I’ve decided to pack a ridiculous number of races into the Christmas period, and I can only see positives coming out of this arrangement. Firstly, it’s like having a guilt-free pass to eat as much as I want without piling on the pounds – result. I’m also in pretty good shape, so getting races is the diary gives me incentive to keep up the solid work and push through December into the New Year. And finally, and probably most importantly, it’s what I get the most enjoyment from. So why not do what you love over the Christmas holidays.
Reflection period over, so let’s get down to the details of this weekend. Greenwich Park was the venue for a 2 lap, 10 kilometre race. I hadn’t run this distance since April, and was quietly optimistic that I could run a personal best and maybe even duck under the 40 minute mark for the first time. (Most of my optimism stemmed from the fact that I’d run a 10k personal best during last weekend’s Milton Keynes half-marathon, but I’m not going to count this as a proper PB as that was only measured on my GPS watch and not an official time).
Katie and I arrived at the park via one of London’s finest buses – not quite the luxury of having a car like last weekend. The first thing that became apparent was that it was going to be a hilly affair – never ideal if you’re looking to run a fast time. However, I was hoping that my regular scaling of the peaks of Brockwell Park would put me in good stead here.
After a quick warm up (as always, running up and down the main path a couple of times pretending to know what we’re doing) it was time to get going, and I rather optimistically put myself second row from the front in the starting funnel. 4 minute kilometres was the name of the game – this would give me a time of exactly 40 minutes.
There was a fair few people in Christmas fancy dress – some had opted for the full-on reindeer onesies, but we’d gone for the safe option of the santa hats. I got off to a pretty quick start, as is usually impossible to not let adrenaline get the better of you in the early stages. I started to take stock of the situation after the first kilometre, and believe it or not, I was in the leading group! There were 4 of us with a long line of people strung out behind. However, we’d clicked off the first kilometre in around 3.30. This was quicker than my 5K personal best pace – I remember thinking I might pay for that later.
As the first lap went on, the other 3 started to stretch out ahead of me as I slightly slowed the pace to a more sustainable level. In doing this, a 4th chap eased past me, and I let him go, knowing we still had a fair way to go. It was a lovely day in the park and there was a fair number of people out walking with dogs, and at one point I had to hurdle over a chocolate Labrador. The course weaved around the park and so at a number of points you would see runners coming the other way from further behind in the race. I spotted Katie in her Christmas hat and gave her a shout and she gave me a wave – she later told me that I was so alone in 5th place that she thought I’d run the wrong way by mistake!
As mentioned earlier it was a hilly course, and the last part of the lap involved a killer hill which seemed to never end. However, once you reached the top that was pretty much the end of the first lap as you turned to go past the inflatable finishing arch. There was a fair few people out watching and I got a generous cheer as I went through this area. I also noticed that the chap that went past me into fourth place had pulled into the finishing area; he was only running 5K so I’d made my way back into fourth by default.
I went through the first lap in 19.11 – not far off my 5K personal best, so I knew the second lap was going to be a struggle to say the least! The first part of this lap was spent recovering from the massive hill at the end of the previous one! This ‘recovery’ period really showed in my split times, and I realised I had to change up a gear as I was starting to go backwards (despite obviously still running forwards).
The second lap was just a case of digging in and holding on. I wasn’t used to being this far towards the front in a running race. The 3 in front of me were long gone, and as it turned out later well on the way to running some fast times. The few out and back parts of the route allowed you to see people behind you coming towards you and I had 2 or 3 guys breathing down my neck.
It was a surreal experience being in the position I was in, as I was running in the opposite direction of most other people in the race for the majority of the second lap; they were in the early stages of the lap as I was making my way to the finish. It was great fun though – loads of people were giving me shouts of encouragement and were very happy to let me know that there was a chap ‘only a few seconds behind me’.
I really was in a world of pain for the last couple of kilometres, and the final hill was looming large in my thoughts. I looked my overall time for the first time and saw that all I needed to do was run the last 2 kilometres in 9 minutes – easier said than done with Greenwich’s equivalent of Mount Everest edging ever nearer. I put everything I had into that final hill, and slogged my way up – it can’t have been a pretty sight. Turning the corner at the summit, I got my head down and powered towards the line, crossed it and promptly crumpled to the floor in a heap.
The 40 minute barrier had been broken – 39.33 was the official time, my first (and hopefully not last) sub 40-minute 10k. I held on to fourth place on the last lap, and with 489 finishers I was pretty chuffed with this position! As I’ve harped on about earlier, this wasn’t a particularly flat course, and I feel like on flatter terrain I could hopefully go faster.
Some home-made mince pies went down a treat, and after wolfing down 5 or 6, I wandered back down the hill to give Katie some support. Nursing a dodgy hip, she ran a very credible 51.47.
A Christmas morning parkrun is the next event on the agenda, with a short trip over to Hertford from my parent’s house.