harder with a more evenly distributed effort.
The 2015 Ronnie Bowker 10k medal, made from recycled wood!
I stuck around to cheer Nigel and others back in. Dunsby secured his second place finish, prompting a joke about always “being the bridesmaid and never the bride”. Carl clinched his third place finish to continue his crazy streak of PBs and age group wins.
Not the race I had hoped for but it did serve as a benchmark of fitness under less than ideal conditions.I didn’t feel like I was as tuned into the target effort or pace as I could have been, so today has highlighted areas to work on such as race pace and threshold training to better prepare me for the next 10k.
All said and done, it was a cracking event. Good organisation, cheap as chips and UKA licensed – what’s not to love? I’ll be back in 2016 to claim my sub-40 finish!