Those of you who have followed my running progress over the years will know that I have run many races over ten miles, but I’ve never run a ten mile race before. I was a bit nervous. Having had some uncomfortable post-race experiences recently, I was really on top of my hydration and fuelling on Saturday and, as I was travelling with friends over to Twickenham, I was reminded every so often to sip some water…I really think this helped. Fellow parkrunner Sally has run this race four times now and encouraged a few of us to enter months ago, but doesn’t a race come round quickly? We met chief cheerer Em at Waterloo and headed – with many lycra-clad types – towards the Cabbage Patch pub, which acts as race HQ. Really. I was under the impression everyone got a cabbage and was stupidly excited about this, but it seems you have to run very bloody fast to get one of these:
What was interesting about this race was the number of club vests on show. Groups of people gathered around, heads dipped in discussion about predicted times, tactics and so on; there was a real air of competition. We were also pleased to spot very many runners local to our parkrun in Hilly Fields, and hardly walked far before pausing to say hello. Soon people were heading towards the high street and gathering in a very random sort of way on a corner, wrists in the air, frantically trying to get a GPS signal. A horn was sounded and people edged out onto the road and started running. Our race numbers had a great big timing chip on the back, but there was no mat at the start, and it seems times are only really recorded as a gun time (this added more than a minute to my own time), I’m not sure why a mat couldn’t be added at the start for accuracy.
As I’ve not run this distance in a very long time (probably since I did the Royal Parks Half back in 2011), I had decided to try and go steady and not peel off as if I was running 5k. It was sunny and suddenly much warmer, and the pace of the people around me helped this. I was consistently around 5 minute KMs for a while and gradually slowed a little as time went on. I constantly did sums in my head to keep myself distracted: ‘If I run at such and such a pace, I will still finish at this time, and that’s ok…’ and so on. As promised, the course was flat, and I know I go on and on about how much I love hills and how flat equals boring, but actually it was quite nice to be able to go steady for a change.
After touring the residential streets for while, we crossed a bridge and passed under the shopping centre in Kingston where we headed to the river. The sun was out, the paths were smooth, rowers were gliding across the water, life was good. I had one dip at around maybe seven miles. In quick succession I had two runners on my shoulder with a grunting problem, grunt, huff, grunt, snort…It didn’t seem a temporary thing and I didn’t want them to be at my side for the whole race, so eased back and let them overtake. Phew. (Edward told me off for being intolerant, but really, it’s enough dealing with your own struggles without having to empathise with someone else’s agony on the move!). We also passed some kind of shooting range at this point, and were subjected to the repeated sound of gun-fire. Things improved when we ducked into beautiful parkland and headed home.
I had a moment of confusion shortly after. We negotiated some mud along the river and, when I looked left I could see runners on the opposite bank, but couldn’t see where we would cross to get there…I then realised they were behind me and there were no more river crossings, in fact we were just two miles from the finish. Once again, phew! Here I saw Em, who said:’ You’re flying!’ to my ‘I’m dying!’. A few residential roads with some good encouragement from local people, and a turn to what I thought was the finish, until I saw people turning again ahead. The relief when I took that turn myself and saw that the finish was right there, was overwhelming! A little sprint – of sorts – and over the line in 1 hour 23 minutes and something seconds. Wow! I hadn’t really had a clue how long it would take, but had hoped that I might get there in around 1.30, so this time was most welcome. We were given water and a good quality long-sleeved top instead of a medal/goodie bag. A banana might have been good, but the shirt is a great idea (women’s sizes would be lovely, why do we always have to be swamped my men’s sizes?!).
Now I jogged back along the course, cheering people on at the point where they need it most. I saw my friends coming in, gathered Em up, and we created a sort of friends relay along the last stretch to run Sally in to the finish. Back to the pub to collect our things, watch the presentation of cabbages and beer (and money, they give good prize money at this race) and to a lovely cafe for warming soup. All in all a great day out with friends. I will definitely be signing up again next year :)