1:04:09

Janice and I with our medals
Janice and I with our medals

I don't believe it – after all the training, the begging for sponsorship, the self-doubt, deliberation, planning and exhilaration, I have finally completed my first ever 10K race.

The journey to the race day was not as smooth as expected as I was planning to get an early train into London the day of the race, compete and come home. Thanks to Network Rail this was not to be as the rail line was being worked on. This meant we had a much longer journey in and no hope of travelling down on race day.

Richard and I pooled our resources and managed to secure a decent price for a hotel room at the Hilton on the bank of the Thames at Canada Water. The race day became a mini break in London and we had a nice day during Saturday.

We stopped mid way to get some lunch at a very nice pub/restaurant in Westfield Stratford called The Cow. As I was trying to bulk up on carbs etc I had the steak and ale pie which came with mash but I had a side of “mom chips” which helped fill me up. Once fat and full we made our way down to the river and checked into the hotel. We then headed out to Surrey Quays where we went to the cinema to see Gambit. We enjoyed this gentle English farce before heading back to hotel for a coffee and an early night.

All of this acted as a welcome distraction to the race until Richard woke up around 4 am. He got up to go to the loo but I could not and did not get back to sleep.

My back was still sore from the week before and lugging the bag around with our weekends bits in (and what was mainly my running kit), did not help my back one bit. I reluctantly had more Brufen on Saturday but avoided it on race day…

Anyway this was the start of my concern, this and many other things started to go through my head…

  • Should I run with a bad back?
  • Is it psychosomatic?
  • Is it ever going to stop raining?
  • Should I have brought/bought some track suit bottoms?
  • Will I be warm enough for the journey to Greenwich?
  • Will my back top hurting?
  • I can't let my supporters down…
  • What if we arrive late?
  • What if we arrive too early?
  • Should I race in my tee-shirt and nothing else?
  • Should I wear my hat and gloves..?
  • How do I warm up and cool down…?

All of these and many many more were going through my head by the time we got up… Of course just as I managed to drift off to sleep the bloody alarm went off!

We headed down to breakfast and thankfully the Hilton put on an excellent spread but I didn't seem to have much of an appetite. I was in that mode where you put food in your mouth but you lose the ability to chew – a bit like how I feel when we travel. Anyway I did manage a couple of cups of tea, some pancakes, bacon and cereal – all whilst trying to avoid the staffs best efforts to give me some juice. I knew that whenever I ran post juice I would feel ill so I avoided it like the plague.

We got back to the hotel and I jumped into the shower, sculpted my beard into a 70's moustache and was set to go… Nervous, excited and still in pain but ready to go…. Sadly however we had to wait what felt like an eternity for the bloody bus!

Thankfully this was punctuated by fun conversation from Richard (it was at this stage he gave me my much need pep talk – thanks for that love I needed it) and I received supportive phone calls from my parents and one of my best friends (who sadly couldn't come to watch as he was unwell).

When we arrived at Greenwich is was difficult to work out who was out jogging and who was taking part but as we neared the top of the hill (the hill aagghh!), we could see everyone registering and getting ready.

It didn't seem too busy at first but the number of runners soon swelled up. I made my way over to the registration tent with Richard in toe, acting as my non official guide, Sherpa and support team. Once I had my envelope of goodies we moved away from the crowd, found a bench and I got changed out of my civies and put on the rest of my running kit. Added the tag to my shoes (very swish if not low tech bit of kit that) and fastened my race number to my Alzheimer's Society tee-shirt. I have to thank Hemingway for the invaluable tip to purchase safety pins which I had done the day before so I could affix my race number to my shirt. There were pins in the envelope I simply didn't see them in my nervous haze though.

I decided to run in my 9″ compression shorts, long over shorts, Canterbury thermal long sleeve and my Alzheimer's T-shirt. I needed all this because even though it was a cloudless sunny sky it was actually really cold. The park is one of the highest points in London, next to the river and there were gales of up to 40 mph! I put on my sweater and headed back to the crowd with Richard, nervous but excited.

Don't we all look thrilled to be running!
Don't we all look thrilled to be running!

It was actually really easy to meet up with my friends and considering we made no plan the five of us hooked up really easily. We exchanged niceties, borrowed things like pens and pins to sort out our kit before we all decided it was actually quite cold and we all needed a wee. Typically there didn't seem to be enough toilets but we didn't spend too long queuing and if anything it gave us all the chance to catch up and have a natter pre race.

I decided whilst in the queue that I would run with my gloves as my hands were frozen. My legs were too but they would soon warm up once we got going.

Mankini Man
Mankini Man

The atmosphere was great. There was a good mix of people in fancy dress and loads sporting Moustaches in aid of Movember. There were quite a few serious runners out there too but I knew we were in it to compete and complete.

One foolish bloke ran in a Mankini – thankfully he had a jock strap on to hold everything in place but I didn't relish the thought of having to be behind him as you ran. One can only imagine the amount of chaffing he suffered as a result of his choice of outfit!

Before too long it was time to kiss Richard goodbye and head off with my friends and fellow competitors. There was a warm up exercise going on by the DJ booth but we hung around the side jumping around trying to keep warm by simply moving.

I am not sure if this was a mistake as I usually walk 5 minutes before I run and don't stretch. I had walked quite a bit to get to the race but we did end up in a crowd waiting to start for 10 – 15 minutes before we got going…

I think we were all excited to be running and the atmosphere was really good. Loads of people came out to support and Richard was accompanied by loads of people taking photos etc.

Queuing for the start line

All too quickly the race started and given the long run of flags, the crowds and the number of runners I didn't actually realise when we had actually crossed the starting line.

Enda, John and Feargal ended up about 2 people ahead of us in the walk to the start and this gave them the benefit of running ahead of us which saved them some time. Janice and I didn't try to catch up with them we just decided to stick together.

This was really nice of Janice as she is a seasoned athlete and she decided to stick with me through the race. It was nice to have the company and for the first km or so we were chatting as we were going. Jan's pep talks did help and they helped me take my mind off the pain in my lower back which I knew was going to cause me problems.

The first loop of the park was fairly uneventful but I remember all the support from the crowd and all the high fives I was giving to children as we passed.

I didn't take any headphones and decided not to look at my iPhone so had no idea about my pace etc. Actually I wonder how many iPhones were competing yesterday?

Turns out we were hot off the blocks and I had a great pace for the first couple of KMs. My average was very close to my best training pace so I must have gotten into the swing of it. I did mention to Janice that all the posture, Chi running and techniques I had learnt seemed to have been forgotten but we both decided to run what felt comfortable.

It all went well until we got the first large loop of the park. Due to the Olympic clear up the route was re drawn and we ended up running up 2 of Greenwich’s meanest hills twice during the race.

The first hill was a pain to walk up on the way to registration and running it was not fun. Janice and I ran as much as we could but as we reached the top (and saw sight of Richard for the first time), Janice announced she felt sick – thankfully she wasn't but this is where we realised this course wouldn't be a walk in the park (literally).

Once along a new set of flat terrain we reached the top of a major decline which we hit at speed. I actually had to stop as my feet ran away with me and it was on this first downhill I felt the sharp twinge in my back… I thought I was doing ok until we reached the bottom of the next hill and started to feel a pain in my groin.

On the flat I was amused and perturbed that we were both overtook by a bloke running with his toddler in a buggy which he was pushing. He was also maintaining a full conversation with his daughter whilst he ran around the course!

Neither Janice nor I particularly enjoyed the hill but we ran as much of it as we could. Janice tried to spur me on by telling me that we were close to the 9KM marker. This would have been great but my iPhone showed 4.5km and I knew we had to do this loop twice. This is when I realised this awful hill would be the final km in the race. Not great knowing that at 4km.

Me at the top of the dreaded hill

As we powered up the hill I put a spurt of energy into my legs as we passed an official photographer – Jan laughed as she had seen what had got me motivated. I then decided to do the old bunny ears behind her when I saw the next camera man 🙂

We were urged to run to the left by a passing marshal as the lead runners were coming up the hill (bastards). The guy in front whizzed past us but I felt some great amusement when the woman ahead of us ran into him knocking him sideways, he had to dodge to avoid a child on a bike and nearly tripped over a dog. At this stage we were at the top of the hill and Janice and I were cheering and joking with the woman in front for knocking some of his precious time off his race – he was going to be first no matter what the cost!

We passed the start finish line without much more incident and carried on through to complete the final big loop. I high-fived a cute toddler and ran on with Jan still trying to give me advice. It was around this time the voice in my head made me realise how much pain I was in and told me to not go mad. Richard told me not to try to kill myself on the run but I knew I could do it.

Jan did say I had done more in training but the combination of the hills, back and groin pain meant I was off my game and full of doubt.

At the top of the next hill Janice's advice bore no more weight and I think she realised I wanted to just get on with it so she sped up and left me to do my own thing – we cheered and waved as I went down the hill and she ran up.

I managed to get my head back together and apart from worrying about running out of water I continued to run and felt I had a good pace. On the final approach to the hill I decided the pain was too much and I would speed walk up the hill. The lady we chuckled with earlier passed me and cheered me on. Convincing me to run. I ran for a while but the hill was too steep and the pain was too much. I let her pass and reverted back to speed walking. I am glad I did though as my speed walking seemed to be faster than the running pace of those around me.

Janice kindly held back near the top of the hill and waited for me so that we could finish the race together. Lots more pep talk was given and a joke or two shared about how we would cart-wheel over the finish line. It helped though as we both put our foot down and went for it.

I don't remember crossing the finish line – well I do I just don't know where the finish line was!

I saw Richard and co cheering as we crossed the line and before you knew it we had our foil blankets on, were wearing our medals and stuffing as many sweets down our throats as we could.

I could not believe I had completed the race. I had been in so much pain and had so much doubt on the course, especially in the last km and that bloody hill that I was incredibly chuffed and pleased with myself for competing and completing.

Meeting up with Richard after the race

Richard gave me a kiss and hug as he congratulated me and it was at this point I remembered I had raised £1,540 for Alzheimer's Society by running a 10K. Not bad for someone who didn't even own running shoes in June!

We managed to catch up with one another, filled our faces with our free bacon sandwiches (thanks HP) and took lots of photos etc – there was lots of cheering and whooping from us all.

Enda suggested we queued for our race times and it was then I discovered I had completed the race in 1:04:09. Not bad for a newbie and not bad considering the course and the pain I was in. I wanted to get close to an hour and am very proud of my time.

I don't get the bravado of having to be finished in a set time, I simply wanted to run the course and complete it – and I did.

I think our times ranged from 51 minutes to 1:04 so we all did really well. We should all be very proud of our achievements as we all run just for fun. I am sure Janice could have been faster but she was kind enough to run with me – she did cross the line a fraction of a second before me though.

I'm trying to work out whether the lack of warm up cool down has caused the pain in my groin etc. but then again I already had the back pain before is started running. I did do some stretches after the run but did most when I got home!

I didn't enjoy changing in the biting wind but it was necessary as it was very cold. I didn't enjoy the free mango flavoured coconut water they gave away at the end but the bacon butty got rid of the taste.

I was so encouraged and pleased by the atmosphere and the friendliness of the runners and supporters. From the lady who we joked with during the race to a guy I chatted to in the timing queue who admitted it was only his second 10km. Like me he's only just started running. I didn't catch his name but it was nice to meet him.

Don't we all look as pleased as punch!

The spirit of the whole day was very nice and I had a thoroughly good time.

Richard and I stopped in Greenwich for some lunch before heading back on the arduous journey home. I think I finished the race at 11:15 and we got in at around 3.

I was really really sore coming home and carrying the bag just made matters worse – thankfully Richard was kind enough to carry it most of the way for me – he also gave me a very welcome massage when I got back.

I am starting to feel a bit more human now but glad I took the day off. I have a heat pad on my back and an ice pack on my groin and both seem to be doing the job of relieving any suffering from the race.

This may sound extreme and may put some off running but it was worth it – I had a wonderful time and have raised a fantastic amount of cash of a very deserving cause. This is something I will be very proud of for some time.

I don't plan to run for the next couple of days nor do I expect to given my upcoming work load but I shall be back in my trainers as soon as I can as I have the Santa 5K to run here in Colchester the weekend after next 🙂

Thank you again to everyone who has supported me, offered advice, sponsored me and listened to me drone on about the wonders of running since I started this little adventure. All of it is unexpected and all of it is very touching and moving and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart (which is just as well as it's probably the only part of me that isn't sore!).

My race day momento
Enda and I showing off our moustaches.

7 comments

  1. Wayhey! Name checked! Sounds like it was a good day (apart from the pain, obviously…) What’s the next challenge going to be? Anymore 10k’s on the horizon? A marathon? Ironman? :o)

    First medal of many!!

    Well done with your fund raising too, that’s a fantastic amount.

    Like

    1. Indeed could have done without the pain but never mind.

      Next is the Colchester 5K Santa run Sunday week. Nothing like pressuring myself into the next one straight away is there!

      Have been looking for other races in the new year but haven’t found ones I like or feel compelled to compete in. Unlike you..!

      I am incredibly honoured and chuffed to have raised so much. In fact I picked up another £20 sponsorship today 🙂

      Like

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