Somewhat delayed due to a very busy week, but here it is, the report of my very 1st official road race – the 1st running event of any kind I’ve entered – not even done a parkrun yet!
WARNING: this is LONG.
About 200 metres to go … I look at my watch for the umpteenth time … OMG… “You can do this John – one last push! COME ON!! “
PUSH!!! PUSH!!! AAARRRGHHHHHH!!!!
….. AAANNNDDDDD ….. YESSS !!!
I cross the line. It’s done. A couple of friendly faces from work are at the finish line and I collapse over the railings in front of them, taking their plaudits, panting heavily like Panty McPantface (that’s getting boring now isn’t it?). After a moment, I stand up straight, go and collect my 1st ever medal, grab some water and then mingle with other finishers, mostly from work. But what’s this? My left hamstring is tightening! I’ve *never* felt this before – I put it down to the lack of my normal warm-down walk that I do after *every* run. A quick stretch sorts me out before I find the marquee for all the Unilever runners and I stuff my face with some biscuits and home-made carrot cake :-), before washing that down with some delicious ice-cream bought for me by Cathy, our resident C25K queen who organises the C25K lunchtime group at work. A few more photos and it’s time to get home and do the rest of Sunday with Mrs W. I’ll enjoy that beer or 3 later
Strange – I had never intended to enter the race but just got caught up in the excitement and anticipation of everyone else at work and in the C25K group who was doing it. One of my running buddies, Sarah, had entered the 10k (there was a 5k as well) and after all the running we’d done since early February, it seemed she simply expected me to do it as well and be her pace-setter! Might as well then, hadn’t I? I only officially put my name down 6 days before it as well, so it hadn’t been something I was training for.
I’d been running for a year since completing the C25K on a treadmill in our works gym last March and it’s gone pretty well since then. For those that don’t know “my story” you can read it here:
Suffice to say, I had been waiting about 25 years for this
I’d been doing about 30k a week for about 4 weeks and had done a 10k in 46:36 in that time, so knew I was in good shape. Cathy had basically requested, nay, ordered me to go sub-47 while Kelvin (a marathon PB of 2:42 – yes! – and runs 4000 MILES a year) had challenged me to run sub-45 – gulp! I let that idea sink in. I didn’t dismiss it but allowed myself to think about how I’d go about it and what my pace would have to be.
On the Wednesday before the race, Sarah and I went for a 1 lap (5k) course recce around Port Sunlight village – we went quite fast and both agreed later it was probably too quick to run the 10k like that. I made a note of split times at various landmarks in the 1st 2km determined to make sure we went slower on Sunday. I scribbled them down on a green Post-It and made sure not to lose it!
Determined to taper and save energy before Sunday, I took it very easy on the Friday and did a pacey lunchtime 3km – that’s enough John, stop right there! Sunday came and things were out of kilter … My running pattern is normally Monday, Wednesday and Friday at either 8am or 12:00pm – what’s this Sunday-at-11am-business and how do I adjust my eating?? And where’s my pre-run FLAPJACK?!
I’d forgotten the last thing on my To Do list on Friday – buy the usual flapjack from the café at work. Resourceful as ever, on my walk from the house to Port Sunlight I diverted to the local Co-op and stuffed half a smallish flap-jack down my throat about 1 hour before the race. I was ready!
It was a glorious morning – sunny but cool - and the village was resplendent with early spring flowers and blossom – beautiful! Pictures of the village can be seen in the links in this post
It was time to make my way to the start line – but where was Sarah?? Foolishly we hadn’t exchanged numbers and so had no means to contact each other – doh! How on earth was I going to find her? I walked over to the start and just tried to get through the crowd to somewhere approaching the front, all the time keeping a very sharp eye out for her. There must been about 1000 runners doing the 10k and I wasn’t hopeful at all.
But then …. “JOHN! JOHN!” I turned to my left and there she was! Amazing! There wasn’t long to go now so I showed her my scruffy green Post-It – made her laugh – “typical statto!” and then in a flash we were off.
Thud-thud, thud-thud, thud-thud, thud-thud, thud-thud, thud-thud. What a noise! I’d never run with so many people before and I loved the sound of so many people’s feet pounding the road. A quick time check after 300 metres (yes, I know) and we were doing ok and then proceeded to stay with that pace until about the 4k mark. I felt strong and pushed a little more at about 4k but Sarah was struggling a little. She was happy for me for go on so I did. I came round into the finishing straight to complete my 1st lap – my watch said 22:29 – wow! I pointed to it as I got cheered by fellow C25Kers who had finished their 5k race. I felt great at this point – really comfortable and what was most pleasing was that I hadn’t experienced the normal tired (lactate?) legs at the 3-4km mark. I continued on. I reached the 8k mark and felt a bit tired but I knew there were 2 “climbs” left. The 1st one was OK – up the hill and the turn around and come down. Build a bit of momentum for the final climb – a 250 metre uphill slope. Boy that was tough – but I battled through it. It felt hard work at the top but I was given a great fillip when I heard “COME ON JOHN!!!” being screamed at me thought the window of house by a group of 3 or 4 work colleagues. I’d heard this around the course and I loved it – the advantage of having a company-sponsored race in the very village where we work.
The last kilometre started at the top of this final climb. I was tired and a glance at my watch gave me a gremlin or two. “Forget sub 45 John”, “what were you thinking of?”, “why am I doing this?” etc. But I saw the downhill slope in the sunshine with the beautiful trees and runners in front of me – what a sight, so I caught my breath for a moment and allowed my heart rate to recover a little, then I put my foot to the floor baby and gave it some welly! After about 600 metres I had to reign it in a bit – I’d still given up on sub-45 by this point – by my brain wasn’t computing properly … I came round the penultimate corner with a steward pushing me on.
Around the final corner and into the finishing straight. Another glance at my watch …
44:40 ?!? Really?? COME ON!!! CHARGE!!!!
I went for it and knew I had it as I crossed the finishing the line. I pushed the buttons on BOTH my watches a few seconds after I’d crossed (yes, hahaha!) and they said 45:00 and 45:01. I reckoned I’d done 44:57 …
I stopped, turned around and looked out for Sarah. There she was! Wow – she came through in about 46:30 – she was made up having targeted sub-50 minutes.
That evening the results were published online:
44:57 - 5k splits of 22:29 and 22:28
Cathy was happy. (Thanks for the ice-cream!)
Kelvin was happy.
And the beer tasted good.
Thanks for listening and well done for staying with me this long!
PS Photo collage includes me with Cathy and also a lady called Carole who has taken to C25K and running with so much gusto and enthusiasm it's both brilliant and almost frightening! She was a 30-a-day smoker before C25K and now she's down to only 4 - love her!