So far this year the only goal for 2017 that I’ve been able to accomplish is to complete a 100km race. That is something I did at Race to the Stones once more than half the year had passed by. I still had goals to improve my 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon times.
I came close to reaching sub-40 minutes at Leeds last year, so I decided if I booked a couple of 10Ks during the lead-up to my autumn marathons, and one for after then one of them would hopefully get me there. The first of these was the Leicester 10K – a new event for 2017 which starts and ends in Abbey Park.
What I couldn’t understand is why Run For All would organise this event for the same day as Leicester’s 10 mile county championship – race 7 of the LRRL summer league. A lot of the local clubs would be concentrating on that race – one which GB athlete Gemma Steel has won twice, and is the course record holder for. I could only assume it’s the only date they could agree with the Council for, or that they didn’t know about the league race.
Unlike the 10K organised by Tempo Events, this one does not organise any parking for competitors. The closest I could find was the John Lewis multistory car park which is one mile from the exit to the start line in Abbey Park. It’s not really a problem though as it acted as a nice warm-up before the race.
When I got there I talked to @BillAndrews and his sister for a while until they needed to drop their bags off. I even saw @amy_everett_ and her sister pass by before I made my way over to the starting pen. I noticed that the sub-40 was quite small, so as I was the first one there I thought I’d stand near the middle of it – I could reposition myself later. In front of this pen was a very small sub-35 pen; there was nobody there at the time, but I thought to myself that one day it’d be nice to find myself in that pen – starting at the front of a big race.
Time passed and two others joined me in the pen though nobody had entered the sub-35 pen. I imagined those that could do that were doing league races. I hadn’t spotted a single person in Wigston Phoenix or West End Runners tops. We were then asked to move forward to the front ready for the warm-up to start at 08:45.
As is usual I didn’t take part in the warm-up, but whilst it was taking place the 40 minute pacer joined us in the pen. Once the warm-up was complete they then announced a ten minute delay in the start time whilst they secured the route. Those that had warmed up now had plenty of time to cool down. At last though, the race was about to begin.
It seemed weird, but I was on the front row and shoulder to shoulder with another runner who was hoping for around 36 minutes. When the race started I darted forwards and for the first few hundred metres I was leading the Leicester 10K – my home city. I’d been nervous about not being good enough yet to go sub-40, but I was at the front. It distracted me that much that I realised I’d not started my watch but had already covered about 200 – 300 metres. I started my watch and dropped the pace a little to something a little more sustainable, and the guy expecting a much faster time slipped into the lead.
By the time we left Abbey Park there were three runners in front of me, with another two about to overtake. That was okay though as I was hoping the 40 minute pacer would catch me up soon and I could follow him for the duration. There was no sign of the pacer so I carried on assuming that I’d see him at some point.
The route then goes along one side of dual carriageway, but then turns off before the end to go through an industrial estate and loops around to go down an underpass beneath the dual carriageway we’d just run over. I did drop my pace briefly for the uphill section as I didn’t want to tire myself too soon. I was wondering if I’d overdone it a bit with the quick start.
The route then rejoins the dual carriageway, but on the opposite side. As we rounded the corner onto the other dual carriageway near the Highcross shopping centre I spotted @amy_everett_’s parents on their way to cheer her and Lucy on. I decided there and then it’d probably be best if I didn’t hang around after the race to talk as no doubt she’d be busy!
We were then directed from one side of the road to the other so we could run down the side of the Highcross on Highcross Street. This felt like a bit of a climb, but so far the only real uphill effort had been the underpass. As the miles ticked on though even the gradual inclines would likely feel tough. I then got to Saint Nicholas Square where the route goes around the outside of the park on the brick floor, and around passed the front of Leicester Cathedral – the burial place of King Richard III. So far things were going well, and I was thinking about the last time I ran around this area – the Sunrise City 5K.
The route continues passed the Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe and the neighbouring champagne bar, around passed the market, and onto Gallowtree Gate – one of the main shopping areas in the city. At the Clock Tower we continued onto Belgrave Gate to leave the city centre behind.
Along this stretch of road I was starting to tire. A lot of it is uphill and a few people overtook me, one of which I overtook again not long later. It felt to me like this was one of the hardest parts of the course and I was certain I was going so incredibly slow. I’d just passed the 5K marker and I considered walking. I didn’t though, I kept going and I’m glad I did as the reality was that this mile was on par with my fastest mile of the race. I’d only glanced at my watch a couple of times so wasn’t entirely sure how I was doing – I knew the delayed start of my watch would probably throw me off if I looked.
Eventually we left this road that seemed to never end, and even though I was even more eager to walk I kept going as it felt like this was homeward bound. Each stride now was taking me closer to Abbey Park, not away from it. My head kept telling me to walk, and when I reached a housing estate I convinced my legs to keep on going at least until I was passed the houses. It’s amazing what lying to yourself can do. I didn’t actually want to allow myself to walk as I knew that if I walked then every second beyond 40 minutes I was out running for would be a second I would question if I could have managed my goal.
Just passed the houses and the bridge was the second water station, and again I ran straight on through. Whilst my legs were still moving I didn’t want to slow down. Some of the runners in front of me nipped to the side to get some water on passing, but didn’t slow by much. I couldn’t really think what the local support had been like – I was focused on running too much, but I did notice that for most of the race up until this point I’d been on my own with the exception of the brief times when faster runners overtook me. As I turned onto Abbey Lane another runner started to catch up and eventually ran alongside me.
This helped keep my mind off wanting to walk for a while and I thought it was cool to be running with the same strides as someone else just for a while. Abbey Lane seemed to go on forever, but I know the area a little and I knew the turn would be coming up eventually. On this turn, as with every other, I took it wide to try and increase my distance so that my watch would better match the distance – I wanted to make sure it was going to record 10K even though in reality I was running a little more than that. This was the opportunity the other runner needed to overtake, but we’d not long passed the 8K sign and I wasn’t going to slow down now.
I decided this was it – I’d keep on running and pushing until it hurt, and would then keep on running. Nothing was actually yet hurting, but I could feel the tiredness in my legs. I pushed on and overtook the runner again before crossing the Grand Union Canal (which also passed by where I live!). I’m sure when you’re working hard that some roads become longer. That’s what it felt like for Abbey Park Road; I was having to keep telling myself to focus. If my legs don’t hurt then there’s no reason to stop. Keep going.
Eventually after what seemed like a lifetime, I was back in Abbey Park, passed the 9K marker and on my way to the finish. I was that focused on running I didn’t even notice that to my left it was possible to see the race village and the finish across the field. I knew at this point that no matter what I wasn’t going to walk. I’d walked briefly at the Leeds Abbey Dash and missed out on my goal by just a few seconds. It wasn’t going to happen here. I looked at my watch and saw it was something over 36 minutes. I wasn’t sure how far I’d got left, but I thought that maybe I could just about get to the finish in under four minutes.
With only 400 metres remaining two runners sprinted passed me, one after the other. I wasn’t going to bother trying to catch up with them but when I saw the timer hit 39 minutes I decided to sprint. I passed the first runner quickly, and then caught up with the other. He pushed harder to keep up, but I managed to push harder – I wasn’t yet at top sprinting speed, and snuck passed him to finish.
I stopped my watch, and for a second thought I was going to throw up. Perhaps I’d worked a little harder than I thought. I was pretty sure I’d done it though – I couldn’t imagine my time having crept passed the 40 minute mark. I hadn’t seen the 40 minute pacer since before the start though. The sick feeling subsided as I walked to get some water, and then collected my finishers bag. Inside there was:
- a finishers medal,
- a finishers technical t-shirt,
- a bottle of Arla Protein Tropical milkshake,
- an ASDA Nutty Bar,
- a packet of ASDA Cashews, Raisins, and cherries,
- and an ASDA sports nutrition protein bar (cookies and cream flavour).
After a quick sit down on the grass to look at the medal, I headed over to get it engraved whilst I checked out my time. My watch said 39:17 which I knew was about 10 seconds off, but I’d more or less added on an extra 10 seconds of running from weaving in order to make up for not starting my watch at the start (so had actually run just over 10K). Whilst waiting for them to engrave the medal I got an SMS come through to confirm my official time was 39:27.
I’d done it. I’d finally beaten another of the goals I’d set for 2017 which was one that had hung over from 2016. To make things even better it wasn’t just a marginal amount I’d beaten my target by – it was enough to put me in sight of my next goal – sub-39. Surprisingly though they engraved my medal with “3-9-17”. I thought it was supposed to say “39-17”, but still, somehow they managed to get the time wrong. It didn’t matter to me though, as I was happy to have had a run I was pleased with. I later realised I’m an idiot though – it may have looked the same as the time on my watch, but it was in fact the date they’d engraved on the medal.
I finished 8th out of 1404 runners which put me in the first 0.5% of runners. I couldn’t believe I’d actually done it, and managed a top-10 finish in a big event. I know the usual local club runners were missing due to league events, but it was still a result I could be happy with.
I was also happy to see the guy I’d started next to had finished in just over 36 minutes as he’d hoped – and won the race. The marshals on this course had been great, and overall it was a very well organised event that I think went pretty smoothly. After the race I walked and then ran some of the last 2K of the course in reverse so I could cheer on friends along the way.
Next up for me is Stratford’s Big 10K in a week. I’d planned to make it another sub-40 attempt. Now I’m thinking I’ll either take it easy and enjoy it, or push hard and see how long I can hold a sub-39 pace for before exploding.