Gabs and I entered this race on a whim on Monday morning! Gabs felt ready for her next 10k race after the Dorney Dash back in July and I felt the need to test out my Adidas Adios Boost in a race situation along with race testing my Frankfurt Marathon singlet and shorts. In all it was just a way for us both to spend a fun and happy weekend without having the usual pre-race build up that can sometimes make racing seem less enjoyable than it actually is!
Considering all of this – the fact we just wanted to race together, have a laugh and not take it too seriously – last night we decided to go to the pub and after a delicious pint for me and a half for Gabs we decided to have another…and then we switched to red wine! We were slightly inebriated when we left the pub and decided to have an impromptu 600m run to the local shop on the way home so we could get some Coca Cola to sip on whilst we made our carb loading pre-race dinner! So it was that we got home and got straight into the business of cooking a seafood arabiatta before sitting down to listen to some music, eat, drink some more red wine and talk the night away. It really was a lovely evening but not one I will be repeating before a race again anytime soon – especially not my birthday marathon in Frankfurt next month. Why, you say? Well, we both woke up around 0600hrs feeling a little worse for wear but thankful the race was due to start at 1500hrs instead of the usual 1000/1100hrs starts for these kinds of events. I made Gabs a cup of tea, we drank some water, I had a shower and then we both went back to bed until 1130hrs!
We were both grateful to wake up feeling much better and after consuming coffee, water and a breakfast/brunch of smoked salmon, poached eggs and spinach on toast we set to preparing our race gear – again, this shows how we were taking this race today because usually this would have been done the day before! One thing we both noticed with a bit of trepidation was that the temperature was more like that of a summer day than the end of September and the humidity was pretty intense…oh well, come what may we were heading to the event area and a warm up.
After our warm up and some stretching it became apparent that this was going to be a tougher day than usual for me! I was sweating more than I normally would, I suspect mainly because of the humidity but also probably because of the residual alcohol making its way out of my system from the night before. Nevertheless I headed for the front of the start line as I usually do and vowed to run with the flow of the race – it’s the first time I’ve ever lined up with no strategy, no target and no discernible goal! This changed slightly as the hooter sounded and we set off. Within about two kilometres I was counting the runners in front of me, noticing I was running pretty comfortably and vowing to myself that I would settle for nothing less than a top 20 finish.
Everything was going pretty well until about the 4 km mark as we entered a golf course (on pavement thankfully) and it became very noticeable, very quickly that this was not going to be a pancake flat and fast course! A hill began to wind upwards seemingly from nowhere and I noticed two runners in front of me seem to just give up and begin walking – no way was I walking a hill in a 10 klick race! My mind switched into mantra mode and I shortened my stride ‘Tap it out, tap it out, tap it out’ going through my mind. Near the top of the hill at the 5k mark I could hear some breathing behind me for the first time in a good while and I knew that unless I put in a surge I was about to have a move put on me. Well, I couldn’t cover the move at all! It just was not in my legs at that point and the hill kept on winding upwards until it dropped into a descent around the 5.2km mark – at this point I opened out my stride as fully as I could and pretty much freewheeled the down and passed two runners and began giving chase to the two others who passed me on the uphill.
The race from here flattened out somewhat and I could hear somebody on or near my shoulder from just before the 6km mark. I really, really did not want to be passed as I was unsure of my position so I dug deep and every time I felt the runner behind get nearer I forced a surge out of my tired legs! There were a number of occassions where I thought I’d broken his will and he’d dropped off only to find, demoralisingly, he kept on coming back for more. This runner forced me into a stupid move around the 7 klick mark, on a slight downhill. I’d been surging on and off for the past kilometre and I was feeling fairly secure when out the corner of my eye I saw the phantom from behind trying to make a solid move so I full on threw myself into a very fast descent to cover it – little did I realise at the time that I was running with an unruly hedge on my left shoulder and out of nowhere a branch seemed to fling out and catch my eye and shoulder! Blood started to drip and then pour down my face but I’d covered the move and kept on keeping on! Never before can I remember bleeding for my sport…and, honestly, although it felt quite painful it first it was quite exhilarating.
So, to the final section of the race. All along the road from 7km t0 8km I could hear the phantom runner keep on trying to close the gap and push me into very much unexpected and unwanted racing surges! I felt like I was beginning to tire and began to get a headache around this point – I realised I’d missed the three water stations and none were upcoming so I just had to dig in and tap it out. From 8km I abandoned the surge strategy as I feared it would only end in tears – I just couldn’t keep it up and I feared a DNF or placing outside the top 20 so I began to think ‘What will be, will be, just run’. I did just this and on a slight incline at the 9km marker the phantom runner suddenly came up on my right shoulder, said ‘Good race’ and tried to pull away – I had just enough in me at this point to gasp he was strong and he’d ran clever and he magnanimously said ‘Come on, come with me’ before picking up his pace. Try as I might he began to slip away from this point and I knew I’d just have to hang on for the last few hundred metres as I could feel that a pack was bearing down! Lo, so it was as I turned into the final 300m that I saw on the corner about 4 runners bearing down – the spectators were awesome here and urged me to pick it up, letting me know that ‘They’re right behind you, you can do it, come on!’ I really, really, really had to dig deep over the final 100m and crossed the line in 41:08 (slow by my standards) in 19th position – 9 seconds behind the phantom, 4 seconds in front of 20th and 5 seconds in front of 21st!
I took on some water, pulled a couple of thorns from my left shoulder, wiped my face and then took my place on the barrier waiting for Gabrielle to make her appearance! As she rounded the corner for the final 100m or so she was looking strong and even managed a smile – nobody overtook her over the line as they have done in some past races and she finished a very mentally and physically tough course in 53:44 placing 235th from 599 finishers (31st female). She told me afterwards that for quite a lot of the course she struggled and considered stopping or walking but she thought of Haruki Murakami’s admonishment in ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’: “…walking is not an option…” and when things got real tough she counted through 160 repetitions of Om Mane Padme Hum. We both had to keep on keeping on to reach that finish line today but we both had an awesome time in the sunshine running and racing hard!
Peace & Blessings x