This Thursday evening 5K race on Victoria Embankment was very much entered on a whim a week or so before the race took place. There was no real need to run it other than I fancied taking a look at a fairly new 5K race that had been established in the summer and was continuing with a four round winter series taking place monthly from November through to February. There were also a fair few runners from Grantham Running Club taking part that were looking to get an end of year quick time to try and boost their best age grade performance of the year either for our GP Series or for our race standard certificates that are handed out in February at a Presentation Evening.
I arrived with club mate Penny around 45 minutes before the start, far less than I’d normally allow for a race, but sufficient in this instance for an event that I was approaching with less vigour than a parkrun on any given Saturday. Being a small race I was able to park pretty much at the start line where the registration desk was to collect our number and timing chip. After clarifying where the course went I commenced pretty swiftly on a 2 3/4 mile warm up which basically consisted of running the majority of the course.
Although pancake flat it was soon evident that the limiting factor for blazing quick times was the requirement to negotiate three U turns on a footpath not that wide, which would cost several seconds each. There was also a large volume of detritus in the form of leaves and more concerning twigs and branches courtesy of some hefty winds sweeping through the area. I actually stopped several times to stop and clear the worst of the debris from the course, not particularly wanting to turn my ankle on an errant stick, which were none too visible with the street lighting set to
economy barely lit romantic. The low lux levels also meant that the numerous tree roots that were lifting the pavement in places were hard to spot, all in all making the desire to run full pelt unattractive. A saving grace was that the breezy conditions were as a result of some mild air blowing in, making the December race feel more like a September evening run, albeit with the constant threat of rain with the ominous looking clouds covering the sky.
Once the warm up was done there was a short briefing which mainly appealed to those taking part to be aware that runners would be heading along the course in both directions and to stick to the right hand side of the path. We lined up and with the minimum of fanfare was set off on our way. Despite not going full gas from the gun I found myself in the lead and within a couple of hundred metres had just two sitting on my tail.
Less than half a mile into the race we made the first U turn and headed back towards the start line. Things got a little hairy here for a fair few of the 100 or so racing had clearly not heard or decided not to heed the advice to stay on the right side of the path and I had to get a bit animated to implore them to move out of the way or risk a head on collision…. Once past the start line this became less of an issue, although we did have regular pedestrians and non racing runners to contend with at times.
I went through the opening mile in 5:31 and made the second U turn to head back past the start line and further out along Victoria Embankment (As far as you can go before needing to cross a road). By now even though we were only a third of the way through the race it was very much a two horse affair. It was abundantly clear that my shadow Patrick Townsend was totally unwilling to help with the pace and was quite happy to stick right behind me. At another race on a different day I may well have employed some classic tactics to encourage my opponent to share the load – slowing down, speeding up, weaving from side to side, coming to a stop (this happened to me once!) verbal
abuse encouragement etc. I did consider this but given that the path was narrow, the conditions underfoot were not great, and I wasn’t actually that bothered about the outcome of the race, I decided to suck it and lead the race out, giving Patrick a free ride in my slipstream.
The second mile was a bit slower (5:36) partly due to it being mostly into the wind. It wasn’t long before we made our final U turn and headed for the near mile long drag to the finish. I was spurred on somewhat by passing club mates coming in the other direction, offering encouragement aware that I was leading the race. I continued to lead the race until there was around 300 meters to go when Patrick meekly moved out from my backside and onto my shoulder.
He accelerated hard and he disappeared into the distance. I offered absolutely no resistance – I had no interest in sprinting hard for victory, especially as I was running the Keyworth Turkey Trot in under 72 hours time. I just about saw him cross the finish line, arms aloft in 17:01. I came in fifteen seconds later having run 5:34 for the final mile, content with second place and a reasonable finishing time.
I quickly went back to the course to cheer home all the GRC finishers. I eschewed the warm down for the picking up of two bottles of wine at the presentation of prizes – the first for finishing second and the other for winning the team competition. We also received some of the most ridiculously oversized medals in relation to the size of race we had just taken part in. It makes my London Marathon medal look tiny in comparison!
With that it was time to drive home, happy to have raced and finished second, not overly disappointed that I hadn’t signed up to take part in the remaining two races in the series.
Race number 12 of the year done, just one more to go!