On Sunday 4th March I ran in my first 10k race as part of the Milton Keynes Festival of Running. Primarily I did it to raise funds for my role at Spurgeon Baptist Church – more of that here. But it has also been a personal ambition to complete a 10k, for about the last 10 years! So, to quote the esteemed President George W. Bush: Mission Accomplished!
At the start of January when I decided to start training for the 10k, my biggest fear was that I’d be training though the winter. I worried that if it was raining (or worse) I wouldn’t stick to it. But I’m pleased to say that apart from a couple of days of snow, we’ve enjoyed almost spring-like weather since the start of January. Oh what an irony then to wake up on Race Day to discover that it was raining heavily. People said ‘don’t worry – it will soon pass’ – but it didn’t. It rained heavily throughout the race. By the time we were just 3k into the race I’m confident that I could have gone swimming and not got any wetter. It was grim! [but at least it wasn't snowing - which it was by the time the runners finished the MK Half Marathon about an hour later!]
The start of the race felt a bit slow for me, so I jostled to get a better position and soon settled down into a good rhythm. I was passed by a steady stream of fitter runners who had started further back & who were travelling past me at a good pace which was quite disheartening. The cold from the rain was making my leg muscles tighten, which was a bit of a worry so early on! I found myself following a guy with a silly hat and a woman in an orange jacket who both seemed to be paying great attention to their watches and sticking to a predetermined pace. As the pace felt comfortable for me too I decided I’d stick with them for as long as I could. Before I knew it we were at the ‘feeding station’ and then at the half way marker. At this point (still raining, of course) I decided I still had a bit of pace left in me and decided to over-take the ‘orange lady’ (no idea where the guy with the silly hat had gone by now) and pulled away a little bit. Shortly after that someone ran up behind me and patted me on the back and gave some encouragement: it was Rev. Andrew Gale (Chaplain at Oakhill STC). We had been together on the start line but had separated. He pulled about 20 yards ahead. Then at the 7k mark we were at the lowest point of the race and the finish line was at the highest! So we hit the hills…
I’ve always thought of Milton Keynes as being particularly flat. Which sounded great because all of my training had been alongside the canal, with a total elevation of about 5m at the lock. But at the start Angie Horn asked me if I’d been ‘training for the Fishermead hill?’ To which my reply was a very definite ‘no’! She looked a bit worried for me.
The first hill wasn’t too steep or too long – but it took a lot out of me. I had managed to work hard and pulled back a bit of distance from Andrew. Then it was flat again for a little while before another hill – worse than the first: longer and steeper (a bad combination). Then immediately after that we turned a corner and hit the Fishermead hill – which is slightly shorter and not as steep as the last, but coming on the back of the others it felt like hell! I tried to power through it and nearly killed myself in the process. At this point we were only 1k from the finish line, but that final kilometre felt like five. There were two encouragements for me amongst the hills, the first was that I managed to over-take and stay ahead of Andrew, the second was the supporters I saw.
I had encouragement from Andrew & Angie at the start line, and it was great to see Keelie Lingard who was there to support her Mum, Yvonne, who was also running. Then at about the 2k mark I noticed Neil McGill at the side of the road – although I appreciated his support, his shout of ‘come on, keep going, you can do it!’ felt a bit premature as I was still feeling comfortable at that stage. Then there was a long stretch with no personal supporters, and only a few ‘randoms’ who were clapping anyone who passed. But at the top of the first small hill (the hardest part by that point) it was a real encouragement to see Gareth Chapman & Dee Stevens standing there, looking like drowned rats (as we all did!) and cheering me on enthusiastically. Then at the point which was without doubt the hardest point for me, the top of the Fishermead hill, I saw Terry Horn waiting. I shouted to him before he saw me and his surprised smile lifted my spirit no end – enough to see me through to the final corner almost 1k later. At that point a crowd of supporters had gathered. The first people I noticed were Simon & Nicci Bradley, accompanied by Keelie & her grandparents; they were quickly followed by Gareth & Dee again who had magically appeared at the finish.
I picked up my pace a little as I rounded the final corner, at which point Andrew Gale passed me with another message of encouragement. I decided to sprint (I say ‘sprint’, it was intended to be a sprint, but I was limited by the inability of my legs to respond to what my brain was saying). So my first 10k ended with some friendly competition and honours even as Andrew and I crossed the line together before shaking hands on a race well run. Most people rushed to get out of the rain, but I figured I wasn’t getting any wetter so I decided to welcome in the other runners I knew: Angie Horn, Yvonne Lingard & John Kennedy.
Before we started Angie said she expected me to finish in 57 minutes. I said I’d be delighted with anything under 1 hour 10 minutes – especially as I knew I’d struggle with the hills. For me the 10k was never a competitive endeavour; my aim was to run it all and to finish it. But I can’t deny that I was delighted with my official time: 57 minutes 02 seconds. According to the official results I finished 182 out of 461. I’m happy with that – but Andrew has suggested we aim for the top 100 next time. [next time?!]
On medical advice from the Senior Race Steward I decided to have a quick change of clothes then grab a coffee at Costa and warm up before heading home. Believe me – he didn’t have to tell me that twice!
A massive thank you to everyone who has supported, sponsored & encouraged me! But fear not! Because there’s still time to sponsor me if you haven’t already. You can do it online here (have currently reached 68% of my online target) or if you’d like to increase your sponsorship through Gift Aid, get in touch and I’ll send you a form.
You can take a look at my stats online at RunKeeper which will also let you check out the route, elevation & my pace at each stage. If you have a particularly strong stomach, you can check out my official ‘finish photo‘ [you have been warned!].