Another Sunday, another race! This time, at least, it was my “home” race so to speak so it was a nice leisurely start for me.
Sunday 28th August 2011 marked the 28th running of the Perth 10K (for stat fans, the first running also took place on the 28th August). Steve was up and away early since, being one half of the race organising team, he had to go and make sure that the kilometre markers were out on the route and get everything ready for 300+ runners descending on Perth’s North Inch. I, on the other hand, had a more civilised start. I knew exactly where I was going, knew exactly what car parking there was and didn’t have to queue for my race number since they’d been in our living room for several days! All I had to do was turn up and run.
Last year, the Perth 10K took place on an extremely blustery day yet I somehow managed to run a PB (56:13). This year, I had no real belief in another PB. I had already bettered my time from last year at the Kinross 10K in April (54:50), I’m still on the comeback trail from my summer injury and to cap it all I ran in a 3 mile time trial on Thursday night (with very pleasing results!) Add to that the rather unfortunate gale that once more blew in this morning and the fact that I woke up with a rather scratchy throat, and the scene was set for a tough run. Earlier this year I had planned to try for a PB in this race. This morning I reset my goal: try to be faster than last year!
The route of the Perth 10K is (on a less windy day) ideal for a PB: a fast, flat course with no traffic and plenty of running room. Starting at the George Duncan Athletics Track at Perth Grammar School, runners complete 2 full laps of the track before exiting through a gate and making their way around the Jeanfield Swifts football club to join the riverside path and make their way to the North Inch. After running around the Inch twice, runners make their way back up the riverside path, again passing the Jeanfield Swifts football club, to return to the track and complete one more lap then sprint about 150m to a big finish in front of the grandstand. For those from outside Perth, a charming scenic route. To those of us who regularly train on both the North Inch and the track, the sort of thing that, in the words of a fellow running club member, would make you “prefer to gouge your own eye out with a fork!” Still, the race was part of our club championship this year and my husband invested a lot of time in its success so of course I was going to run. Besides, there’s a finishers’ medal!
Despite the fact that it’s still August, not only was it somewhat “breezy” to say the least, but today’s temperature felt more like autumn than summer and waiting for the race to start was rather chilly. I spent some time chatting to friends from the running club and every so often someone would disappear off to jog a lap of the track. There were 2 reasons for this: 1. A pre-race warm up. 2. To see just exactly how windy the almost permanently “windy corner” of the track was! The consensus? Very windy, with the expectation that the side of the Inch along by the river would also be very windy as it offers no shelter from the elements. Sadly, we would be running INTO this wind!
So, just before 11am a crowd of shivering runners in an assortment of shorts and singlets gathered at the start line and the race began to the usual chorus of Garmins bleeping into life and spectators cheering. I enjoyed the opening 2 laps of the track, however realised quite quickly that I was running far too fast and should try to pull back my pace a bit so as not to suffer later on. It’s easy enough to go out too fast at the best of times, but being used to using the track for speed sessions meant I fell very easily into a faster pace. I slowed down a little and felt I ran well all the way to the North Inch.
The only, almost inevitable, issue was turning the corner at the bottom of the Inch to run into the headwind, but I was able to spur myself on with the knowledge that I would soon be back on the more sheltered side of the Inch, and even though I would have to run into that headwind a second time, by that point I would be heading back to the track and would only have about a mile and a half to go. I was also helped along by the fact that our club coach was out on the route cheering us on and giving us all a bit of individual encouragement to carry on and run as well as we could.
With its regular flair for choosing a suitable song for the moment, whilst I battled through the headwind on my second lap my iPod Shuffle decided to play me the London Marathon theme song (you know, the one the BBC always uses for its coverage). Despite the fact that over 4 months have passed since I ran the London Marathon, I recently discovered that hearing that song STILL gives me goosebumps and makes me want to blub like a baby! Today, it gave me just the boost I needed to dig in and keep going through the wind.
And so it was that I left the North Inch behind and continued running into the wind on my return to the track. As I approached the gate leading me back onto the track I dared to glance at my Garmin as I’d been harbouring a suspicion for the last mile or so that a PB might actually be within my grasp. So long as I kept my pace up, I could probably do it…
Returning to the soft, springy surface of the track after a short, energy-sapping section on grass was a welcome relief, and it being race day there was plenty of cheering to provide motivation. As I ran by the members of the running club who had already finished, I could hear them shouting encouragement. I dug deep and started to speed up. Coming off the final bend in the track (the “windy corner” of course!) I went for my sprint finish and was pleased to pass another 2 runners on my way to the finish line. With great relief I crossed the line, stopped my Garmin and collected my medal and water (there was a short wait for the goody bag). Gulping down mouthfuls of water I checked my Garmin: 54:29. That’s right, 54:29! I know it’s not an official time, but that’s 21 seconds faster than I ran the Kinross 10K in April and 1:44 faster than I completed the same race last year! After having absolutely no expectation of being any faster than about 56mins (remembering I was 57:42 at the Forth Road Bridge just 2 weeks ago) I was delighted! I fell into Steve’s arms for a hug and babbled about a PB and wind and sore throats and jelly legs while he smiled indulgently before sidling off to continue race director-ing!
It was a tough run, just as I expected, but the unexpected PB has reminded me that in running, just as in life, good things happen when you least expect them. It certainly gave me something to smile about today!