Okay, so the desert image is something of an exaggeration. When I ran a festive Easter Bunny 10K on Easter Monday, the temperature was perhaps high teens or low twenties (degrees Celsius). But it was humid and muggy and I’m not at all used to running in the heat.
Preparation (or not)
I’ve been preparing consistently over time, building towards my first half marathon later in the year. So I expected to be well prepared for this race. I was hopeful of a new personal best.
However, my preparation during the final week leading up to the race was far from ideal. I was away at a conference in Liverpool which, although very worthwhile, completely upset my routine.
Sitting on super uncomfortable chairs from 9 am until 6 pm is not my idea of fun.
I tried to make healthy meal choices through the week, but I often found myself rushed and eating odd things at odd times. Sometimes I even consumed alcohol, which isn’t something I do very often. I did manage to squeeze in a couple of 5K runs, and there was a lot of walking involved between conference sessions. The Albert Dock area of Liverpool is an excellent place to go for a run, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting out and stretching my legs.
I had a speech to make on behalf of my district, and running proved to be a good nerve-calming exercise as my speech-making moment approached.
I arrived home on Good Friday, with a couple of days to recover before the race on Easter Monday. I managed a little run on Saturday, but then over ate and drank wine on Sunday.
And that was the preparation for my second 10K race.
The weather over the Easter weekend had been unusually warm for April in the UK. The weather forecast suggested that Monday, the day of the race, would be a little cooler.
The race would start opposite the Fleet Air Arm Museum, at 11 am. Fleet is about an hour’s drive from my home. I decided to set out at around 9 am, to allow plenty of time for getting lost or stuck behind a tractor, and for parking.
I had a straightforward drive through the Somerset countryside and arrived in good time. There was plenty of parking. I located the toilets – very important. There was a hall with drinks and cake available – but I didn’t partake and so can’t comment. I had a banana, and kept hydrating and then making use of the toilet. I pinned on my number. I stretched. It was overcast and not too warm.
We were called to a pre-race briefing which reminded us of the importance of not wearing earpieces of any type, due to the nature of the race. We must keep left at all times. We would be racing on open roads and cars, by all accounts, would be speeding off the A303. I began to feel a little worried.
Then the time came to line up behind the starting line. Everyone found their spot. I noticed the 45 and 60 minute pacers in the distance, and made a mental note not to go anywhere near them. My best time is considerably slower.
Then the sun blazed through the cloud and the temperature suddenly leapt up just in time for us to set off.
I had my usual doubts about what I was doing. Would I be able to cope with the heat? Would I be able to finish? What if I collapsed? What did I think I was doing, pretending I could run like these other people?
Then I began to enjoy the feeling of being a part of this group of 500 people all running off together along the roads and lanes of Somerset.
We ran past the Fleet Air Arm Museum, then turned right into a smaller road. A number of cars were creeping along trying to pass us, and I could see why there was a blanket ban of all types of earpieces and MP3s. We soon passed the 1 KM sign, and I felt very comfortable. The group was starting to stretch out a little more, but there was still a large bunch of us together. I said to myself ‘just do this nine more times. That’s easy’.
Some people ran past me, and I ran past some other people, as we all found and settled into our own pace. The line stretched and thinned out. The sun became hotter. I became hotter. I noticed that there was shade on the other side of the road, and wished that we didn’t have to keep left.
By the time we reached the 2 KM post, I was uncomfortably hot. I noticed that quite a lot of people had begun walking. I didn’t want to walk. I don’t usually walk when I run this distance, so why should I do it on a race? But I was beginning to feel that I needed to walk. I tried to keep going. By 4 KM I was wondering whether I would be able to finish at all. I was struggling. The back of my head felt cold, but the rest of me was pouring out sweat, and my scalp was tingling. Then there was a hill. I walked. Down the other side of the hill there was a water station, so I stopped while I had some water, and then set of again at a gentle trot.
From then on, I ran as much as I felt I could, and walked when I needed to cool down. After 5 KM I started to feel more optimistic about finishing. I ran alongside another woman for a while and chatted about running and the race, and complained about the weather. If talking about the weather could be converted into fuel, we would both have been turbo charged. We weren’t.
The course itself was one and a half laps, a big loop with a smaller loop inside. It was mostly flat, rural and very pleasant. The course was very well marshalled. I had been worried, as the line of runners spread out and I fell behind, that I might miss a turning and get hopelessly lost, or keep running on the same road forever. But there was no possibility of going wrong as there were marshals and signposts all along the route. The marshals, and other runners, were all very friendly and everyone encouraged each other to keep going in the heat.
The first loop brought us almost back to the start before heading off again for the second, smaller loop. It was psychologically hard having to run towards the second loop when the finish line was almost in sight – and faster runners were already heading that way. People were cheering friends on who had almost finished, while many of us still had another lap to run. But then people also cheered us tortoises on, encouraging us to keep going. I suppose this is where the mental strength and discipline that comes from training comes in useful. Because I could have given up there and then, but I didn’t. I completed the second loop, which was far shorter and quicker.
I continued to run-walk-run during the second loop, but made sure that I ran the final kilometre all the way back to the finish line. I heard people in passing cars clap as I puffed along the final stretch. I also heard laughter, and there may have been a few choice remarks, but I paid them no attention.
As I ran up to the finish I saw the time: 1 hour 20 minutes. My slowest 10K, but not by as much as I had expected. And I was enormously proud to have finished.
I learned something from this experience:
- I don’t like running in warm weather
- Don’t enter races in summer, which will most likely be hotter
- Taking part and finishing really is the most important thing
- Plan races for when you have time to feel properly prepared for them
This was by far my most challenging running experience – What is the hardest run you’ve ever done?