In July I started my marathon training and by the time of this race had already got passed 10K once more, but the program I was following recommended having a 10K race at around the halfway mark for the 16 weeks of training.
Fortunately the Atherstone 10K which is hosted by the Badgers running club fit in with this timing almost perfectly, and it being in Warwickshire meant it wasn’t that far to travel either. The week before the race was due to start my regular long run had progressed to 13 miles and during the week I was doing 3 other runs that were a mixture of recovery runs, and at various paces from easy to fast, along with interval runs on a Friday. For the week leading up to the race I cut back a little on the miles to give my legs a little chance to rest, especially as over that last week or two I hadn’t been totally confident about my knee. It had started to feel “off” again and was making me doubt whether the remaining 5 weeks of building miles before the marathon would be possible. My best hope was to take this race slowly.
The night before the race I barely slept; I think in part due to being concerned whether my knee would hold up. The last two races I’d taken part in had both involved knee issues. I got to Atherstone with almost two hours to go before the race start – this meant I was able to use a car park that was about half way between the start and the finish line (though I didn’t realise this at the time). As soon as I left the car park I found that signposts had been put up everywhere for registration, facilities, first aid, the start line, and the finish line. This was a race where they don’t post out the race bibs so I wandered in the direction of the registration. This was pretty well organised as there was a queue for different groups by surname, though they didn’t seem to have any working pens for writing down emergency contact details with.
Once sorted I then went for a walk and thought I was heading in the direction of the start line, however as it hadn’t been assembled at the time when I found a line, after about an hour I found I was actually sitting at the finish line. Fortunately it wasn’t that far to the start and I still had 20 minutes to spare. For this inaugural race they first went through a safety briefing and explained it was an undulating course (I hadn’t realised this at the time I booked it), and then the Mayor said a few words.
At 10:00 we were off, running through the streets of Atherstone. For this race the majority of the roads we would traverse were closed to traffic, except for some of those through the countryside. It wasn’t long before we’d left the built-up area and then proceeded through the estate of Merevale Hall, a late-17th Century mansion. Upon leaving these grounds the first of the big hills then begun, one which seemed to last for an eternity. A car raced passed us and the marshalls shouted at them to slow down. Not long later the hill eased off a bit and the view of the countryside was pretty nice – you could see for miles.
As the race continued there was the occasional downhill where I picked up a bit of speed to make up for the drop in pace on the up-hill sections, but it felt like there were far more up-hill sections than down-hill ones. It must have been my imagination though as although an eternity seemed to pass I don’t think it actually did. I did however pass a few runners which I wasn’t really expecting to do – I think every one of them were ones that had passed me at the start. Throughout the race I looked for someone in front and then ran behind them, though every time I did that I eventually over took them when the hills got steeper. I think that certainly helped keep me motivated during this run.
Eventually we made it back into the grounds of the Merevale Hall, though I ran straight passed the water station that was there. There were a few seconds not long after this where I did actually slow to a walk but then almost immediately decided I shouldn’t walk, it’s better to slow down a bit instead. By the time we got to the 5 mile marker it seemed that a lifetime had passed before finally reaching the 6 mile one – at this point I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to speed up. We were on our way back through the town and the crowds were cheering – a good turnout too!
When I got to the top of the last gill there was then only a few hundred metres to go, and just over 10 seconds to get to the finish line if I wanted to get there in under 45 minutes. I have no idea where the energy came from but I accelerated quickly and by the time I crossed the finish line was going at a pace of 3min/mile. It was a few seconds later when I remembered to stop my watch, and at this time it displayed just over 10K in a time of 45:09. Later, according to Strava once I’d uploaded it, I found I’d finally finished a 10K race in under 45 minutes. This left me feeling incredibly happy to have finally managed that. It was nice to have been cheered across the finish line for a change too – and even had a comment that it was a really strong finish. I can be pleased with that.
The post-race goody bag consisted of a medal, banana, bottle of water, “power” cookie, a bag of sweets, and the usual leaflets you get. There wasn’t that much space though as the finishing area was crowded with people who were there to cheer everyone on. The square in front of St. Mary’s Church (where the finish line was) also had various stalls for post-race massage, running clothes and equipment, and a stall selling hog roasts.
I think it was a really nice atmosphere and the organisers from the Badgers running club did a really great job of putting this event on – really well organised.
Once the official results were released I found I’d finished 36th out of 379 finishers (I’d heard there were 460 taking part), with an official chip time of 45:04. Amazingly the gun time wasn’t that different as that was 45:09 meaning I really was quite close to the start line for a change. This result put me in the top 10% of finishers, and I think that combined with a new Personal Best, I can be happy with the result considering I wasn’t expecting to do that well.