Well then. How to approach this one? The fact that it’s nearly a month late tells its own story, I guess. The race report for the City of Salford 10k, an event that I’d had in the diary for nearly four months, booked in before I’d even run the last race I entered. An event where I’d had (some) preparation, a bit of training and reasonably decent build up and an early bedtime. And, sadly, an event where come the 10:15am start time, I wasn’t even there. I’d bottled it.
There are mitigating circumstances here, least of all the fact that I hardly slept from not long after midnight onwards. Watching it gradually get light knowing every minute spent wide awake would hinder my ability to get round the course without collapsing and smashing my massive face on the quayside, the closer it got to KO the more worried I became. I’ve done a few silly things going into a 10k before, like not training, going out on the piss the night before or eating an imitation pound shop Fray Bentos as a way of carb loading. But I’d never gone in on the back of a couple of hours sleep, and as I attempted to eat my breakfast and chug down a couple of strong coffees I knew I could be making a terrible mistake. The lackadaisical preparation didn’t bother me too much; neither did the couple of drinks I’d had at a barbeque the day before. Been there done that, after all, and at least I’d done some training this time around and stopped drinking long before my 10pm bedtime. But this was different. I felt sluggish, nervous and a little bit sick in the pit of my stomach, probably the first time this has ever happened in eleven 10k races. So, regrettably, as the time slipped by for when I needed to leave to make it to the start in time, I made the decision for the first time in the history of my little blog to pull out on the morning of a race.
The initial relief was tempered by more than a little sadness when I remembered this was supposed to be The Day We Ran Together. Since April, a few of us had been swinging by our local parkrun for a quick 5k amongst the pigeons and the dog shit. A rag-bag assortment, with as many as five or six of us on some weeks (if the weather was nice and we’d avoided a hangover), and then suddenly at the end of May we made a decision to have a bash at double the distance with a few months to get ourselves ready for it. Each person went into 7th September with their own challenges and targets for the day, and since I’m such a lily-livered let down and essentially went back to bed rather than going for a run, I decided this time around to talk about someone else for a change and focus on the stories of the four intrepid sisters and brothers in arms who took on the challenge on that warm morning on the streets of Salford.
So let’s meet the team. First up, Rosi: the most experienced of the group, and using Salford as a stepping stone towards a sponsored half marathon in October (and if you’d like to sponsor her for that, I’m sure she’d be absolutely thrilled). A relative veteran of distance running, with the Great North Run already under her belt, and a keen fundraiser for charities that always mean a great deal to her, she said beforehand it felt strange to be building up to a race of less than half her usual distance, but there is bigger to come for her just around the corner and so this promised to be a very useful warm up.
Next in line was Adam. You may have heard one of his podcasts before (and if you haven’t, you really should). He was entering on the back of making his racing début in the Great Manchester 10k back in May, aiming here to trim his 10k PB down to under an hour after 25ºC heat last time around was sadly enough to ensure he just missed out. One of my favourite things about following him on RunKeeper is the picture he posts of his little face after each and every training run, looking like a broken man. Judging by his training pace I thought he had a decent chance of hitting his goal here so this was an important day for the big man.
Finally, two brave souls who only took up running in May and were both entering their first ever 10k. Before the race, Nicola had literally never run further than 5k in one go and just 48 hours before the race was unsure if she’d been able to run at all. With a wedding (to Adam) looming less than three weeks down the line, she was reluctant to risk an ankle injury that had prevented her from training and ending up having to hobble down the aisle. Finally on Friday she decided to go for it and pencilled in a tentative 1:20 target. As a sub-30 parkrunner, in theory this should have been doable but it’s never as simple as that, especially with it being twice as far as she’d ever run before, being injured and not running at all for a month before the race. Chatting with her about it on the eve of the run it’s safe to say she was a tad nervous ahead of the big day, but I assured her she could do it with a nice slow start and perhaps the odd stroll through water stations and the like.
The other, a fellow Joe, was like Rosi aiming for bigger things further down the line. “I wasn’t very fit leaving school” he says, “and since then I’ve done various sports and exercises (bouldering, metafit sessions, spinning) but nothing that would give me a definitive fitness level. So I had an idea in the back of my mind that I wanted to complete a half marathon before I’m 30 (April 2016). But before I decided for sure I wanted to get some small runs completed to see if I could stay alive after 15 minutes of jogging”. As a keen F1 fan there is a reasonable chance this half marathon will be around Silverstone pretending to be a car. We’ve all been there.
To say he’s come a long way though in a short space of time is an understatement, from a first ever 5k effort at around 36 minutes, quickly down to a 28:40 on his first parkrun, he signed up for Salford “in a cocktail of pride and stupidity” after seeing Adam’s efforts in the Great Manchester 10k. Inspired to take on the challenge himself, he set about a summer of training to hit under an hour, however with a couple of injuries leading to a three week gap right when he needed it most, the target was hastily revised to 1:05.
Onto the race itself, and on the day it sounded like it was pretty good for racing. “We’d woken up to pretty perfect running weather” said Rosi “fairly cool with a bit of mist in the air, but dry and no threat of rain; a great combo. But by kickoff, the sun was out and making its presence known.” Thankfully not to the extent of the sub-Saharan sweatfest that was served up for the Great Manchester 10k (a relief for Adam in particular), but still enough to add an extra layer of challenge on a course with little shade. A fast, flat route, with good PB potential, I will be back one year perhaps aiming to finally beat my 2009 record.
So how did they all do?
Extremely bloody well, all in all, each and every single one of them achieving something pretty damn significant. First of all, a heroic effort from the two débutants, coming in a couple of minutes apart either side of the hour mark. Considering Nicola didn’t even know if she could run that far and was aiming just to finish, that’s a remarkable achievement whichever way you look at it. Pushed on by the crowd and a soundtrack of early 00’s pop rock from a compilation ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, she absolutey rinsed her 1:20 target by nearly 19 minutes which left Adam “so proud”.
Joe’s similarly heroic run also ensure he was just inside his original target, and then some, actually breaking the magic 60 minute barrier. “I began the last kilometre feeling okay, I’d averaged around 5:58 for the last nine so I figured even if I was dropping off I could still do a 6:18 for the last one and make it within an hour. I came past a section of crowd that Rosi and Ads were stood in having already finished, and saw them waving. This spurred me on to pick up the pace and after about 200 metres I realised I was completely knackered and had about 500 metres to go, and the hour pacer was creeping away from me.
“I began pushing a bit harder, keeping the pace up until I was about 100 metres away from the finish when I pushed into a sprint, Christ knows how. I managed to overtake him about a metre from the line and just about managed not to throw up afterwards.” We’re all glad about that.
His final time was 59:01. “The longer you have known me, the more absurd all this is.” he said afterwards. “When I left school I was 17 stone and couldn’t run 200 metres, so I’m massively chuffed that I have this achievement now“.
Second place on the day went to Ads, and his performance was just as remarkable as the two rookies, smashing a frankly ludicrous nine minutes off his PB set only weeks previously on the sweaty streets of Manchester. An absolutely brilliant result, and such a leap bodes well for his hopes at the Rio Olympics in 2016, where we I am sure we can all wish him well in the 5,000m, 10,000m, steeplechase, marathon, 110m hurdles, shot put, rhythmic gymnastics, go-karting and ice cream challenge.
Last but by no means least (and first over the line amongst the group) was Rosi, who also set a PB with a mighty 47:19. She was similarly glowing afterwards: “It was a great day. Not only did I smash my PB, but most importantly I got to share it with friends, and cheer them on as they all followed quickly behind; something I’ve never really done before. It makes a massive difference to the enjoyment of the event. There’s even talk of a group jaunt to the GNR next year – fantastic!” with Adam adding “we are already looking for the next challenge”.
All four did amazingly well and deserved their pints afterwards. Writing this now, I’m still a bit sad I missed out. Even doing a Saturday parkrun together is a nice little affair as you occasionally see each other over the course, shout encouragement at the finish, before all having a bit of a debrief through the sweat and exhaustion and possibly share an isotonic beverage or two together (lager).
Being a runner is such a lonely existence sometimes; endless hours spent up and down and round around, often at weird and unsociable hours, especially if you occasionally turn into a marathon wanker like me and have to give up three hours on a Sunday morning, or run a half marathon straight from work. Thankfully that won’t be happening for a bit, as today marked the day when I received yet another fucking SORRY! magazine in the post from London HQ, but the point still stands. Running together is ace, and if the idea of a team half marathon next year comes off then I’m sure we’ll all have a jolly good time.
As for me and my running, I’m back out in action this Sunday for what will probably be the last time in 2014. It’s Standalone 10k time again for the third year in succession. A nice genteel jog around some country lanes in Hertfordshire with no particular target in mind. I’ve had a couple of midweek runs over the past fortnight to keep limbered up, I’m running with my sister and cousin in this most family of affairs, and to be honest I’m rather looking forward to it all. I just need to make it through the night before first.