Good afternoon, you bunch of fantastic folk, you.
Well, I'm back now and have had my freezing bath and Chocolate Recovery Milk and am ready to post about the experience of my first ever 10K race. So, how did it go? Well, that depends entirely on when you're asking the question. If you'd asked me immediately afterwards, I'd have replied "absolutely f****ng terrible" but now, I feel the opposite. Despite the circumstances, it went well. Let's start at the beginning. A good place to start, no?
I got to the venue about 1015, nice and early, in time to watch the fun runners doing the 3K fun run. All went well. It's important to note here that I was perfectly hydrated; I have mentioned before, a few times, that I drink a great deal of water. About average for me in a day is around 6-7 litres, give or take. I'd had about two and a half, give or take, before the race, so felt confident I was nicely hydrated. First job upon arriving was to use the lavatory; to my dismay, and, indeed, incredulous bewilderment, there were only three portable lavatories. For reasons completely unknown to me, I call them 'Portajohns', even though I'm not American. I dated a Canadian lass for a while, so maybe that's where it comes from; I'm sure I got it from her. I also, occasionally call it a 'sidewalk' (the pavement, I mean, not portable lavatories) and, much to the huge annoyance of everyone I know, 'soccer', but it's just force of habit. No idea why.
Anyway, I didn't think three of these portable lavatories was anywhere enough. I went first off when there were only three people in the queue but decided to visit again as a precautionary measure about ten minutes to race time. Where, seemingly, 14 billion people were queuing. I just made the start line!
So far so good. The first indication that it wasn't going to be my race, was the fact that Miss Garmin threw a wobbly the size of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. No matter what I did, she just wouldn't find her satellite friends. Not a huge deal, I suppose, but a bit annoying all the same. The start klaxon sounds and we're off. I don't get carried away and just mill along at my own steady pace for a while.
Miss Garmin still doesn't want to know. I'll end the suspense now rather than continuously making the point: she would not connect at ***ALL*** throughout the race; I gave up trying at around 6K. Frustrating but nowt I could do about it. Onward.
All good so far. First water station now. To my horror and disconcertment, water was being handed out in Preposterous Plastic Cups. (PPC) When I marshalled the Round Sheffield Run the other week, 500ml bottles were being handed out - much better, as far as I'm concerned. So, trying to maintain a steady pace and drink from one of these things was akin to waterboarding oneself. I spilt more than I drank. Not a good sign! Very worrying from a water fiend such as myself. But. still doing well, so onward, always.
I sidle up alongside a fellow who travelled over from Rotherham (or, 'Rovrum', as we say here) and get chatting. Maybe 3-3.5K in. A very nice chap, we run together and chat away for ages. All going well. He tells me he had a monumental struggle trying to get his Garmin to connect; he bursts out laughing when I told him mine STILL won't connect. I've more or less given up with it by this point. Onward we go, chattering away. Pace feels okay. Next water station now, halfway through. I take two PPCs; one goes straight over myself (intentionally) and I try and drink the next - that mostly gets spilt. The chap I'm alongside declines water. How?! How on earth do people run without water?! I can't, a fact that is becoming alarmingly apparent! We continue onwards, chatting away. I ask him what pace we're on and he tells me just over 7 minute/mile. I'm lost for words; my average is about 8.02. Far too fast, but the worrying thing is, it doesn't seem it. 5K, he informs me, was done at 25 minutes. That's good and average for me. But at 0500 in the morning, with ready access to water.
This is, BTW, a very hilly course. Even my new running friend commented on how inclinous it was. We both agreed that "slightly undulating" on the course details, was, a gross understatement. Even for me who's used to hills, it was becoming a bit much. We go on a bit further and I inform him that I'm gonna ease off a bit and for him to go on ahead. We shake hands, wish each other well and I throttle back a bit.
7.5K water station now; I take two cups and REALLY need to drink this time, so I slow to a walk and down the lot. Dehydrated is not the word. I continue walking a bit, which is really disappointing for me, as in 10K training, I can run it, and beyond, with no issues. Eight days ago I did 11.5K, hills and all, with no walk breaks. My calves and quads are struggling too - so tight, which again is unexpected. I took about four walk breaks in total before I got my pace again, toward the end.
I pass a poor fellow who was evidently struggling with his ankle and was limping along. Astonishingly, people just run by. I slow and ask if he's okay or would like help. He says he's fine and will continue to the next marshal. Someone behind me offers him the use of their phone; he politely declines.
I push on/ I start talking to a fellow who is in a Godzilla costume who is struggling with his ankle too. I could never run in fancy dress; I overheat in shorts and a t-shirt. These people who rock the fancy dress look are legendary and deserve complete respect. I couldn't do it.
Another little walk now, wondering what the hell is wrong with me, when someone slaps me on the back and encourages me, saying that there's not long to go now. I don't think that man will ever know just how welcome and a boost that was. Throttles forward, I run again. Finish line now and I go through, relieved and happy. Collect my shiny shiny medal and goodie bag and am immediately grabbed for a handshake from the chap I was running alongside with earlier; again, another brilliant mental boost.
What time did I come in at? I don't yet know as MG didn't cooperate, but I know it's under the hour. I grab two bottles of water and keep moving. I know I shouldn't down water like a madman but I can't help it. Goodness that's amazing.
I mill about for a bit, getting more water and a Coke and sit down near the ambulance, which I wonder, genuinely, if I'll need at some point soon. I don't, as it goes, but didn't think it was far off. After a load of water and the biscuits in the goodie bag, I'm fine. The results are posted up on the pavilion wall behind me now, so I go look. More on that shortly.
My immediate post-race thoughts were nothing short of anger at myself for having walked a bit. I haven't in training, why now? I start to decide that the Leeds 10K next Sunday is a bad idea and that I'm not doing it. In fact, the words "I'm never running again" flash through my mind. I sit and contemplate though. After a short while I feel a lot better about things.
My time? 55.27. Upon seeing that, I cheer up. That's bloody good. I was never going to get a PB here anyway because of the time of day, and the heat, and the course being so inclinous. My 10K PB is 48.31, under much better circumstances. I'd already decided before the race that if I come in under an hour, I'll be happy.
I had, at the time, felt I'd 'failed' as a runner, due to walking, but I don't feel like that now. I feel strangely upbeat and positive about the whole thing. If walking is necessary, for whatever reason, do it. And don't feel bad. There's so very many variables that it's almost impossible to how you and your body are going to be on the day.
I learnt a (well, several) valuable lesson....
Never, EVER, EVER, *******EVER******* E V E R again will I run any race without carrying water with me. That's well and truly a lesson learnt. I'm a sipper, you see; I sip as I run along, keeping hydrated before I even start to get thirsty. For Leeds next week, I'm taking 750ml of water with me and using the water stations.
Telling oneself not to go out too quick is fine. I succeeded in that okay, but then lost track of pace when running alongside the chap I was chatting to. I'm not complaining; I was so happy to be chatting with him, but it's easy to go too fast without even realising it until it's too late.
Don't ever feel negative. Short of going over and breaking an ankle/shin/leg, anything else can be salvaged.
I'm still a baby runner. It's easy to get carried away and throw oneself in at the deep and and think you 'could have done better' but I've only been running for just over three months; I'm a learner, a beginner and today was a wake-up call to the fact.
The course was mixed terrain too and I heard a number of people saying they wish they'd gone with trail shoes. The weather: it was overcast but still hot. And muggy. Then the sun came out and it was bloody boiling. I seriously struggled with the heat. I wonder, even now, why such a race was scheduled at 1100 in the middle of July. At least Leeds next week is an 0930 start, I think it is. If ever I am a Race Director, scheduling the thing for 0530 will be a serious option that will take some talking me out of!
During the bit of walking I did, with muscles aflame, I did think that I wouldn't wear my shiny shiny medal afterwards as I felt like a hadn't 'earned' it but now the opposite is true. I'm very proud of it.
So yeah, there are negatives, but there are positives too, lots of them. A little over three months ago I couldn't run a step. In fact, the 60 seconds of W1R1 were bloody hard work and today I did run a 10K race in unfamiliar, trying circumstances. That's summat to be proud of, and I am.
I also learnt that if ever, in any race, see someone walking, or struggling, I'm going to go right up to them, give them a big pat on the back and encourage them on. As I experienced today, it's a boost that is beyond words. I think until you've been there it's difficult to comprehend how a few supportive words from a total stranger can make a whole gulf of distance. Thank you, sir, whoever you are, That will never be forgotten.
In my goodie bag I have a £5 voucher from Sweatshop. Next week I'm going to go treat myself to a new pair of running shoes as a reward. I was going to get some around my birthday time in September as mine are looking a bit haggard now and it will be about four months then, since I've had them, but I'm gonna get some next week and slowly break them in, sticking with my current shoes for a while, but new ones will be a reward to myself.
So, how do I feel now? Happy, elated and proud; the polar opposite of how I felt immediately after the race! 55.27, in those circumstances, is excellent; I'm proud of it. Am I doing Leeds next week? You bloody bet I am! This time, I'm taking 750ml water with me. I'll closely monitor my pace throughout. I'll encourage everyone I can. I'll be glad of the PB-inducing flat course but at the same time will be wary of it.
My apologies for the length of this post, which is quite something, even by my meandering standards (meandards?) but one thing is left to say: thank you, to you fine bunch of runners. Every single one of you are brilliant and a huge amount of inspiration and support. I really couldn't have done this without any of you. If/when I meet any of you, I'm buying you a drink of your choosing. The support and encouragement received here is incredible, so thank you to you all. Sincerely.
If you're sat there wondering about your progress and whether you can complete C25K and beyond, you CAN and you WILL. yeah there will be delays and setbacks along the way, but you can do it. Don't ever give up, ever. If ever people around you are unsupporitve and/or doubting, (I find that to be the case, disappointingly) then come here and you'll receive all the support you could ever wish for. THANK YOU, to the lot of you.
Today wasn't a disaster; far from it. Onwards to Leeds next week.
Oh, another lesson learnt: I hate, abhor and absolutely FU***NG DETEST plastic cups at a race! The point of issuing water in such receptacles to people who are moving at running pace, escapes me greatly.
Onward, always. ALWAYS! ONWARD. ALWAYS.