The Race

I did my fourth race of the year this morning, a 10k charity run along the Hoylake embankment in Wirral, a mere few miles away from where I grew up. The last time I did a 10k run was in May and I managed it in just under 48 minutes; not a bad time for my first 10k run, but certainly something to be improved on. In June, I took part in a 5k race in Clapham which I completed in 21 minutes or so, pretty speedy.

Since then I’ve been training once or twice a week, generally doing runs of 5 or 6 miles (8 or 9k) in Oxford, with the occasional 8 or 9 mile run interspersed. While I generally train for distance, I still try and keep my speed at an average of 7 or 8 miles per hour, thanks to my handy-dandy GPS watch (which came in quite useful while I was in North Carolina).

Now, I only know I did my last 10k in 47:50 or so because I just looked it up; before this morning I thought it was about 46 minutes. As a result, my aim for today’s race was to make it in under 45 minutes.

The course was very simple – a long, straight run along a wide concrete embankment not far from the beach, turning around at the 5k point, with roughly half of the run in fields adjoining the embankment. A little boring, to be sure, but with stunning views. The weather was fairly pleasant, with a perfect cool temperature at the 11am start. The only problem was a moderately strong wind that was directly against me as I ran back towards the finish line; yes, I know this means that it was behind me during the first half, but the result was that I was slowed down overall.

Although the race was supposed to have a maximum of 300 runners, I think they signed up close to 500 on the day. At the start I found myself right up by the line and sprung off at a ridiculously fast (for me) 10 or 11mph. I slowed down to a more manageable 9.5mph after a few minutes, and then progressively down for the rest of the first half to reach about 8.5mph by the 5k point. The fast start was a major mistake; it meant that I was being overtaken by people for most of the race. I’m not particularly bothered by this because it’s happened in a lot of my races but it upsets my rhythm.

I think part of the reason I started so fast is because I underestimated the caliber of the other runners – at the 5k I did in Clapham, I attached myself to the back of the leading group and didn’t have much trouble keeping up. Clearly those guys weren’t as good as the runners in Hoylake, who sped away. I suppose I should have expected this, since the Hoylake race is 11 years old (opposed to the 2 year old Clapham race) and it’s a favorite spot for runners to train on.

By the 5k point, I was feeling a little better and started to overtake some runners who’d come out even faster than I did, overexerting themselves. Perhaps my best part of the race was a 1.5k stretch along a path in a field, where I overtook a few runners who I’d been keeping pace with for a while. I’m not a road runner, I find it a bit boring. I do practically all of my training along trails in Oxford along the various rivers. The trails are more often than not waterlogged with uneven ground – just like what I encountered in Hoylake. I like to think that my experience with the Oxford trails helped me get ahead at this point.

Unfortunately we returned to concrete at about 7k and a couple of groups overhauled me. I could pretend that this was solely down to a painful blister that was developing on the inside of my right foot (as it does in every race), or perhaps the wind, but I just didn’t feel like I could keep up with them. As usual, when I reached the 9.5k point and could see the end, I ramped up the pace and passed a couple of people in front of me, finishing in 45:16.

Not bad, I thought at the time, although I could’ve done it under 45 minutes if I just tried a little harder. As it turns out, 45:16 is over two and a half minutes faster than my previous time from four months ago. Not too shabby at all, especially given that I did a 5k session yesterday (another mistake, I admit).

My next race is exactly four weeks from now in Liverpool, called the L1310k, and it’s a half marathon (13 miles, or 20k). This is significantly longer than I’ve ever run before so I’ll need to try doing at least one 11 mile practice run. I expect that I won’t do too well in Liverpool; I’ll need to bring my speed down dramatically and watch my pace. Still, it should be a fun challenge since there are almost 10,000 runners signed up. Most of them will be for the 10k segment, admittedly, but that leaves a good few thousand for the half marathon. Running in the middle of a city deserted by cars and among a huge crowd is a great experience, as I learned from Oxford.

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