I did it! Or at least I completed it. Sunday 14th May 2017, the day I took part in the Runthrough Olympic Park 10k and finished it! It’s difficult to judge how this stacks up against Mo Farah winning double Olympic gold at consecutive games or Usain Bolt’s triple double in the sprints – but for a time on that Sunday afternoon I was right up there with the greats (in my head at least).
It was hard. Harder than I thought a 10k might be.
It was a beautiful sunny morning, heralding the start of summer in London – in classic English style I did end up with a pink tint to my face the next day, who would expect you’d need sunscreen to run around Stratford. I arrived about an hour before the start and at that time there was already a decent crowd of people limbering up for their morning exertions. I was a little self-conscious to join in the stretching and short sprints that were going on around me – I still have that fat chugger image of myself in my head and I certainly looked it compared to most of the other runners. That said, the only person worrying about how I might look was me! It’s a common fault of mine. The atmosphere among the runners of all shapes and sizes pre-race was really good and I can understand now the buzz of running in a big group.
I had somehow talked some friends of mine into joining me, figuring that should I not make it to the end of the race then one of them would either carry me home or call an ambulance. There were 4 of us lads doing the 10k and also one of the guys wives doing the 5k for a bit of support. The 5k was sent off first, with the 10k following about 10 minutes later. In our team of four we had two chaps, Jason and Jesus targeting sub 50 minutes and myself and the Fox targeting sub 1 hour. I would guess there were around 1000 people taking part and approaching the start line with music playing and loud hailer encouragement it felt like the event was suddenly a race and not so much a fun run (was it ever meant to be fun?). We were all hopping around trying to get out in front of the crowd and I think this where I made my day a lot harder. In the lead in to the 10k I had been running at an average pace of about 6.30 per km while covering any distance between 5 and 7k. As myself and the Fox began the race we tried to get out in front of the crowd, but to do so we were going at least 30 seconds faster than my average pace. I was wearing my iphone on a wrist band with my Runkeeper app open to keep an eye on my progress, at around 3k I looked down and saw my average pace was around 5.50 per km – speed of light for my legs. This wasn’t a problem for my partner as he is fitter than I – fortunately he also knows this so while checking his Garmin he made sure to ask if the pace was okay, to which I of course said yes I’m fine. That was a mistake, I know how fast I can run right now, so I probably should have said I needed to go slower – but hey it’s a race and I had a chance for inside 1 hour, let’s go for it!
Just past half way the early pace hit me hard. The course was 3 laps around the park. The problem with laps is once you have ran one of them you know what’s coming next. The course was advertised as flat. I’m sure runners more experienced than I would say that it is flat as there were only 1 or 2 short climbs. It was on the second of these small climbs that I started to feel like I was going backwards, I could see the Fox in front of me but I couldn’t do anything to keep up with him – I was suddenly running in treacle. The hardest part was between kilometre 6 and 7, as my pace slowed down to 7.40 and did hit 8 for a short time. How people cope with running marathons I don’t know. I was only 3k from end and couldn’t see how I wouldn’t have to stop and walk at some point – walking was the only thing I’d promised myself I wouldn’t do. It was a grind, I started to split the race up in my head using markers and turns as small targets to aim for. I continued that way until about 1.5k from the end when as if by magic my legs realised we were nearly done and I found myself attacking one of the climbs rather than waddling up it. When I turned the corner and finally saw the finish I was in a state of elated agony and it was there I got the final boost – receiving a shout out from the race commentator. I knew the race was more important than just a fun run.
I finished in a time around 1.05 and I had completed a first ever 10k at the ripe old age of 41. I would have loved to have come in under 1 hour but considering where I started in January (4.6k in 36 minutes and dying afterward) this was an achievement. This was the practice race and I’m glad I did it before attempting the British 10k in London this July, from this I’ve gathered some important tips.
- Don’t get too excited at the start, find a spot to run in and sit tight and wait for the race to open up.
- Don’t go too fast at the start, pick your pace and stick to it – even if everyone is zooming by, you might see them again later.
- Your legs will try to give up before your heart & lungs do – if you can still breathe, then tell those legs to shut-up.
It has been a long time since I last decided to start something, set a goal and then do it. I know running 10k in over 1 hour is hardly the same as winning the London Marathon, but if you set yourself a challenge to do something you can’t – and then go and do it, you can feel like the Olympic champion of your own life (but maybe not look like one!)
Come on Olympians, get off those sofas and set some goals.