What a day for a race! As I awoke to thumping rain and swirling winds, the idea of curling up on the sofa to watch coverage of the Great North Run on tv instead was appealing, however I also knew that I needed to run 10K today to kick-start my training again after my recent lay-off. It was therefore time to eat some porridge, zip my man suit up securely and get ready.
Over breakfast I suffered a kit dilemma: should I stick with the shorts I had laid out or change to 3/4 running tights? Having previously made the mistake of changing my mind then regretting it, I stuck to my instincts and wore my shorts with compression calf sleeves. I also opted for arm warmers and my club running jacket in addition to my club vest as the jacket is quite lightweight and easy to remove. I also packed a towel, change of clothes and spare pair of shoes so I would be able to change for the return journey. My bag seemed rather full, but at least I knew I could be warm and dry after the race.
I had arranged to travel through to Stirling with 3 others so headed off to meet them at 8:15am. One of them had actually won her place and mine in one of the competitions held by Run 4 It earlier this year, so we were laughing at how crazy we must be to turn up in these conditions when we didn’t even stand to lose any money, particularly since neither of us have been doing much running lately due to injury! The closer we got to Stirling, the crazier we felt as the skies got darker, the rain got heavier and the wind got stronger. This race would be all about getting our heads down, gritting our teeth and getting round.
Having left in good time, we were able to get parked really close to the start and collecting our numbers and chips was straightforward. The start was next to Forthbank Stadium and the sports centre there offered a welcome place to wait out of the rain. It also had the advantage of proper toilets (albeit with the strangest taps EVER – there was an awful lot of “tap t’ai chi” happening to try and get them to work!) and a coffee shop for a pre-race boost. We were able to chat in the warm for a while before returning to the car to sort out our kit. I was prepared with a disposable poncho (a top tip I received recently was that they sell these in Poundland – ideal to keep dry before a race) but still opted to keep my running jacket on for the race as there was no let up in the conditions. To make things easier, I attached my race number to my shorts rather than my jacket or top so that there would be no problem in the event of a mid-race wardrobe adjustment. One last quick toilet stop and appearance in the club photo, and it was time to join the mass of shivering, damp athletes heading towards the start line.
This was a fairly sizeable race – around 750 competitors I think – so getting started was a bit tricky. This suited me fine as I wanted to keep my pace in check and allow my leg a chance to warm up properly as the injured muscle can be a bit stiff at first. As it happened, however, my leg felt good. I began to pick up my pace slightly and weave my way past other runners to get some space to settle into my rhythm. Before I knew it, I was running alongside the railway station with the castle sitting above me and the first mile was complete.
After weaving by some houses the route ran alongside the river then a little over 2 miles in we crossed a narrow bridge. Marshals were calling instructions to keep to the left so I was expecting to see the leaders any time. Sure enough, a few minutes later as we turned to double back on ourselves on the other side of the river, we met the returning leaders. This was quite a nice section of the route with the Wallace Monument ahead and the returning runners to watch. I was able to spot a number from the club and we greeted or called encouragement to each other.
Just before the 5K mark, the route veered to the right and there was an out and back section by the railway line before returning along this same road. My leg was still fine and I was barely aware of any discomfort at all so the tape and yesterday’s ultrasound treatment were obviously both helping. I was having to work quite hard to maintain a decent pace, but the conditions were partly to blame for that. My lack of training really only became apparent on the return section of the route which featured some uphill running and a fierce headwind. Thankfully, however, I was not getting the “jelly legged” feeling I had expected so I simply checked the zip on my mansuit, got my head down and gritted my teeth.
Back over the narrow bridge, around to the left (rather than retracing our steps from the way out), up a short but steep hill then the last mile or so to the finish. I still felt like my pace was steady and knew I could finish comfortably, probably 55:XX which seemed reasonable for my current form and the weather conditions. Ironically, it was starting to brighten up, but the wind was a strong as ever so I simply kept moving and counted off the remaining mile on my watch:
0.9 to go. Less than a mile.
0.7. Just a few more minutes.
0.5. Just half a mile. That’s all.
A sign! 400m to go. That’s just a lap of the track. I can run a lap of the track!
200m to go and a guy who had already finished called to me to dig in and pass the yellow vest in front of me. I looked ahead and thought, “ok!”
The finish gantry is right ahead. Last effort (and I passed the yellow vest!).
Crossing the line I stopped my watch, happy to be under 56 minutes. 2 of the others I had travelled with finished around the same time so we were able to head through the finishing chute together which was a novel experience for me as I’m usually alone in these situations. Our chips were removed from our shoes and we were directed to collect our goody bags which contained a tech tshirt (I was able to get a small), water, caramel wafer, jelly beans, leaflet and some stuff promoting railway safety.
I had the car key, so we were able to go and get our bags then head back into the centre to get changed. It was only a few minutes before the 4th member of our group joined us and we were able to swap tales of the race. The consensus? Despite the conditions, we all enjoyed it. Yes, you read that right, we enjoyed it. Personally, I enjoyed the fact that I was running again. I enjoyed the fact that my injured muscle caused me no bother and I enjoyed the fact that I was able to run the whole thing without stopping or slowing to a walk, either of which could easily have happened today given my recent training (or lack thereof!). I feel confident that I can get back to regular training now, and with a couple more races booked in over the next few weeks, that’s essential.
As for today, I feel I met my goals: I turned up when just a week ago I thought that might not happen, I survived the stormy conditions and I had fun. I would certainly enter this race in future and recommend it for a well-organised race with plenty of friendly marshals and a nice route. There are some inclines but overall it’s reasonably flat so has PB potential. Today’s time was never going to be a PB for me but I still feel that I ran well all things considered. The only slight blip in my plan was that my Garmin 10 struggled to pick up a signal in the bad weather. After a similar experience at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half back in the spring, I had my Garmin 305 with me and made a hasty change before leaving the car. Unfortunately I had the auto lap counter off as the last time I used it was for hill reps so I don’t know my mile splits. Overall though, I averaged a little quicker than a 9 minute mile which was what I had planned and finished in 55:56. I’ll be racing another 10K in 2 weeks so my goal now is to improve on that. Watch this space…!