First Race of 2014

I took part in the Bushy Park 10k race this morning and finished 55th out of 330 runners with a time of 43 minutes 39 seconds. This was a good start to the season. I was slightly disappointed to not be in the top ten percent but was happy to be just one minute away from my 10k Personal Best so early in the season in difficult running conditions.

During the week I had trained hard for this race. I had run one 10k as fast as possible (40 minutes) and one 10k at a light jog (55 minutes), with two sessions of intervals in-between, and my main goal was to complete the race in under 45 minutes to prove that I had at least maintained, and hopefully improved on, my pace since last year.

The early races in the year can be quite daunting as those who take part in a race on a cold Sunday morning in January tend to be the very keen and experienced runners. As I assembled at the start line I was surrounded by people talking about what marathons and half marathons they had signed up for, although I remembered that I have already entered quite a few too.

The start of the race felt relatively relaxed – the first 1km of the course is a straight track down to the south east corner of the park and always feels like a sprint – although, according to the GPS, I actually ran this section seven seconds faster than my previous best and so I was running faster than usual without noticing.

At this point the track turns left and you briefly get to see the leaders in the distance, which gives a good indication as to the overall pace. Usually I settle down at this point but I today I remember thinking “I don’t want to be here, I want to be over there!” and so went up a gear.

I gradually worked my way up the field and then settled in about 30th place – it was four months since my last race and I didn’t want to push too hard too early, especially as I had noticed that those around me were pushing forward and dropping back and it was quite hard to find the rhythm of the race.

I was happy with my running style, given I am only two weeks back into training, and I felt like I was consistently pushing forwards rather than pulling myself along. I would have liked a bit more power and also be running in a more flowing style rather than it feeling slightly forced, but these are early days.

I completed the first 5k lap in 21 minutes 15 seconds and everything was going well. I always seem to wake up at about 6km which gives an additional burst of energy and that happened too, so I was looking forward to making up places along the back of the park before the final muddy section.

Unfortunately at about 6.5km I started to run out of energy and it quickly felt like there was nothing left in the tank. I was able to go through the motions and just about keep up but people started to pass me and those who I had been using as markers disappeared into the distance. I just wanted to get to the finish without stopping.

I was drained this weekend after training and working hard during the week, had overslept so hadn’t had an early breakfast as usual before a race, and also was a bit race rusty, so I put this energy loss down to a combination of those – my second lap was 2 minutes 24 seconds slower than the first lap.

At the finish I had nothing left and so was happy that I had done my best. I looked at the timer expecting to see a time of around 47 minutes and so was very surprised to see a time under 44 minutes – if I had maintained my original pace I would have had a Personal Best by over a minute.

The post-race selection of refreshments was impressive. There was the usual pile of Jaffa Cakes (supermarket own brand, but at that point you’re not too fussy) but this time there were Mars bars and also Fig Rolls – lovely! Thank you to the organisers for such a great choice.

I really struggle with muddy conditions. It feels like the mud takes away the energy through my feet and the final 2km of the lap was predominately on grass with some quite tricky conditions due to several nights of rain. It was the same for everyone although normally I make up a lot of time on the dry grass sections around Richmond and Bushy Park.

My next race is in two weeks’ time (I can’t find a 10km anywhere in London next weekend – if anyone knows of one then let me know) and so between now and then I will continue to work on speed and overall pace but will also concentrate on the second 5km to make sure that I can maintain the pace over that section of the race.