‘Joe always really liked sport, but sport never really liked Joe’. A famous quote that my mum chose to inform everyone one year around Christmas time. To be fair, there’s an element of truth in it – as although I forced myself onto teams at both school and university (football, rugby, cricket, tennis, squash – you name it, I played it), I was never what you would called ‘skilled’. I think I’ve come to realise this since I’ve got slightly better at endurance sports. In no way am I calling myself talented or good – just a tiny bit better than the very average person I was playing team sports (not much of an achievement to be fair). With this in mind, I found myself with a chance of possible sporting greatness on Sunday (a place on the podium at my local 10k race), but just couldn’t produce the goods when it mattered the most.
It was a Brockwell Park racing double this weekend, with the obligatory Saturday morning parkrun backed up with the Brixton 10k on the Sunday, both held in our leafy corner of South London. I took it pretty easy on the Saturday (well, 19.21 for the 5k, but it was nowhere near a flat out effort), with the idea of running as hard as possible on the Sunday.
It was nice to have a race as local as this, as I could have a bit of a lie-in and leave the flat about 45 minutes before the race started and be ready to go. Picking up the race number took less than 5 minutes, so I had plenty of time for a little ‘warm-up’ (sit on the grass in the sun) before we were being called over to the start-line.
It always a bit of a lottery around who turns up at these local events, although you can always guarantee there’ll be a couple of faster chaps in the 350-odd strong field. I didn’t expect to run an especially fast time – knowing how hilly the park was, it would be tough tackling the two big hills 3 times each as we ran 3 laps of the park.
I placed myself somewhere near the front of the field and set off at a fairly fast pace. It’s really hard to get the pacing right over 10 kilometres. I find it difficult not to go off at 5k pace and end up suffering towards the end, so I tried to reign it in during the opening stages. By the end of the first lap, I found myself in 5th, with 2 guys just ahead of me and another 5 or so a few paces behind.
In my opinion 10 kilometres is the most brutal distance – not long enough to settle into a rhythm like you can in a half marathon, but twice the length of a flat-out 5k. It really, really hurts. During the second lap I managed to get past the guy in 4th on the second long hill and began to move away, with 3rd in my sights up ahead.
Brockwell Park is a lovely venue for a casual afternoon stroll, but as I moved onto the last lap, I was thinking I’d be happy if I never had to see another hill in my life. It was a case of just digging in, and doing everything I could to try and hold the pace I was running at. My quads were absolutely screaming at me going up the penultimate hill at the back of the park, and my lungs were working at max effort trying to get oxygen to the rest of my body. Coming into the final kilometre, I had 3rd place firmly in my sights. We were heading up the final hill and with each step I was gaining a little ground. Just before the top, he can’t have been more than 10 metres ahead. I was doing my best to try and not be seen/heard so he wouldn’t know I was there. However, I was rumbled as the marshal at the top shouted ‘He’s right behind you mate’. He turned around, a look of surprise on his face – he hadn’t seen me coming. With that, he increased the pace and I tried to go with him.
We had to go back down the hill and turn the last corner into the finishing funnel. I completely emptied the tank but just didn’t have enough to catch him, and he ended up beating me by a few seconds. Sporting failure, once again. Normal business resumed.
However, it wasn’t all a complete waste of time. 38.49 is a 38 second personal best over the 10 kilometre distance. I’ve got a feeling if I got myself down to a flatter course, going under 38 minutes could definitely be on the cards. I finished 4th overall out of 321 finishers – not bad for an ex-fat kid. There was also some excellent flapjacks provided by the race organisers at the end which went down a treat.
The summer race season is in full swing, and I’ll be taking on my 2nd half-ironman this coming Sunday. I’m actually going to give myself a decent rest this week and try and go into it as fresh as possible. No doubt I’ll bore you all with the results soon after.