Running has been making a resurgence in my life lately. I tend to pick up the running during the Winter when the prospect of riding on cold, wet and slippery roads can seem less appealing. But this year I have experienced a renewed enjoyment of running as my fitness has improved.
Before I became an enlightened cyclist, I ran for exercise. Nothing too serious, just a series of 10K’s, half marathons and a marathon during my 20’s. My 10K PB was 40:12 – missing out on a sub-40 minute by 12 seconds had been hugely disappointing and always felt like unfinished business. However, a series of knee injuries and then the passing of time had made that goal seem out of reach to someone rapidly approaching 40. Until last year when I surprised myself by running 41 minutes on a hilly 10K. I decided to reignite the sub-40 10K goal.
This weekend I ran the Bournemouth Bay 10K. It was a bit of a family running festival with a total of 6 of us taking part in either the 10K, 5K or Junior 1K, the latter being my four year old daughter’s first ever race. We were all told in no uncertain terms that “it’s not a race, it’s a fun run”, presumably unless she won. The competitive streak is strong with this one. She ended up sprinting the first 100 metres, trying to match the older children before stopping, crying, hobbling, hopping, having a meltdown, refusing to continue and eventually crossing the finish line on my wife’s shoulders. All fairly standard four year old behaviour.
There was a field of 1000 people running the 10K. I arrived a bit late at the start line and ended up about 10 rows back so had a bit of a slow start as I weaved my way forward. I usually set off too fast in races so this probably prevented me from repeating my daughter’s race tactics. It was a flat 5K along the beach front, before climbing 35 metres up the “zig-zags” pathway to the cliff tops and then along the roads above the cliff before heading back down to the beach front for a 2km return to the start line. I settled in with a group of 3 at a pace that felt right. Due to my start position I had no idea how many people were ahead of me, and no particular interest either. I was focussed on keeping my pace below 4 minutes per km. I hit the 2km marker on 7:30 and despite feeling ok, decided to rein it in slightly – 3:45/km was faster than I needed to run and potentially risked blowing up. I let my group go and ran solo.
I reached the zig-zags and the 5km marker at a time of 19:15 (3:50/km pace). I’d caught a runner from a local club so decided to use their local knowledge and pace up the climb. It felt a little slow but I was unsure how long the climb would last so stayed cautious and stuck at the pace. Near the top I overtook. I came past another couple of runners along the cliff top road. By this point I knew that I would easily beat 40 minutes and started thinking about beating 39. The downhill section was a gift – a long and easy descent on wide, closed roads. It felt like I was free-falling, my main concern was slipping on the wet tarmac or running too hard and hurting my knees. For the final 2km I raised the pace, hunting down the sub-39 time. This was the first and only time that I looked behind during the race and was relieved to see a long gap to the following runner, removing the unpleasant chance of being overtaken just before the line. With a hundred metres to go I heard the encouraging shouts of my family and saw the finish line clock which confirmed that I had the sub-39 in the bag.
The final race of the day was the 5K, featuring my Dad and brothers. My Dad’s original idea was for all of us to do the 10K, but in the end he decided that the shorter distance would ensure that they’d beat my time. It seemed like a slightly unfair handicap, and despite my time being a bit quicker than they were all expecting, I had to concede this particular race to them!