This was a bit of a last minute decision, and it didn’t really fit in with my training, but when I saw this one was nearby I decided this would be a good way to start racing for 2015. This actually became the last run of my third week of training for the London Marathon (out of a total of 16 weeks training). The weeks of 2015 had so far been cold and was showing signs of getting colder as we got closer to February, traditionally the coldest month of the year for us. The weeks before were frosty ones, with some snow flurries, so we didn’t really know what weather to expect for this race.
On the day of the race I awoke to mild weather, although still cold, after a night of not getting as much sleep as I’d have liked. For some reason I was a little apprehensive about the race, I’m not sure why as I’ve done quite a few races now. From the area I live in it’s actually surprisingly easy to get to Rockingham Speedway and got there in far better time than we had expected. I think we were so early in fact that I think we may have been the first people there other than the organisers.
As with the Donington Park HM, the race paddocks were being used for registration and bag drop-off, as well as a communal spot for runners to gather. I thought this particular racetrack was better than Donington Park and seemed somewhat larger. This one has stands for spectators, and a tunnel under the racetrack to get to the paddocks which sit on the inside of the track next to the pit lane (similar to Silverstone). As we’d arrived early we sat around and tried to stay warm until about 10:30ish when we got ready for the race and then once everyone was called we walked out onto the track and around to the start.
As we arrived at the starting line I wished my friend good luck as we went out separate ways to join the crowd. It was pretty cold outside, but we knew once we got going we’d warm up pretty quickly. This race would be 4 laps of the track, and then after crossing it the fourth time we’d head towards the pit lane and through to the finish. The aim of this race was to try and keep my mind in the race and ignore the fact we’d be running passed the same scenery time and time again.
It’s not that unusual to see discarded or lost items during a race, though this time within the first 30 seconds of the race there was already a glove and a headband lost to the ground. It’s then a very basic route – it’s not like Donington Park where there are many corners, this was an oval(ish) track with embanked sides, the sort you’d see American Nascar racers going around. What this did mean though was that in places we’d be running on the embanked side for long stretches at a time and this was tough on my calves, and to a degree my ankles as well.
I think for the first lap I had set off too fast, maybe it was over confidence, or maybe it was being caught up in the race, but doing the first mile in 06:55 meant that I would suffer for that later. Being able to see the start line for a lot of the race probably didn’t help, I think I have a habit of going faster when I can see my destination.
For the first lap I don’t think the wind bothered me so much, but on the second lap I was really starting to feel the effects of the strong wind on the approach to the start line. The second lap was mostly me thinking to myself that I need to keep going, and I need to keep the pace steady, though I think I may have taken that lap a little slower than the others. For a lot of it I’d tried to keep behind runners that were running at a similar pace to what I wanted but I found I’d either overtake them part way around or they’d disappear in front of me somewhere. I think the second lap was probably my toughest, at least mentally anyway, and only a very short way into the lap I was thinking it’d be nice to stop and walk, and maybe watch from the pit lane.
I don’t know what it is that makes me want to give in so early into a race, but I managed to run it off eventually and on the third lap it felt much better and my legs felt happy. Part of the way around though I passed my friend, I felt bad in doing so, but I smiled and waved and kept on running. She was doing really good though, she’d felt unwell recently and was still recovering – to come back and do any sort of race so soon after being ill is brilliant. It was great to see she was doing well and I think that kept me going through the rest of the race. The third lap was mostly a steady but speedier pace, with the exception of the really windy bit, and for the fourth lap I tried to keep it up, but about half way around it my legs were starting to struggle and I’d dropped down to a 7:50min/mile pace, but I’d done the rest of the lap fast enough to still average around 7:13min/mile.
Eventually, although I’m sure the wind didn’t want me to, I crossed the start line for the fourth time and started to run along the slip road into the pit lane. This seemed to go on for longer than I was expecting and once around the corner onto the pit straight I could see the finish line in the distance. As usual I started to pick up the pace, but soon realised I’d started way too early which in turn made a sprint finish very difficult.
Upon crossing the finishing line they ask everyone to stay in order so they can record times against your race number as this one did not use any chip timers. Once they’d recorded your time they than handed out bananas and a goodie bag. The goodie bag consisted of the usual leaflets, a bag of Haribo sweets, a cereal bar, and a small piece of chocolate.
I came 61st out of a field of 347 finishers (in the top 17.6%) with a gun time of 41:05 – not my best race, but I’m happy with it. Sadly there was no medal for finishing this race (although I’m sure the website had said there would be), but what was better than any medal was getting to run this race with one of my best friends. It’s not often I get to run with friends, and I hope we get to run together again this year. I think without her having been there I wouldn’t have done as well as I did.
I then jumped over the railing and sat on the wall overlooking the race track so I could wait for Amy to come around on her final lap. I could tell she was in the zone, oblivious to the shouting to cheer her on, looking focused and determined as she passed the starting grid in front of the pit straight. Shortly after she’d finished the lap and started to run down the pit straight and finished really strongly with a great time. Neither of us had PB’d, but I think we were both really glad to have finished our first race of 2015.