When I put my name down for this, I didn’t expect to still have Kniggly Knee™ hanging around, like an unwanted visitor. I’d agreed to run a leg, each team member having to run a lap through and around Braunstone Park, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. The women’s teams are made up of three members, the men have to have four. In theory, I wouldn’t be the last runner out there, but not sure about my pace and stamina, I wasn’t expecting great things.
I’d made it through parkrun, the day before, recording my quickest time in months. I did feel as though the last mile was a real struggle. Actually, the last two miles. Scrub that, I think everything after the first half mile was hard work! I may be getting my speed back, but my stamina still has a long way to go.
The morning of the race started out blustery, and very wet. I could hear the rain lashing against the Velux window in my bedroom, and daren’t get up and see if it looked as bad as it sounded. It always sounds worse on a Velux window, surely?
By the time I’d girded my loins to get up and ready, the rain had stopped. Not for long, it was back by the time I’d settled down with my honey and lemon drink. This was going to be horrible. I’d had an uncomfortable Saturday night, with my sciatica making itself known. Thank goodness running loosens it up.
We arrived at Braunstone Park with plenty of time, and I was wondering if any reserves, other than The Bloke, would turn up. Give him a wig, and he could easily pass himself off as me. He could say I’d grown overnight. As I walked two the leisure centre, to get my number, I developed Tent Envy. Most of our club had gone to run the Saddleworth Cake Race, and taken the tent, apparently. With it cold, and damp, there was no shelter from the rain and wind. I’d chosen to wear my vest, no tee, and I knew I’d be cold! I was given the anchor leg, so part of me was glad I could keep my hoodie on for a bit longer!
West End Runners had three women’s teams, and two men’s teams, not a bad turnout! We even had some supporters, including The Bloke, who wasn’t needed. Time to find a wig? There was, however, an abundance of far quicker runners, with the athletics clubs in attendance. At least there was no pressure to win! I aimed to try and enjoy the race.
I stood with our supporters for the first leg. This wasn’t a relay with batons, after all, three miles is a long way to carry one. I did expect some kind of hand over, or tag, but this wasn’t the case. As a runner came back into the park, the next runner was called to the start line, whilst the finisher was ushered down a funnel. This could be interesting.
I went to warm up, and thankfully, the drizzle had stopped. As is usually the case, everything started hurting, joints, muscles, bones, and Phantom Wee came on. I didn’t have time to queue for the portaloos. Damn.
I saw my team-mate running into the park, and made my way to the start line just as I was called forward. Eek. I turned around to look at the finish, but the marshal instructed me to look forward, and to go when he tapped my back. Even though it was seconds, waiting for that tap got the nerves going. I don’t like not being in control, and not seeing when Hannah finished, and trusting I got sent at the right time, well, it didn’t sit well!
As soon as I was tapped, I went. The path had been slippy, where I’d warmed up, but it was fine on the race route. It was a nice gentle downhill through the middle of the park, to the exit. I didn’t look at my watch, and focused on running as quick as I could. I was overtaken by a couple of guys from the athletics clubs, who seemed to be running more easily, as they flew past me! It had taken my mind off of my niggles. I was feeling okay.
The route then followed Cort Crescent around the outside of the park. At one point, we were directed onto the road itself, due to the selfish idiots who had parked on the footpath, presumably for the football being played on the adjacent pitch. It’s a huge bugbear of mine. Cars should be on the road, not pedestrians, let alone runners. It’s not as if Cort Crescent is that narrow, that parking on the road would cause any problems. Imagine people pushing small kids in pushchairs, or people in wheelchairs, or the elderly, those with sight, or hearing problems, having to face the traffic which definitely wasn’t showing any consideration to us racers! Some motorists were overtaking dangerously close, at times. In the end, I was directed back on to the path, well, all six inches left of it. Seriously, if you drive, think of those who aren’t driving, before you decide to park. It’s called a footpath for a reason. It’s not a car parking space.
I passed the first mile marker, and glanced at my watch for the first time; 7:20. Oops, I’d gone a bit too quick, probably fired up by anger! The road then started to steadily climb, and this was where it became hard work. The sun had also decided to make an appearance, and I was glad I chose my vest! The steady climb became steeper. Then down, and back into the park, and onto the parkrun course. Thank goodness, it was relatively flat, but I was working hard now. I passed two miles, and my watch said 14:50, a 7:30 mile. Still quick, and definitely not maintainable. I was working hard. I’d been overtaken by a couple of “normal” women club runners. The quicker men continued to fly past.
Knowing what was to come, I pushed on as much as I could. We didn’t run across the car park, but took a slight detour. I still psyched myself up for the parkrun finish hill. I had a Hermitage runner in my sights, and there was a Huncote lady further up. I wasn’t sure if I would catch her. Even though I made the decision to run the hill steady, I overtook the first lady, and with the finish line in earshot (it got a bit zig-zaggy from this point), I tried to push to the line but the climbs were back again. We went back out, and onto the road, and I caught up with the Huncote runner as we turned back into the park, not from from the end. I tried to push, but I had nothing. Instead, I struggled to keep up with the other runner, who had enough in the tank for a sprint finish, despite the cheers of support from my running crew.
I finished in 22:54, making that an 8:04 last mile. Strava had my stats as 7:35, 7:36, and 7:59, which didn’t read as badly. It also doesn’t come to 22:54, I think it included the few seconds between stopping, and saving the run. It also didn’t correlate with the markers; that may be because the GPS is inaccurate, or the mile markers aren’t accurately placed. My pace was slightly slower than I’d run the previous day at parkrun.
The first mile, according to Strava, had a total elevation loss of 25ft, the second another overal loss of 6ft, but a whopping 28ft gain at the end. It certainly showed in how the first mile was easier than the other two. I felt as though I had faded, but the stats show the last mile was tough. Maybe it was the best that I could run, but I feel that I have more to give, if and when I am fully fit.
It was so warm, but very muggy, at the finish. I had a disgusting looking shine to my skin, which I was quick to point out was down to the humidity, and not because I’m a Sweaty Betty! We hung around, and cheered on the other teams, and our other running friends. I wasn’t last back, in fact, my team was 14th out of 49! Our other ladies also finished well, with an impressive 9th, and 18th. This was without all of our top runners. For me personally, I had the 271st quickest time out of 377 runners, not so impressive if you don’t take into consideration the larger number of super-speedy runners. Some of the regular top finishers in the LRRL were well down the pecking order, putting things into perspective. As far as the women were concerned, I ranked 49th from 133 runners. It turned out some teams had only one or two runners, as these numbers are not divisible by 3. It confused me, when I was looking. More importantly, my time ranked alongside among some familiar faces on the list, runners I haven’t been on a par with so far this year.
Reflecting on this, I think I performed far better than I would have expected a couple of weeks before. Even last week. I can’t rely too much on the stats, as shown by where my time ranked, and by the influx of more serious, and far better runners, who won’t appear in too many races I will take part in. I have gained some confidence in the return of my speed, but realise that there is still a lot of hard work to do to rebuild my stamina. My times had been on a par with last year, where I improved dramatically. I’ve not continued, and taken a step back because of illness and injury. I don’t think I could have run that leg any better, a year ago. I probably am in a better position, which can only be a good thing. Surely?
I am also finding that running quicker is less painful on my knee. I’m having less fatigue afterwards, and no DOMS, unlike after the slower runs I’ve been doing. I seem to be recovering from sessions quicker. It’s curious that this would be the case, given how painful bending my knee had been. Sadly, there is no improvement with the sciatica, although it disappears during, and for a few hours after exercise. It’s all going to linked to the same imbalances, and I must keep on top of my strengthening and conditioning.