I’d entered the BUPA London 10,000 (Which, from now on I’ll just call the London 10K as BUPA have had enough publicity and using 10,000 for a road race just feels wrong – makes it sound unnecessarily tough or self-important – it’s just a 10k) back in March when I was recovering from the second sacrum fracture that forced me to not run for seven weeks. The entry was something of a gamble as I had no idea what form I was likely to be in. Moreover, because it was a championship entry, I had to be picked my Kenilworth Runners team captain, who took something of a gamble in picking me, knowing that my recent injury woes had left me short on mileage.
The build up to the race, since the London Marathon had seen the left hip slowly improve so that by the parkrun last Saturday, I was running virtually pain free, and by the time set there (17:25) a little bit of pace had come from nowhere. The last few days of build up were dictated by a busy weekend covering the Monaco GP. I did though, thanks to the rain there on Thursday, get out for an unexpected, but welcome 14 mile evening club run. Then Friday morning, with the guys and gals recovering from their hangovers, I was able to put in easy six mile run and eighty minutes on the elliptical trainer. Saturday didn’t go quite to plan – a super busy day meant just three miles of running in the morning, and then Sunday saw an early morning hour on the elliptical trainer followed by 15 hours straight at the desk covering the GP. I didn’t get to bed until midnight. Hardly ideal pre-race prep.
Five hours later and I was awake again.
Race Day Build Up
The five am wake up call hit me like the proverbial brick but there was little time to dwell – Operation Get Out was in full swing. Computer on. Downstairs: cup of strong coffee made. Back upstairs to the computer a little bit of post GP work done and coffee drunk. Shower. Change into clothes. Wake youngest daughter. Get her changed. Hurl everything and everyone into the car. Leave the house. Remarkably this was all done in 50 minutes.
Originally it was the plan to get the train down to London. Then there was the train strike. Then that was called off. I looked at prices but the only affordable train got us into London just a bit too late to be comfortable. So we drove on a blissfully empty A1 all the way down to New Barnet, parking close to where I used to live and just a minute’s walk from the train station. Once Oyster cards were primed, kids tickets bought and not bought, for some of their journey would be free, we were on the seven forty something train into King’s Cross. It was the youngest daughter’s first trip on a train and she squealed with delight at each and every tunnel and bridge we passed under. This much amused doting parents; fellow passengers surely less so.
Once in King’s Cross there was chance for a brief Platform 9 3/4 photo opportunity – our eldest daughter now besotted with all things Harry Potter.
That piece of history captured and it was time for the next adventure – first ever tube journey with both kids. Thankfully we had chosen two stations (Kings Cross and Green Park) with lift access and there being no rush hour on the Bank Holiday the trains were relatively empty – so our first trip was pretty painless.
The race village could not have been better located for public transport users – the exit of Green Park led directly into it. We were there by 08:45 – 75 minutes before the race start, it could not have gone any smoother. I enjoyed a queue free trip to the portaloos and began to get changed.
The only kink in otherwise meticulous preparation was that I’d forgotten to put my Garmin foot pod on the trainers I was racing in. Somewhat ridiculously, for a minute or so I genuinely didn’t think I’d be able to run without the knowledge of having accurate instant pace. Not knowing my cadence or steps per mile I could just about live without, but instant pace is a big deal to me. Looking around and failing to see a Garmin stand at race HQ, I resigned myself to being without this data and altered the display on my 910XT to show average lap pace and my speed in mph instead (the last one of no use whatsoever but gave me something else to look at rather than a line in the cadence field which would have served as an irritating reminder of my forgetfulness.
I bid farewell to my family who made their way to the start. I changed fully into my running kit and put my bag in baggage. I then went out for a warm up run in Green Park. Being a British championship race (As well as your standard fare masses race) I felt a little inadequate as I went through my usual routine of a mile very easy and a minute or two of faster running. There were swarms of runners who were going through meticulous warm up routines – strides, bounding, stretching, flexing, sprints and the like. I’d planned to run two miles for warm up but gave up at 1.6, bored of running around in circles.
As usual I needed a last minute trip to the bathroom and as usual queues had multiplied beyond all comprehension in the 45 minutes since I’d last used the facilities. The ones in the race village were so long I couldn’t actually work out where they ended, so I headed to the start, thinking there must be some there. The advertised last toilets before the start had queues almost as long as those at the village. I summised there was no way I’d be using them in time, so instead made my way to the start and hoped they were lying about there being no more toilets.
My gamble paid off. There were small pockets of portaloos stretching along the the start line at The Mall. It was a ten minute wait to have my turn but I never sensed any danger of not being able to take my place somewhere near the front of the field in the championship start pen.
I made it in the hallowed ground seven minutes before the start. I stumbled upon fellow Kenilworth Runners’ Jimmy, Rachel, and Louise. I knew there were others but I’d little chance of spotting them. I wished them luck and made my way somewhere closer to the start, settling somewhere just behind where the really quick looking guys were standing. The anticipation was ramped up a touch when luminaries of the British running scene Andy Vernon and Jo Pavey were announced to warm applause. There was then 30 seconds to the start.
At ten o’clock exactly we were off. I made it past the start line around 10 seconds after the gun and was quickly into my running. And to my relief everything felt comfortable, indeed it felt a little sluggish but the pace was good, not going off too quickly and allowing the HR to rise gently to my estimated target rate of 175bpm.
A swarm of runners surged towards and through a road block in the form of some pillars in the road which, now looking at the map of the race, was Admiralty Arch. The only real drama of the race came immediately after at the roundabout that followed. With an extra narrowing of the course and a chicane to negotiate there was a faller close to the front of the pack and as runners struggled to hurdle or doge the fallen athlete, I was tripped as the pack condensed and slowed briefly in the bottleneck. Thankfully I was able to keep upright and used a pair of shoulders to maintain equilibrium and resume normal racing.
The race had a feel of it being around 80% of how the Leeds Abbey Dash felt when I ran it in 2013. It was inspiring running with loads of quick runners, but there weren’t as many runners around me as there was at Leeds and I felt though I was running quite slowly, whereas at Leeds I felt like I was running first. I was pleased therefore to cover the first mile in 5:34 and felt my pace increase a touch as we headed towards 3k. The course was also rather eerie. It had pockets of support but in areas it was rather deserted as we ran down what are usually some of the busiest roads in the country. I’m sure we passed a fair few landmarks too but they were wasted on me as I concentrated on following the backside of whoever was behind me.
Garmin, allowing for usual discrepancies and the rather obvious fact we were surrounded by a fair few tall buildings (aka GPS scramblers) had me complete mile two in 5:18. I wasn’t sure whether to trust it, but I was pleased that I was still feeling comfortable and the HR was bang on where I thought it would be. My next concern was, as we headed out on what was quickly becoming apparent an out-and-back course, was whether my swift opening to the race was being aided by a tail wind.
Fortunately as we came to halfway at 5k and turned back towards the finish the wind continued to feel much the same as it had done – I concluded we were enjoying predominantly a side wind. By five KM I was starting to become a little isolated, little pockets of runners ahead, no one obviously behind me (I think it was one of the few races where I never once looked behind me). I looked up at the official clock at 5K and it read 17:10. It took a little while for my clock page to scroll through on the Garmin and it said much the same. I didn’t though clock the distance at the time, which was probably for the best.
It didn’t take too much of my brain power to work out that even going by the official clock, if I matched my efforts over the opening half in the second half I would come in 14 seconds inside my old 10K personal best of 34:34. This undoubtedly spurred me on, but it also became a touch harder as the efforts of the opening miles began to take their toll and the left quad began to ache a touch – thoughts of the cramp suffered at parkrun began to fill my mind.
Unlike at most other races where I prep myself to know what average mile pace will bring me home in, I’d done no such preparation here and so, although I knew what pace I was supposedly running at, had no idea whether it was good enough to bring me in under the old PB. To be honest going into the race the only ambition I’d harboured was to come home in something under 36 minutes – a PB was never a consideration.
After the third mile 5:25, the fourth flashed up at 5:28. I was pleased to be maintaining good pace, but the fifth mile was living up to its reputation as being the toughest mentally, as well as physically. What kept me going was that although I was beginning to suffer and struggle, the pain and suffering was nowhere near as bad as the recent cycling time trials I have subjected myself to recently. Whenever a bad patch swept through my body, I thought about the cycling on a bike and kept on pushing.
The fifth mile was 5:31. I’d forgotten what the fourth mile split was, so was unaware I was slowing. Instead with the lure of a surprise PB a possibility I pushed on in the final mile reckoning it was just six minutes or so of suffering. I pushed on again, vaguely recognising the surroundings of Birdcage Walk – which is exactly where, around a month ago, I was shuffling along in a world of cramp induced misery at the conclusion of the London Marathon. With that thought in my mind and mindful that no matter how much I was suffering now, it was nothing compared to the suffering then, I pushed out on a long sprint for home as the 800 meter marker was passed, and then the 400 meter. At 200 meters I gave it my all as we turned into the finish outside of Buckingham Palace. I glanced at my watch and it gave me 45 seconds to cover 200 meters. I knew I had a PB barring disaster.
In the final 80 meters I spotted my family and gave them a beaming smile. I saw the official clock in the 37 twenties and in a rare gesture of race celebration swung both arms in the air as I crossed the finish line. It took a second or two to stop the watch. The all important time: 34:24! Nine seconds inside my old PB. I was elated!!!
Post race I made my way to collect my T-Shirt and goodie bag. I walked to collect my baggage and stumbled upon McKarkiss Elite Project runners McCarthy and Simkiss, who had finished ninety seconds or so ahead of me. They are clearly good luck mascots over 10k for the last time I’d met them was at the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k where I PB’d too. As they headed off for a post race cool down I felt a tightening in my quad and passed up on the offer – I had hours of walking around the Science Museum to face.
A post race meet up with the family, a couple of photos and a swift change and the race was done. Eleven hours later and we were home. The results were (briefly) out and my official time was rounded down to 34:22. A totally unexpected and very welcome surprise, given the lack of running in the past eight months and, aside from a couple of treadmill sessions, a steady 10k, a parkrun, and a half hearted hills session, I’ve done no real speed work at all since April.
Suddenly there is an urge to find races to take part in – but next up something totally different: My triathlon debut!
1) 1m – 5:35(5:35/m) 164/173bpm
2) 1m – 5:18(5:18/m) 174/175bpm
3) 1m – 5:24(5:24/m) 175/176bpm
4) 1m – 5:29(5:29/m) 175/177bpm
5) 1m – 5:30(5:30/m) 175/176bpm
6) 1m – 5:17(5:17/m) 175/177bpm
7) 0.36m – 1:52(5:12/m) 178/179bpm