Race Review – How I fared in my target to run 10 miles in under an hour
The 10 mile distance is one I’ve competed in twice before (in June 2016 and June 2013). Both times were events organised by Notts AC at Holme Pierrepont, and I managed to get just under 60 minutes on both occasions on fast, flat tarmac courses. I decided to enter this race in Derby because I was looking for local events for this particular weekend. I also wanted to see if I could still dip under 60 minutes. I felt that this was going to be a particularly stern test as my training has been pretty haphazard of late and my distances have generally been much shorter.
I did, though, put in a 10k effort at target race pace the Thursday before the race. It had been an intense day and despite running in good conditions on a flat canal path, I ran the 10k in 37:45 and it hurt. I had to pause after 5k briefly to stretch off and then pluck up the mental strength to turn round and run back the return 5k. Given that I’d need to run another 6k on race day in a time of 22:15 or less, it was going to be a close call and I can say that I wasn’t feeling that optimistic. At the same time though, it really fired me up as this was going to be a tasty challenge!
It was a really cold morning and I was pleased I’d checked the forecast. Sunny and cold. I was pleased I’d had that foresight because it meant I was equipped with my Duduma sunglasses and I brought my makeshift arm-warmers with me too. And I also brought a tough mental attitude. Here’s my pre-race game face:
After shivering in the holding pen for nearly 20 minutes, fearing I was going to need to go to the toilet every minute, we headed off after a well-observed 2 minutes’ silence of remembrance to remember those who sacrificed so much for us.
The race began with a dash around the Pride Park stadium before heading out on to the flat tarmac paths leading to Alvaston Country Park. Numbers thinned out pretty quickly at the front. Through the country park, there was good support from Long Eaton Running Club and I’d already become part of a group of four runners moving at a really good pace. We had a near miss with a wayward walker near the building we ran past – a marshall just did enough to stop a real collision occuring. By this point, it was clear that the race was going to require me to get ahead of myself in the first half of the race, with the wind behind me, to enable me to hit the sub 1 hour target. The headwind was likely to be a real factor on the return half of the race.
We passed 3km in 10:47 where I’d been aiming for something around 11:15 for the target pace of roughly 3:44/km as an average to dip just under 1 hour. Ahead of schedule and I was feeling fine at this point. I knew that at 5km, I needed to be hitting a time around the 18:40 mark at the slowest to realise my sub 1 hour goal. In my head, pre-race, I’d figured the plan as follows:
Then, I would have 4 minutes to complete that final kilometre, which I was hoping would be enough.
I reached the 5km mark in approximately 18:10. I was so pleased with how the run was going at this point and had managed to get through a tough 1km section where I felt I was starting to tire along the A6 as I dug deep to stick with the group of 3 other runners. Towards the end of the A6 stretch, one of the group started to pull away, one tired and so I was now in a group of just two – myself and a guy from South Derbyshire Runners. I would end up staying on his shoulder for the majority of the first 11 kilometres. As we emerged from Alvaston Park, we headed towards the A6. This was a long, straight-ish section on a good surface and I felt that I needed to run well here to give myself the best chance of reaching my goal. 2kms were spent on this section and I did them well under my target pace, posting a 3:33/km and a 3:38/km. It was during this section, that I was mulling the phrase ‘reassuringly uncomfortable’ around in my head. The effort was real, just about sustainable, but led to real worry I was burning myself out, fearing that I would run out of gas before the end.
We turned in towards Elvaston Country Park and due to the similarity in the names of these parks, I’d mistaken the advice/warning I’d been given by our running club Men’s captain, who’d said there was a grass section that just sucks the energy from your legs. As we’d cleared Alvaston, I’d assumed the grass section had been altered from last year. I was wrong. We hit the grass/mud path at about 6.8km for just under a kilometre. This proved to be the slowest kilometre up to this point and also marked the halfway stage of the race. I’d completed the first 8km in a time of 29:02. I was really pleased, because this now meant I had a precious extra minute to use if I needed it on the return leg of the race back to Pride Park stadium.
I kept plugging away, all but ignoring the supporters and scenery. I was too ‘on the line’ to appreciate much other than my own efforts, concentrating on my running form, being in tune with my body and checking that everything was in good order. As we approached a left turn in Elvaston Country Park, I realised that I knew where I was, not far from the coffee shop and horses! A number of spectators lined the route here and I heard another ‘Go on Long Eaton!’ to spur me on.
Just after this, a moment lightened my mood, though I fear it didn’t perhaps warrant the same emotion in those ahead of me. I heard a loud, impatient-sounding yell (incoherent words) from ahead of me. As my running adversary and I ran towards the sound, it became clear that some walkers enjoying a romantic walk along the country park paths hadn’t known about the running race and had no doubt been hollered at to move out of the way. Out of courtesy for the guy in front of me from South Derbyshire Runners who was kindly, although inadvertently, pacing me, I felt it necessary to make the call myself, in a polite fashion, for those walkers ahead of us on the path to kindly step aside. It worked and we continued on at the limits of our effort.
I was starting to feel confident about reaching the line in under 1 hour and with 11km now run in 40:13, I had 5k to run and 19 minutes and 46 seconds to do it in. Game on!
At this point though, I also had a decision to make and I made it quickly. I’d noticed that we had dropped off slowly in pace. The last few kilometres had been run as follows:
8th kilometre: 3:43
I decided to give my running partner a break by moving in front of him into the headwind and telling him to tuck in behind me. I figured that by now, we were both gunning for a sub 1 hour time. Therefore, I was willing to work with him, envisaging taking it in turns per kilometre to take the brunt of the wind in order to help us both achieve our goal.
The 12km beeped at 3:54/km and I realised that he was tiring. I therefore resolved to kick on, aiming to stick to the original target pace of 3:44 per kilometre. He couldn’t keep up and so we parted company.
The next few kilometres were not easy. I was running alone, into a headwind, on a pretty but quiet part of the route along the river. It would have been easy to switch off and enjoy the scenery, but I was on a mission. The gravel under foot meant each stride felt full of effort. I needed to maintain any momentum I could muster and just dig in to keep running at my goal pace.
The next three kilometres went by in 3:46, 3:45 and 3:44, exactly to plan. I therefore hit 15km in 55:29, meaning I had a maximum of 4:30 to run the final kilometre. I was going to do it!!
The last kilometre was an exciting one. I’d been gaining slowly on the guy in front of me over the last few kilometres and if the spectators were to be believed, then I was in 10th position overall.
Seeing the guy in 9th really helped to motivate me, giving me something to hunt (I like hunting, as you can read here!) and taking my mind off the elation, effort and desire to stop running! I could see the stadium now and glanced at my watch; I could see I was still 500 metres from the finish line. Prior to the race, I’d clocked a ‘400m to go!’ sign round the other side of the stadium, so I was expecting to do a lap round the outside of Pride Park and I was right. The crowd were great as I approached the stadium and the final 200 metres saw me really going for it out of desire to record the best time I could and to ensure my sub 1 hour was clear and not disputed in any way. As I approached the finish line, I spotted a friend from my running club. He had his phone out and looked like he was going to take a picture.
It was only later, when I saw the picture, that I was astounded by the framing of the image. Given my line of work and position, the slogan couldn’t have been more apt!
I smiled, but carried on and glancing up, I saw the timing clock counting up. I was going to be about 40 seconds inside an hour! As has become a bit of a habit recently (see other images below!), I crossed the finish line, elated, through the motion of a cartwheel. As you can tell, my form leaves space for a huge amount of improvement and I will be perfecting it for future races!
I was so chuffed to have achieved my target and really felt that I’d got the preparation and organisation absolutely spot-on for the race.
Post-race, I treated myself to a free sports massage (complimentary, from The Bridge Centre for Natural Health – www.bridgenaturalhealth.co.uk). This almost deserves a blog post of its own but I’ll keep it brief for now. I’ve never had a proper sports massage before. I couldn’t believe how many knots the masseuse managed to find in my legs, particularly in the IT band area (outside of my thighs). I also realised how sensitive I am to massage and I was there squirming around the table, gritting my teeth and letting out all kinds of noises of discomfort!! I can see why people have these massages and I’m sure I’d benefit by having more, but I can also see why I would want to avoid them too!
It should be stated that I had done a few things differently to normal in terms of my pre-race meals. This is actually a big gamble to do this before a race you really want to do well in, but I was curious and wanted to experiment. The night before I’d had a tuna and pasta meal instead of the usual spag bol. On the morning of the race, I’d had a relatively heavy breakfast of two toasted cinnamon and raisin bagels and a cup of tea before 8:00am (race start was 11:00am). Usually, I’d just have two slices of toast and honey and a glass of water.
I was also really pleased with my kit decisions too. Having seen the weather forecast, I’d packed my navy Nike ‘skin’ in case it was too cold, and I’d done a lot of training recently wearing one in preparation. Given the sun was out though, I decided against wearing one and it was the right call. Wearing short shorts was also the right call, as was wearing my unorthodox arm warmers (old football socks with the toes cut off). I’d planned to take them off when I got too warm and discard them along the route, but I just never got warm enough to warrant doing so. I think I’ll be wearing them again in future races in cold weather as they were comfortable and really made a difference in the cold conditions. My Duduma sunglasses too were a huge benefit. I have sensitive eyes and I really would have been squinting a lot during this race had I not worn them.
All in all, this was a really successful race personally, and definitely a race that I would enter again. It was well organised, sensibly priced and the medal, t-shirt and buff were all of a good quality. The range of products and services on offer afterwards wasn’t over the top and parking wasn’t an issue either.
To top it all off, my mate who’d also run the race bought me a celebratory drink at a local pub and the Derby Telegraph saw fit to include a picture of me crossing the line in cartwheel-style in their event review.
When has everything gone ‘just right’ for you in a race? Or, alternatively, what race or pre-race gaffes have you made and learned from?!
- Skechers Sonic Go Run trainers
- Karrimor running socks
- Nike race shorts
- Ronhill LERC running vest
- Nike football socks (used as arm warmers!)
- Duduma sunglasses
- Garmin Forerunner 210 watch
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