My first League race in club colours couldn’t have been much tougher. Well, it could, but I don’t want to go there.
The Hermitage 10k rolls through the delightful countryside of North-west Leicestershire. I didn’t see any of it, as I was too busy cursing the hills. It’s not as if I didn’t know about them. I’d seen a course profile, and was extremely nervous beforehand. Pre-race nerves meant I needed to get rid of more fluids than I had taken in!
As well as the hills, I knew it was going to hot. My last run before the race had been on Friday morning, in between the showers. Although I felt cold when I stepped out of the front door, I soon warmed up. I made that run a progressive negative split, aiming to attack the long gradual incline album 1km from home quicker than when I’d run down it on my way out. I managed that. The humidity meant that I was about as wet when I got home as if I’d run in the rain. Nice.
I’m a hot weather runner. But I don’t like the oppressive humidity we seem to get here in Leicestershire. The weather forecast for Sunday didn’t make for good reading. I’d sensibly opted to volunteer at parkrun, to save myself for the race. I wanted to give a good account of myself, but as we drove to Hermitage leisure centre, we came down the hills that would form the start of the course. At this point, the nerves hit me. My dreams of a sub 50 minute 10k seemed ridiculous as we drove past the turn after the 3km mark, where the road rather nicely went up even more sharply. As if I’d run under 5 minute per kilometre pace! I would need the downhills parts to be just as severe!
We arrived with plenty of time to get warmed up, and to sort out numbers and timing chips. It meant I had more time to think of the ordeal that was to come. It didn’t help that when we got to the start line, I couldn’t get my Garmin to connect, although it gave me something else to focus on.
The race started in glorious sunshine, and with a slight incline. It was manageable. After one mile, I wasn’t too bad, but I knew what was coming, and tried not to think about it.
The hills became steeper, and longer, or so it seemed. Just after 3km, the OH said he was pulling out; he had a nasty insect bite on his ankle, and he said it was too uncomfortable to run. So I ploughed on. The great thing is, there were enough people around some going past me, others I went past, but there was a lot of support. Some came from club mates, or others from the Leicester Runners Facebook group, but there were a couple of people I didn’t know who helped along the way. I focused on people ahead, and ploughed my way up that nightmare hill. I refused to stop and walk. I would not let it beat me. It didn’t.
The water station at 5km was a blessing, not that I needed to drink, but I wanted to cool off. I saw many take a bottle, drink a few sips, then chuck their bottle away. Ludicrous. I kept mine with me, and used it to cool off during the last half of the race.
What goes up, must come down. Yet the downhill sections didn’t seem to go on as long as the uphills. Yes, yes, I know, I was going quicker down them, but it’s not what crosses your mind when you see another incline looming in the distance.
As I made my way up and down the course, my faithful Garmin, which I could only assume had connected to the satellites once we’d moved away from the closely built homes surrounding the start, reliably informed me that I was on course for sub 50 minutes. I dug in, and kept going. Each kilometre marker meant I was closer to the end, and I just wanted this race over and done with. The humidity was draining, and I couldn’t find the energy to make a burst for the line, but I’d done what I originally wanted to achieve!
I finished in just over 49 minutes; my chip time was 49:06. I was delighted with that time. I tried to spot the OH, but couldn’t find him. I found my quicker running club mates, who ran amazingly well in the heat. I then heard the OH shouting me; he’d managed to carry on, and finished the race too, only 3 minutes behind! I finished 184th out of 406 runners, and was the 22nd female finisher, if I counted it correctly! I’m gobsmacked! I was third lady back in my age group. I would’ve done a Happy Dance, if I wasn’t so exhausted!
Whilst I hated almost every minute of that race at the time, now I’ve had some time to reflect, I am thinking of how much stronger and quicker I’ll be next year. I’m clearly a glutton for punishment.