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Walkington 10k
2005-07-23: Yesterday evening was the Walkington 10k I've been training for since the start of March and the first group running activity I've done since regularly messing about at the back in school cross country.
The starting line at the Walkington 10kAccording to my training, I was hitting a mile every ten minutes. A 10k is 6.2 miles, so I should come in at just over an hour. That was the theory. We'd driven the course a few months back and knew it was hilly, so in the last few weeks I've been incorporating hills into my routine a little. I usually run along the seafront, so it's flat, but interestingly at the start of my training the slightest incline would make a huge difference to my heart rate, but lately it had made less of a difference so I thought I was getting fitter and more able to handle the hills.
The pre-race gathering had a really good feeling to it, but I did feel a bit like a labrador in a field of greyhounds. Where are these people normally, with their bouncy legs and insatiable desire to run about? I don't think I've ever met any. Anyway, I felt good among it all. The organisers had set up a chap, guitar and mic and, given what that could have been like, he was doing a fantastic job. 'Suspicious Minds' is what I've got on the brain as a legacy from him.
So my race plan was to run at my normal heart rate range .. 135-148 bpm. I thought probably some would die off halfway through and I'd pass the finish line without really breaking much of a sweat. I wanted a base line which I would improve upon next time, and I knew that following that plan I'd finish in just over an hour, and that last year the stragglers were coming in at 1:20 or so so that would be fine.
Coming up to the mile marker, I was almost last. Behind me was a chap who kept having to stop because of cramp, and (God forbid), a woman. By mile 2 nothing much had changed. I was up against the top of my heart rate range and my monitor was beeping irritatingly at me to let me know I was outside my range. I noticed no-one else with one, and started to think my incessant beeping was probably breaking some kind of runners byelaw, so I had to work out how to stop the beeps while running, which meant I lost my own accurate timing.
Something had to give. Coming in last, after doing all the preparation, wasn't what I'd expected. The thing is, I reasoned, I've been training for a marathon, for endurance, not for speed (I've been following Marathon running for mortals). With a marathon, it's all about lasting the course, keeping your pace, making sure you had something in reserve so that you didn't die at the dreaded 20 mile marker. Maybe, my mind ticked, a 10k isn't like that. Maybe a 10k is more like, you know, a race, where you try hard and don't hold anything in reserve. It's only 6.2 miles after all.
So I upped my heart rate range and raised my upper limit to (you know, I can't actually remember now, but I'll guess at) 165. At that level, and as people started to flag, I started to overtake. It was still comfortable, so that was working.
One thing about running to a heart rate is that you run uphill slowly, but downhill really fast. I think, but I don't know, that's a good thing because maybe the downhill running uses your muscles in a different way. That's good because maybe it's using parts of muscles that would otherwise rest the whole thing out.
On an uphill part I was awoken from my slumber by a woman behind me going "bloody hell I didn't expect this". I thought only motivational phrases were allowed, but anyway we chatted for a while. She ran 6 miles three times a week on the flat but this was her first race and she was really struggling with the hills.
At many times I was running on my own and, while it was a little embarrassing to be clapped and egged on by the marshals, it felt really good too.
Anyway, I wasn't nearly last anymore, and I decided to raise my limit again at the five mile marker to between, I think, 170 and 175. I'd never run at that level before, and for the record never run 6.2 miles before either, but it still felt fine. I don't think there was much extra to give, but I was breathing comfortably and all was well.
I overtook a chap at about the 5 mile marker when I started to hear noises from over the hedge, I thought there might be someone having a picnic and listening to the radio (like you do). Then I realised, it was the tannoy from the finish line. I asked the chap I was overtaking "is that the finish line I can hear?" "yes" he said "but it's a bloody big speaker".
I also passed a chap and he asked me the time. 52 minutes I told him. "Oh", he said, "we've missed the winners ceremony then".
Coming to the finish line felt like landing a plane. I'd been out on the open road for so long that the final field with its taped-off route around the edge felt like a landing pattern. The finish line looked so small, like an airstrip, I thought "how am I going to hit that spot, what if I miss?" And after, crossing the line, the complexity and the detail .. looking at your time, stopping your own watch, acknowledging your wonderful girlfriend and trying not to look stupid on the photograph, then being corralled into a long passage of more tape, getting off the runway, given a bag of goodies (well, baddies actually), collecting a T shirt, parking your plane at the right terminus. It's quite a blur.
Crossing the line at the Walkington 10kCollecting myself, that was good. We chatted for a while to cool down. The evening air was fresh, we couldn't have asked for better weather. Then my hill woman came through and we congratulated each other. She said "I went through 24 hours of labour and this was worse".
In the car on the way home I felt really good. Those endorphins are a friendly bunch. And this morning I irritated my partner by losing another pound in weight. Overall, in about five months I've lost, if you take the two extremes, about 8 pounds. I didn't feel the need to lose weight, and I've not done anything special to lose it, running just did that for me and it's nice to do.
In the end, the time on the photograph shows 1:06:10 (we think ten because there's a pic just before it showing 1:05:58). I'm happy with that, I learned a lot, and thanks to everyone involved in making a happy, well organised event. I'm sure I'll do a 10k again in my lifetime, but actually it's a very different thing to a long distance run. Next year, a half marathon for sure.

By John Allsopp
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