Just eighteen days before the event was due to take place I decided to enter Lincoln’s 10K road race. At this time I hadn’t yet done the Sport Relief mile, but if I wanted to do this one I had no choice but to enter before as the closing date was fast approaching.
As the Sport Relief 6 mile run was not timed, and my previous 10K “race” was a virtual one, this technically made this one my first proper 10K race event. As Lincoln is where my Granddad lives I thought it would also be a good chance to go visiting. As further training I did a 7.62 mile just over a week before just to make sure I would still be comfortable doing the distance.
For the week of the race I did the same as the week before the Sport Relief run – I did three easy paced 5K runs during the week and then left two (almost) rest days before the run itself. It has been a busy week leading up to the run so the Saturday was spent taking it easy in hope I’d be feeling a little more awake by the time of the race.
So, I set my alarm for 07:00 the next day but never actually needed it. I found myself waking up constantly throughout the night and by 06:00 I’d given up on the idea of sleep. Despite this I didn’t attempt to get to Lincoln earlier, but was on the road by 08:00. It was a pretty easy journey, and despite my lack of directional skills when reaching Lincoln, I did park up by 09:30. On the way to the start line I dropped my backpack off with the baggage van – as the race was starting at 11:00 I figured I’d take sandwiches with me.
It was then a short walk to the start line, but had just over an hour to wait in the cold wearing only shorts and t-shirt. I sat around for a while but soon found that I needed to get moving to keep warm. I took a walk down to the starting area for the group I was in – “Sub-60”. I wanted to try and get a sub-45 minute time so was aware I’d need to pass the sub-60 group, and finish amongst the group doing a sub-50 minute time. Five minutes before the start, they started off the wheelchair racers and then the race had begun.
It was quite some time before I crossed the starting line, but fortunately the chips in the running bib wouldn’t start timing until having crossed the start line so I took this first bit very easy. It was very crowded to with little more than shoulder room only, but by the end of the first mile this had started to ease out and I soon found myself darting through gaps to try and get up to the pace I wanted to do the race at.
This race was unlike any run I’d ever done before – it took place entirely on the road and was along streets filled with so many other runners and with spectators behind barriers all along the way. There was one moment I did almost trip though as one of the other runners ran across in front of me to clap hands with a number of people holding their hands out along the edge of the road.
I had intended to keep a steady pace, but found myself changing speeds constantly as I ran from one side of the road to the other to find gaps to run though, but I found the best place to overtake was on the corners as I could take them wide and run past those that were keeping to the inside edges. The route felt pretty flat which was quite pleasing, though there were exceptions. After the first lap I found that first straight was actually on a bit of an incline which I hadn’t noticed at the beginning of the race.
Another new experience was the lack of music. I’d chosen to leave my MP3 player with my baggage and to see what it was like to run without any music. In at least one point along the route there was live music being played, and a suitable track at the time I passed as well – “Keep on Running”. It seemed almost weird, and I found for once my mind didn’t wander whilst I was running I was concentrating more on where I needed to run to get the clearest route through. There was also a lot of cheering and clapping for the other runners, sadly I didn’t have anyone there to watch so didn’t have that. At around the 7Km mark I did start to waver a little, and started to think maybe I should walk the rest. I thought of a friend that runs, and thought that they would never quit and that somehow pushed me on and I in fact increased my pace for a while.
Towards the end of the second lap the route take a different route to the first lap so it can go around past the amazing Lincoln Cathedral. Once I reached the Cathedral I thought that was it, that the end was in sight so I pushed harder but soon found I needed to slow down upon reaching a cobbled road. As it turns out cobbled roads are not that comfortable for running on.
The last 100 metres or so were then uphill and through the bottleneck of the Castle entrance to the finishing line. The bottleneck also meant slowing down a little, but I don’t think it would have made much difference to the time. I’d aimed for a sub-45 minute 10K, but I failed – I finished my first proper 10K race with a time of 45:25. I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing though – it was a new experience and it gives me something to aim for in my next 10K race.
After crossing the finishing line you are told to keep moving to keep the finishing line clear – which makes perfect sense, and I’m glad they do it. This then lead round to where they handed over the “goodie bags” which included your finishers medal, 10 plasters (presumably in case you’ve got bleeding toes), an emergency thermal blanket, a wristband, a bottle of water and water bottle.
From there it was out of the Castle and into the racers village where baggage collection was a nightmare. It took me around 15 minutes to find my bag as it was literally a big tent with all the bags of over 5,000 people thrown in. They were supposedly loosely arranged in batches of about 500 numbers, but mine was far from where it was supposed to be. With my bag eventually retrieved I then queued to have my medal engraved with my name and my race time – it was only £3.00 so seemed like a good idea for my first real race. I also picked up the commemorative technical tee that I’d ordered, but this queue was a little longer.
It was then a 20 minute or so walk back to the car park, though this was aided by my phone telling me where to go after I’d walked in the wrong direction to start with and got lost. Typical.
Today was a great experience and I can’t wait to try again – I may do this one again next year, but for now I’ll look forward to Leicester’s Big 10K next month.
UPDATE 07/04/2014: The official results are out and I placed 750th out of 4,374 finishers. I’m really pleased with that and I don’t think finishing in the top 17.1% of finishers is a bad thing for my first attempt at a race.