Leicester’s Big 10K 2014

This run was in support of Rainbows, a charity that provides hospice care for children and young people that have life-shortening, or life-threatening illnesses. This year the charity is celebrating it’s 20th birthday, and on the lead up to the event I was able to raise £75.00 in sponsorship for them.

It being about a month after my previous race I was pretty hopeful that I would have managed to have made some progress in that time in terms of average pace over 10K, and how easily I’d be able to complete that distance. In the Lincoln 10K road race I’d managed a time of 45:25, and I wanted to beat that this time, and if possible get below the 45 minute mark.

After having finished the 6 mile run for Sport Relief I’d changed my training plan to be a little more structured so that I could gradually build up my distance to 13.11 miles without increasing the total miles for the week by more than 10% at any point, whilst trying to keep my long run at around 50% of my weekly total. This meant I was no longer specifically training for a 10K but decided it didn’t really matter – if I’m trying to achieve a longer distance then I felt it stood to reason that a 10K race could form part of the training.

When doing my regular training runs during the week I usually run with an MP3 player so I can listen to music as I go. It’s something that research shows does make a difference to your running and can actually make you slightly faster. Unfortunately Tempo Events, the company running Leicester’s Big 10K does not allow MP3 players to be used for most of their events. In the details for some events they say it’s because the routes are on roads and you need to hear the marshals – which is fair enough. In the case of the Leicester Big 10K though this is done in Abbey Park so is not on the road, but they still disallow them.

I was told that often you’ll get people cheering you on at races like this though and that often helps pick up the pace a little and to keep on going. I didn’t use an MP3 player for the Lincoln 10K, and hadn’t had anyone cheer me on either so I decided it may be a similar environment to that. If I’m honest, I’d have to say it did bother me a little that no family or friends wanted to watch me run – but I guess it would have been boring for them.

Over a fortnight before the race I still hadn’t heard from Tempo Events after having emailed them to check up on when the race numbers would be posted out. They never did reply to me, but they did send out a mass email eventually to let people know they’d been posted.

By this point though I wasn’t 100% sure I’d be able to run in this race though as two weeks before I’d injured my knee after the first mile on a run from Bournemouth to Poole and back, and still did a further 9 miles after that. It was a slow recovery and it took almost a week before I could even walk up stairs without using my arms to support my weight. It wasn’t looking good. In the days leading up to this race I found a 1 mile run at a far slower than normal pace to be a struggle, but a couple of days later found a 5K to be manageable. For the last couple of days before the race all I could do was try to rest my knee and hope for the best.

Race Day

As it was a fairly local race it meant I didn’t have to get up too early and could just casually make my way over to the National Space Centre to park up. From there it was a fair walk to the start line, but this acted as a good warm-up ready for the race. By this time in the morning it was already quite warm – the sun was out and not a cloud in the sky.

As I was about 45 minutes before the start time I wandered around for a while to see where the finish line would be and to get a general idea what the area was like. I’ve been Abbey Park before, but not as a runner, and even then it has been some years since I was last there.

For the starting line there was no organisation like there had been for the Lincoln 10K – instead it was a mass of people fitting in wherever they could – it felt like a Parkun. Maybe that was an appropriate feeling considering this was Abbey Park. For the first part of the race it went around the inside of the park and across a few humped back bridges, and early on there was a bottleneck when reaching what was like a garden wall with a gate through. Although I only had to slow down to get through this, I did hear that some of those later had to stop to wait to get through.

This then went out of the park and onto the road around the outside where one lane of traffic had been coned off to protect the runners. This wasn’t too bad, but was completely unprotected from the sun. It was around this time I started to feel I should have used some sunscreen. In fact, if I could impart one piece of advice, it would be to wear sunscreen. Eventually though, as I rounded another corner there was some shade, but also a gust of wind to cool me down (and to some degree slow me down).

More time passed, and at around 2.5 miles into the run it turned out there were stairs to run down to get down onto the tow path alongside the canal. This did however include a water station, and is the first time I’ve ever used one, as I’ve never actually had water or food during a run before, not even the 15 mile run I did a few weeks previous. I think it helped that a lady held out the water for me to grab – it was a smooth collection, which I don’t think it would have been if it had been a table.

By the time I got to the 5K point I looked at my watch and found it was only about 21 minutes into the race. This left me in high hopes that I’d be able to set a personal best on this course. This was not to be though. By the time I’d got to 4 miles it was back inside the park and already on the route back out of it and it was starting to get more difficult though. Mostly because of the heat – I’d been finding that the water I’d picked I had used most of it to cool myself down rather than drink, and I think by the time I’d got to 8Km this was starting to take it’s toll on me.

Sprint Finish

Every step passed that point was getting more and more difficult, and I wanted to slow to a walk so badly.  I didn’t though. I kept going, figuring that it was all in my head. Again I got to the steps and this time carried straight on passed the water station without getting more water. This may have been a mistake. Running along the canal for second time I soon found that the heat was getting too much for me, but I could hear the speakers at the finish line so I knew the first few people had already finished. I had to keep going, though I really didn’t think I could finish at this point. My brain kept telling me to walk, so I tried to distract it by looking at the canal and the surroundings, and to try and forget about the oppressive heat.

Getting back into the park again I could finally see the finish line so gradually started to pick up pace again. By the time I reached the area roped off towards the finishing line I’d got up to a sprint and finished in a time of 45:39

It wasn’t the time I wanted, but I think considering I’d only done two failed runs since my knee injury (which still isn’t 100%) and the fact that it was reportedly 22C in the shade, I don’t think it was too bad. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that this was my slowest run, and not even close to the time I wanted. Though I was fortunate that friends were running in this race as well – so after getting some water I started to walk back in the opposite direction.

Having gone back after the finish I found a good friend who was running this race too, and I ran with her for the rest of the distance, hoping I could help her. It was pretty difficult though as I hadn’t cooled down that much and my feet were aching from the blisters that had formed, though I’d have gladly run further to help.

"Tweetup" for drinks after the race

“Tweetup” for drinks after the race

Although tough, and not the best of courses, I found this to be the most enjoyable run I’ve ever taken part in. It’s good to be able to talk to friends after a race and I sincerely hope I get to run with them again.

UPDATE: The results are out and I finished 81st out of 671 people, putting me almost into the top 12% of people racing today. I can be happy with that.