Ever since I took up running earlier this year, the 19 October 2013 has been the focus of all my running related thoughts - my very first 10k, Run Richmond Riverside. This race motivated me through difficult training moments, and I was so looking forward to testing my new found fitness and running prowess.
A mere one week before the race I had a little accident which resulted in a sprained ankle and an anxious week while I waited to see if I had healed enough to run and worrying that my fitness would be reduced to nothing. It is the worst feeling fearing that months of training might go to waste and that you wont have earned the money you had been sponsored (and I was running for a really great charity - Macmillan). I felt pretty awful for most of last week, and while under normal circumstances a week of sitting on the sofa with my foot up would be the ultimate, this week I couldn't think of anything worse! By the end of the week I felt so stiff and unfit it was unbearable! But it did pay off, and by Friday, a short 2k run proved that I was up to racing the next morning - out went injury anxieties, and in came pre-race nerves - was I up to it? would my ankle give in? had my fitness disappeared? would I finish last?
Run Richmond Riverside is a 10k trail run along part of the Thames Path in south west London - it has to be one of the prettiest places I have ever run, and was the perfect place for an autumn run, with the changing leaves all around.
The route itself was a pretty straightforward lap down the Thames path, turning and then back up past the finish line (Becca, who I was running with was quite put out by this, I paid less attention), up the Thames path for another couple of kilometres, back and across the finish line. Not the most interesting route, but the setting made up for it!
Because of my ankle I decided to run a steady pace and at every kilometre marker I would stop and walk for a minute (this also helped me cope with any fitness I lots during my period of enforced rest!). I was really disciplined about this, and it served me well, I only had a couple of very brief niggles, one at around 4km and again just as I passed the 9km marker, and nothing that I would consider painful. I had thought that walking would have a significant impact on my time, I managed to keep a pace of 6.33minutes per kilometre, which I was pretty pleased with given the circumstances!
A mixture of uneven pathway and full on muddy trails, the terrain on this route was a challenge, there were tonnes of trip hazards and the risk of slipping in the mud as you navigated around puddles. This presented a new type of challenge, normally when I run I find myself thinking about all sorts, but on this route it was all about the run, making sure my feet fell in the right place, that I chose my route carefully to avoid deep puddles and pot holes.
Running in a race was quite different to my training runs. Normally, I run on my own around suburban streets and parks. While I see other runners while I am out and about, we are clearly on our own runs, so a quick nod of the head and smile and I am on my own. Being in a scenario where hundreds of people are doing the same route as you, at the same time is surreal. Through this whole experience I have been clear that my aim in relation to this run was to get round - I wasn't in it for time, it was just an opportunity to achieve the distance. While this was true on race day, there were still moments when my heart would sink a little when someone passed me, and it took a great deal of restraint not to break my steady pace and run just a little bit faster. The experience is definitely something that has spurred me on to train just a little bit more for my next run!
10k is a really nice running distance, far enough that you feel like you have really achieved something, but short enough that you don't get board and the bleak moments are kept to a minimum. Bleak moments are those times when you are running when it feels like you aren't getting anywhere, like the going is really tough, like you will never finish the sodding race! My bleak moments came around 3k in, just before the first water station, when I quite fancied a drink and was willing the water station to come in to my field of vision! My second bleak moment was between 6k and 8k - at this point I didn't really feel like I was getting anywhere, there were no milestones and it was just a matter of plugging away for a couple of kilometres. This was unfortunately also the point where I started to see other runners get injuries, which was pretty grim.
One of the serious upsides of a race is the support! As this was quite a small race there was only one supporters section, just before the 8k mark (which was also the start and finish!), it was such a boost to run past and see DT clapping me on at a point when things felt pretty tough. My Mum (and Flora the puppy!) arrived just in time to see me cross the finish line and were very enthusiastic in their celebrations (particularly Flora!). Just knowing that there were people who were there for me really spurred me on.
My friend Becca, a seasoned runner, was also taking part in the race. It was so lovely to have a friend there for moral support at the start, to wave madly at when we crossed paths on the loop (Becca runs way faster than I do!) and who was standing at the finish line enthusiastically shouting me in! There is a reason why this girl was once a cheerleader!
I cannot wait until my next race (if you have any good tips for races taking place in December, please let me know!) and to do this all over again...
^^ you know you've achieved something when someone makes a giff of you^^
time - 1:05:35
speed - 9.15 k/hr
pace - 6.33 min/k
placing - 168 of 256 women, 380 of 497 competitors
not too awful for a first attempt after a week on rest! My training aims moving forward are to get my time down to sub 60 and to improve my endurance.
you can sign up for the next Run Richmond Riverside event here.
Pictures (and giff!) used with kind permission of DT.