Before I’d even run the London Marathon I decided I’d do the inaugural Great Birmingham 10K the week after it. It didn’t seem the best of ideas at the time. As it got closer to race day I attempted to book a train so I could take it easy before the 12noon start. The problem though was the start time changed and as there weren’t any trains stopping at the local station and I’d have to go into the city to catch one. An equally big issue then was that the first train of the day would only get me to Birmingham around the time of the race start, and to make matters worse there were no buses local to me that would get me into the city on time. My only choice was to drive.
In the days that followed me successfully finishing the Virgin Money London Marathon I eased back into running – starting to commute by bicycle again on the Tuesday and running again from Wednesday. By the time of race day my legs for the most part didn’t feel that bad, though they still felt a little heavy from what had been demanded of them the weekend before.
When I awoke it was raining, and heavily at that. As I hadn’t prepared my kit the night before as I normally would I decided to dress light based on the theory that it wouldn’t be too cold, and that lighter clothes wouldn’t be as uncomfortable if wet. By the time we reached Birmingham the rain had eased off and we were hopeful that it would stop by the race start. After hanging around for a while in the carpark we found it had stopped raining so made our way to the start pens. As sometimes happens in races, there was an organised warm-up before the start. As is usual, I didn’t bother with it.
Today’s race was started by Jerome Flynn, who some may recognise as one half of “Robson & Jerome” who for a time were in the music charts during their time in the TV series, “Soldier Soldier”, but more recently he is known for “Ripper Street” and the ever-popular HBO fantasy, “Game of Thrones”. From the start I decided that I would see how far I could push myself to see how well my legs had recovered. For the first mile it was an area of Birmingham that I recognised as I’d been in the area for a conference previously, it was also my quickest mile having covered it in 6:26 minutes. My hope was to maintain a slightly slower pace than this for the rest. The route carried on and eventually it got to a point where the race leaders were passing us in the opposite direction led by cyclists. Shortly after we looped around the back of the stadium and were making our way back. At around the 5K mark I passed my friend going in the opposite direction, and it was nice to see them mid-race. My watch also indicated I was very close to my 5K PB, so a good sign I was going to get a time I would be happy with.
It was around this time that I noticed how much it had warmed up since the race start, enough for me to have regretted adding a light base-layer under my tee earlier. At around the 4 mile mark we circled around a hairpin bend and down into an underpass. It was on the way out of this when I started to notice that my legs weren’t a big fan of hills post-VLM, and for a while I walked here until I got near the top. I then carried on running again for a while until the ascent became noticeable again and then I continued walking. Usually I’d really beat myself up over having to walk during a race, but I figured it was a steep hill and I was unlikely to have fully recovered from my last race yet, so I decided I could forgive myself. I’d noticed at that point that I would not manage to get a PB from this race, so wasn’t as bothered about trying to push myself. It didn’t help either that I was overheating from too many layers, but I don’t think that would have particularly slowed me down.
Around the course there were various points where there was some live music playing, but the majority of them didn’t seem to be playing that loud. To be honest I was focussing that much on running that I didn’t pay a massive amount of attention to the music, or the handful of people that were watching, so it could be that it was better than I remembered.
Eventually I got to the 9K marker and decided that I would now run the remaining distance, even if I felt like walking. Which admittedly I did. A few times. I carried on though, and after one last climb out of another underpass the end was finally in sight. Although a little further away than I would normally speed up from I decided to get up to sprinting speed, or at least as close to it as I could manage and then sustained it to the finish. As it turned out, even though the hills had played havoc on my legs, my speed crossing the line was 4:01 min/mile. Not my fastest ever finish, but I was happy with it. They did announce my name over the speakers as I finished though, which was nice!
The goodie bag consisted of a bottle of water, a bottle of lucozade, a breakfast bar, a packet of cranberries, a finishers tee and a finishers medal. I gulped down half the water, put on the medal and walked back to an area just before the finish – the sort of area where you’d be likely to sprint from. Whilst there I saw a runner had collapsed and paramedics were carrying her off on a stretcher. At first I was worried that it was my friend – I could see blonde hair and her top was a similar colour, as were the trousers. Thankfully (okay maybe harsh to say, but it was a relief) I found that it wasn’t my friend, so I stood for a while waiting for her to get to the finish. Hopefully the runner was not in too serious a condition!
After a few sips of water I saw my friend approach, and speeding up as she got closer; she was running really fast before crossing the finish line! I was really happy for her when she found she’d done her fastest ever mile, and got a time she was very happy with. That alone made the entire race worthwhile.
One thing to note about this race is that the finish line is about a mile walk from the start line so it’s good to be mindful of that when choosing where to park. We had opted to park at the start as it’s better to walk further at the end (and effectively cool down) than it is to rush to the start.
When the results came out it turned out that I finished 173rd out of 5,131 runners putting me in the top 3.37% of finishers. I’ve never been that close to the front. Ever. It wasn’t a PB, which I never expected it to be (even at the time of booking the race), but I managed to finish with an official time of 42:59. Next time I race a 10K I’ll have to try my absolute best to beat this, but I was happy with the result and it was an enjoyable day.