While the glorious Conchita Wurst (anyone else see an equal resemblance to Kenny Everett's C. Stunt and Kate Middleton there?) was smashing Eurovision last night, Team C25K (Lanresa and TurboTortoise) was smashing the Nike Women’s ‘We Own The Night’ 10k in Victoria Park, Hackney. And this is how it went.
When we arrived it was cold and very windy. Having checked in our bags Lanresa and I tried to find some shelter but Victoria Park is very flat and open so no chance of that. Consequently when one of the race crew came and told us it was time to make our way to the starting pens, we were off like a shot. We were both buzzed up and couldn’t wait to get going.
There were six separate start waves, and I was in Blue (not with cold, ha) – 55 mins or under, which I thought was a bit hopeful, but on a flat & fast course definitely something to aim for. As the time came we herded ourselves into the starting pens. It was a dauntingly huge sea of hundreds and hundreds of turquoise t-shirted ladies, but I was glad for the massed body heat and shelter from the wind. I spotted a pacer with a 0:55 flag in the far distance ahead and tried to weave my way through the throng towards her, but then we were off. The atmosphere was tremendous, most uncharacteristically I even found myself pumping my arms and shouting ‘Woo!’
The first section, along the middle of the park towards the perimeter, was incredibly crowded, and frustratingly slow to start, but it did help me warm up and gradually build a rhythm. Having had a nasty cough earlier in the week, that afternoon I’d gone to buy some back-up drugs, and the pharmacist had suggested that the running and adrenaline would suppress the cough naturally. Whether that was wishful thinking or placebo he was quite right, and everything seemed to be working well (though I am now hacking away again as I write this).
I’d decided to run without music, which was a good call – I needed all my senses to avoid tripping over the other runners as I started to make my way through.
I can’t describe much of what I thought about over the next hour because there were long stretches where I was in the zone; my mind was alert but completely clear of its usual flotsam. It was amazing, like a form of meditation. Breathe, breathe, run, run. The course was as flat as an athletics field – no hills to disturb the rhythm.
But various things caught my eye along the way. A very tall, thin woman in front of me with an odd gait – she was running entirely on her toes, rolling from the outside edges of her feet and springing up high on every step. A 20-something updating her Twitter feed while running. FFS! Two completely pointless ‘atmospheric’ tunnels to run through, with flashing lights and music and powdery dry ice (cough, cough). DJs along the track, someone stopping to dance. Running past a pub where people were cheering, high-fiveing the runners and offering their pints. Random park users trying to scamper across the road in front of a thundering army of runners.
I found the presence of the pacer way up ahead incredibly useful. I kept her flag in sight and made sure it didn’t slip away. And just before 5k I realised I was drawing level, then passing. She was amazing, running with the big unwieldy flag, a backpack, checking her Garmin and chatting encouragingly to the runners as if she were just going for a stroll. Halfway mark, lap two. I passed a poor unfortunate in a full swoon, being attended to by the St John’s Ambulance.
At 7.5k I grabbed some water, which was a mistake, as it was cold and made me cough as it hit the back of my throat, slowing me down. I was starting to feel a bit tired now, but pushing on, up ahead I could see I was getting closer to another pacer. As I gained on her I could just make out the time on her flag… O Hai!… 0:55. WTF??? I thought I’d already passed… just what the hell is going on here?
At 8/9k we hit a physical wall – masses of people walking. It was difficult to get past, and I realised they were all on their first lap as they peeled off to the right. Finishers to the left though – time to change up a gear, then 400m to go, a very painful 400m indeed, and it was all over! Then the long, crowded walk back to the event village, drinks, goody bags and finally that all-important finishers’ necklace.
I didn’t hang around much because I was freezing and clammy, and some lovely friends, who live an incredibly convenient ten-minute walk away, had a hot shower and food and tea and wine waiting for me.
And finally my time – I was completely gobsmacked and utterly thrilled to find I’d made it round in 54:10, with a 5k time of 26:51, two storming PBs. Here are the stats: womens10kresults.nikeapp.co...
PS - I wanted to add, it's about this time last year than I had a go on a treadmill and had to bail out before two minutes were up, decided to do something about it and found the brilliantly structured programme that is C25K. It really does work, and well beyond graduation too.