Despite falling within my marathon taper, my preparations for this race were less than ideal: a week of cross training, a niggling muscle problem and the worry that one wrong move would be the death knell for my Edinburgh marathon dreams. Never before has 10k caused me so much bother!
Still, after a short but successful test run on the Saturday, there seemed to be no reason not to go ahead. I first took part in this event last year and absolutely loved it so not going would have been a major disappointment. Having set a PB of 53:22 last year, I decided to check out my mile splits and get an idea of the pace I had run in order to compare, but given the problems I had been having in the week prior to the race I abandoned my original idea of chasing a new PB upon discovering I had averaged around 8:30 per mile – beating that would take some seriously hard work! At best, I reckoned I could just dip down under 53 and finish with 52:xx. My plan was simply to do my best and see what happened.
Since this is a women-only event, I opted for one of my running skirts, my new pink compression calf sleeves and my Macmillan tech Tshirt with my arm warmers to keep the chill off at the start. The weather forecast was for cloudy weather and showers, but with dry, bright conditions for the race itself. Perfect!
Like last year, Steve drove me through and we parked in the centre of Glasgow to join one of the shuttle buses to the start. There was an enormous queue for the buses and initially my heart sank, but then a whole convoy of buses pulled into the bus station and after expecting a lengthy wait, suddenly I was on board and on my way.
The buses drop runners off on a street which runs between Bellahouston park (where we finish) and the start which is on a nearby street. I knew from last year that there would be toilets in the start area so decided to avoid going into the park for the toilets then doubling back on myself, and instead went straight to my start in the white area (the fastest start – no idea how I managed to get into that one!). There was an enormous queue for the toilets, but it was moving quickly and I reckoned I had just enough time to nip into the toilet then get into my start pen with a few minutes to spare. I was in my kit ready to go and was simply handing unnecessary things like my warm top to Steve as I neared the front of the queue. Although it was busy, there was a really friendly atmosphere and nobody getting worked up about the queues. Steve commented on how you could tell it was a women’s race since everybody was being so polite and holding the toilet doors open for the next person!
I had seen one or two people I knew, so when I finally made it into the start pen (with about 5 minutes to spare!) I was looking around for a familiar face. Keen to get a bit of room and a decent start, I snaked my way through the crowds and when I spotted a group I know, decided to join them until the race started. By this time the atmosphere was electric since there had been the standard mass warm up and a lot of announcements to whip people into a frenzy. There were photographers and dignitaries on an open top bus and it was being pointed out that these very streets would be used in the summer for the Commonwealth Games marathon – pretty cool!
As it turned out I had made it fairly close to the front and was aware of a 50 minute pacer a little ahead of me which I found amusing. 50 minutes? Me? Nah! My plan was to “run my run” (Kyla’s advice has really stuck with me!) and maybe take a few seconds off my time from last year.
There was a countdown at the start line and then the gun went off. We were underway to excited shouts, loud music and a party atmosphere. I realised that I had little recollection of the first part of the race as last year was quite grey and “dreich” (wet and yucky for my non-Scottish readers) but this time, despite the forecast, it was bright and warm. Quite a contrast!
The first half of the race is through pleasant residential streets and is pretty flat. There are pipers at every kilometre marker and the party atmosphere among runners and supporters continued. There was a great turnout from residents, many sitting at the end of their driveways to support runners, and a number of more enterprising locals had set up impromptu water stations on trestle tables and others were handing out sweets. It’s always good to see such great local support for a race, especially at 10 o’clock on a Sunday morning!
I was running comfortably and, unexpectedly, keeping up with that 50 minute pacer. I watched the first mile tick by on my watch in 7:57. Too fast? Possibly, but I was still feeling good and was quite amused by it rather than concerned.
Mile two, 7:52. That’s faster than mile one! A bit of Scottish pessimism crept in as I thought, “I’ll pay for this later!”
Mile three, 7:55. Very slightly slower but still moving fast. If anything, I was GAINING on the 50 minute pacer. All I could think of was that this was completely insane. For the May challenge on the Running for Women website I need to run a sub-25 minute 5k to earn a gold badge. Just a week or two ago I was thinking that would be pretty tough, but here it was looking like I would do it as part of a 10k run!!!
Admittedly, around halfway I did struggle momentarily. It was getting warmer and I was on a section with no shelter. I knew the hillier section was still to come and was mildly concerned that I had overcooked it and was going to have a hard time – I even had a moment where I thought I might have run hard enough to make myself feel a bit sick – then just at the right time I saw the Macmillan cheer point and the massive cheers and calls of thanks that I got from the supporters and volunteers there gave me the boost I needed to dig in and keep going. Soon after, we entered Pollock park and although I knew I’d have a hillier section (although nothing compared to Balmoral!) I felt relieved as there was a little more shade and it felt a bit cooler.
There is a gradual climb early in the park section so I expected a couple of slower miles in there if my run followed the pattern of last year, and so it was. Mile 4 in 8:15. Not much slower and the 50 minute pacer I had been keeping an eye on was starting to struggle. I passed her on the hill, then she caught up again coming down the other side. The second hill is a bit steeper and longer, but with the advantage of having done the race before, I was expecting it and able to dig in. The pacer, however, was definitely struggling. I had been running alongside her and as we began to climb I heard her call out, “keep going girls!” before dropping back. How had I managed to ditch a pace runner? And a 50 minute pace runner at that! So far this race was all very bizarre for me. I just never consider myself to be that good a runner and find it hard to believe it’s really me when things go really well like that.
Once up the hill, mile 5 finishes with a short downhill section towards the park gates. I have a recollection of a DJ somewhere in there playing “Reach for the Stars” by S Club 7 and everyone (including me) running past doing the actions! Still some energy left then and mile 5 (including the hill) in 8:25. Unbelievable – just over a mile to go and plenty of time in hand for a PB!
As I exited the park and rejoined the road for the last mile, I heard someone call my name and turned to see another friend (who I had apparently just run past!). She looked like she was having a tough time and suspected she may have gone out a bit fast. I called encouragement over my shoulder and dug in for the last section of the course.
It was around this point that I first became really aware of my leg. The niggling tibialis posterior problem which has been plaguing me recently had been present from fairly early on, but as a faint “background” issue. Now I was more acutely aware of it. Should I stop? Slow down? It seemed to me that it would be easier (and quicker) to keep going and it did ease off a bit as I ran on.
The last mile of the race is mainly flat and slightly downhill. There’s great crowd support which increases the closer you get to the end. One thing I did like is the signage telling me how far to go. 800 metres: that’s just 2 laps of the track. I could keep this up for a couple of laps of the track. 400 metres: just one lap of the track. Totally do-able. 200 metres: time to kick it up for the Big Finish.
As I turned onto the final straight there was a huge crowd cheering and clapping for all the runners. I heard someone in there shout my name, but I couldn’t see who it was and I hadn’t been expecting to see anyone at that point. No time to worry about it – I could see the finish gantry.
One last burst of speed (and a grin for the photographer as I ran past) and it was done. I was over the line. I stopped my watch and thought I must be seeing things. I had just run 10k in 50:15. That’s right, over THREE MINUTES quicker than my PB! How could that even be possible?
I felt elated, but at the same time my leg was throbbing a fair bit so I kept moving through the finish area to hand over my timing chip and collect my goody bag (Tshirt, medal, water, sports drink, food and the usual assortment of leaflets) and a snack size malt loaf (yum!). I could hear Steve calling to me over the barriers and he was as stunned as me when he heard my finish time. I was then able to work my way through the finish area to join him for a congratulatory hug.
While I had been running, Steve had been chatting to the team at the Macmillan stand and helping them to hand out some materials, so we headed over there so he could return what he had left. They had put together goody bags for the Macmillan runners so I got another goody bag (keyring, mini moisturiser, lollies and leaflets) then had my photo taken with the frame they had brought along for the occasion. Everyone there was lovely and Steve had obviously been telling them about our challenge as they wished us luck for Edinburgh as we left.
Leg still throbbing, we headed over to the reunion area to meet up with our friends who had been running. Everyone was really pleased with their results (to be honest, I couldn’t believe mine and had to keep checking my watch to make sure I hadn’t misread it!). We put our Tshirts on for some photos then said our goodbyes.
I left Bellahouston Park with mixed emotions: thrilled with my new PB (confirmed as 50:15 by the official results) but annoyed that it had caused my leg to flare up again and this was superseding the joy. I was worried that taking part in the race might have been a mistake that would cost me dearly with regard to the Edinburgh marathon, but I couldn’t change that – I would now have to deal with the consequences and get it treated as soon as possible.
Despite that, I still really enjoy this particular event. I’d love to take part again next year and who knows, maybe next time I’ll get my first sub-50 10k result!