Starting and finishing at the Princess Mary Athletics Stadium this 10k road race meanders its way through a local greenway out towards Bradford before turning back at the 5k mark along the same route to the finish line. Running along a tarmac surface whilst under the odd old railway tunnel with fields and even a golf course on either side of you, gives the run a relaxed feel that you normally would not get at a larger event staged in one of the nearby cities.
We arrived at the check in station roughly 80 minutes before the start of the race to collect my race number and allow enough time to warm up before the main event. Final pre race nutrition was consumed consisting mainly of medium to fast acting carbohydrates, electrolytes and that good old standby, caffeine.
After pinning my number to t-shirt I set off for a few gentle laps of the running track and made a number of alterations to how my running trainers laces were tied so I could get a feeling of the foot still being able to spread. But not in such a way that the shoe felt as if it was going to slip off or causes blisters through rubbing the heel. Once the basic warm up was done it was time to complete the movement prep exercises I had initially started before leaving the house to get to the race check in point. Had a few funny looks from some of the casual runners and even more funny looks from the seasoned runners who had probably never seen me before on the running scene.
Twenty minutes later we set off for the start line.
With the race being run on a greenway it was tightly packed at the start and as had seemed the norm for me I gravitated more towards the middle to back of the pack to avoid the ensuing crush and surge when the start was announced. This has its benefits but also can be quite frustrating when your trying to weave your way through those not a quick as you. Then again maybe I just like to play the hunter rather than the hunted!
From the off it became perfectly clear that the few training runs I had managed to get in since Aprils World Coal Carrying Championships were of the right intensity and duration to give me a better start. All that remained to be seen had they been right to meet the race target of a new PB on a flattish course?
The course is a winding one and I was pleased to see that I was in a position to be in contact and have a visual of two seasoned runners I knew. And managed to keep it that way for the first three kilometres. As I caught up to and eventually passed one of the runners I knew it became more evident that if I could that pace I would be in for a decent finishing time. Unfortunately I had a woman runner who seemed hell bent on racing me during these first few kilometres who had the disgusting habit of spitting every few hundred yards as they cleared the excess saliva from their mouths. I was within a whisker of telling her how disgusting she was whilst giving her a lecture on the spread of tuberculosis through such a vile habit. For once I managed to keep my thoughts to myself as I pulled away from her and settled into a nice even pace.
At around the 4-4.5 kilometre mark the front runners started to pass me on their way back to the finish line. This I found was a bit of a motivational boost as was managing to maintain a good pace for someone who was running only their third 10k race.
As I turned at the halfway way mark I quickly glanced at the heart rate monitor to see that I was within my targeted range of 180-185bpm for today`s race. This second 5k would be a true test of the training methods we are using as I had to not only maintain my current foot strike and power output but it would be called upon to increase over the final 1k for the sprint finish. The final few kilometres of a race is a strange feeling. You know you`re on the home straight, which can be comforting, but there is a general sense of urgency as you strive to keep going without crashing out through sheer exhaustion. You feel every footstep, every pound of pressure as it explodes up through your foot, then ankle and into your quads and glutes. Making every muscle fibre contract to absorb the shocks of up to 2.5 times your bodyweight. The legs become heavy, filled with blood and lactic acid waste by-products. But still you pound on, pushing beyond the pain and discomfort, zoned in on your ultimate goal, oblivious to everything around you but the road ahead.
As I reached to 8km checkpoint another quick glance at the heart rate monitor showed I had reached 190bpm but felt as if I was slowing down by the way the body was moving. Breathing was become laboured at this point with a couple of moments of fighting back those lactic acid burps which inevitably lead to a retching of the stomach and vomit ensuing. The sick side of me enjoyed the moment for what it was. A moment of knowing I was pushing myself to my current limit.
All through the final few kilometres I had been trailing a seasoned club runner with an eye on catching them up. My lack of experience showed during the final 1km as he opened up and increased his speed to such a point that I knew I could not catch them. By now the discomfort of each foot strike was increasing. You could feel everything vibrate through the muscles and deep into your bones. All the while trying to push yourself to dig deeper within yourself to reach that goal. The harder you pushed, the deeper the vibrations reverberated through your very being.
At 500 metres out you get your first glimpse of the finish line. With family members urging me on I gave one last effort to shave off ever second I could and enjoy those last few moments of muscle fibre splitting, bone splintering effort. Because once the race is finished there is no going back wishing you had done something different.
As I crossed the finishing line I hit the stop button on the stop watch and then eagerly fumbled with it to see what my time was.
42.16. A new personal best by a full 119 seconds. With an average heart rate of 186bpm.
Elated I punished the air with the the words “YES” ringing out. Red faced, heart still pounding out of my chest and the whole of my lower limbs solid with blood and the effort they had just put forth I picked up my post race bottle of water and banana.
The training had paid off. We are on the right track. All is going to plan.
As I woke the next day it was more through a sense of muscular discomfort rather than one of waking refreshed. Everything from my feet and ankles all the way up into my hips flexors gave feedback of the effort they had put forth the previous evening. It was more of a crawl and roll out of bed rather than one with a spring in my step. The muscles and bones felt as if they had calcified from yesterdays effort.
” I struggle, I contest, I suffer”.
Steven. A. Barlow, founder of Spartan Runners ” because we don`t just run” © 2011