Blue Runnings

Race Reviews, GPX files and more from North-East England

This is my race – and I am equal to it

on 2 October 2016

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Followers of my Facebook page will know that I have been somewhat absent for several weeks – since the end of August in fact. This has mainly been because I have not been up to much. There would have been several weeks of alternating ‘cycled route 1’ and ‘ran short route 2’ over and over again, combined with me still moaning about the heat and lamenting that the cooler months weren’t here yet. And that gets boring very fast. For me and you both. I also spent the second half of September playing host to a lovely cold bug which still insists on being my constant companion even now – but at least I don’t need to carry around his sidekick Bodyweight-in-Tissues, I just frequently hack and cough in the beautifully elegant way with which I do all things I undertake.

Knowing the Kielder 10k was coming up, about 3 weeks ago I wanted to make sure I was getting comfortable with the 10k distance again, so I headed out hoping to repeat the 7 miles J and I had done from my house down towards Swalwell on the Derwent Walk. I had a nice steady pace of about 10:30-11 min miles I was quite happy with right up until the 5 mile mark when it dropped right off as my shoes started to rub. I don’t know if this is summer adding injury to insult – I’ve had blisters in the same place with three different pairs of trainers and three different styles of socks if I do more than a couple of miles. Guess I just get glamorously sweaty feet! I did make the 10k in an ok-ish summer time so I made my peace with that, and then Mr Cold moved in and I did absolutely nothing at all for the 2 weeks coming up to the race in the deseparate hope he would move out and find a new friend. He seems to have sent all his brothers and sisters out to visit all my friends, but he’s staying for now.

I’ve missed running while I’ve been hosting, and it’s shown in how tetchy I’ve been getting about things at work – it’s been a lot harder to keep things in their boxes and not take things personally. Working at Tesco’s or Starbucks has been looking very tempting sometimes! Or, you know, just being a full-time bum! I think I’m fully qualified already for this position but P says no because blah blah mortgage blah blah money blah blah sensible grown-up boring stuff.

I umm’d and errr’d about doing Kielder at all (relieved I’d stuck to booking the 10k rather than pushing for a longer distance as that would have been a big fat NO!) in the week coming up to the race, but I decided that even if I ended up walking round, I wanted to do this one. I feel like I’ve fallen very flat this year and Kielder for the last 2 years has been the start of my running picking up again through the winter. Last year I matched my 10k race pb – which I was delighted with as I’d set the pb on a flatter coastal route so to hit it on Kielder’s hilly to undulating paths I was over the moon with. Hitting that was out the question, but I should be able to get round. I really wanted that start – that line between the summer bleurgh and things picking up again and being able to move forward and regain all the fitness I have to admit to myself that I’ve lost over the last 6 months.

So, Saturday morning came around and P and I set off for Kielder along the A68 and whatever those windy roads were we went along to get there. Shuttlebused up to the start as we were last year when I went with J, and spot the Bounders! Not as many people as last year, but it was good to see F & G there, who I’ve run with many times before. We set off intending as always not to set off too fast and as always doing so anyway as we got dragged along with the many other runners. They hadn’t put timing flags up this year so people had vaguely placed themselves along the start-line; I’m not sure if that made any difference to be honest, there’s always people passing and being passed at the start. The hill usually spaces everyone out!

The Hill. Bulls Crag Bank. I’ve been up the side of the Spetchells twice this summer, and when it’s 20’C I look like an asthmatic when I reach the top and usually sound like one too. Fortunately, it was overcast and slightly breezy and more like 13’C this afternoon and I had a good chance of getting at least partway up it without needing a ventilator. I got about a third of the way up, opting for a slow and steady breathing pace (whatever that was) and looked up to the top far in the distance. Believe it or not, it was possibly longer but it was less steep than I remembered (that’s the elevation profile on the t-shirt photo at the end). I took a deep breath and told myself ‘this is your race, and you are equal to it’. I look forward to this race all year, it holds a really special place for me. I’ve done it before, I can and will do it again. I did make it to the top without walking – and when you’ve done that you’re not allowed to walk on the downhills and the flats.

F & G both caught me again up on the downhill stretch and that pretty much set the pattern for the rest of the race! G would drop behind on the uphills and catch me back up again on the flats and downhills (we had a lovely hacking duet going in stretches – I could hear him coming 9 times out of 10!) and F set a steadier pace and was never more than 100 yards behind for much of the race. I tried waving a few times but I think she was too focused to see me!

Having completed the big hill at the start, took away the excuses to walk on the undulating slopes further round and I just concentrated on staying steady and keeping planting one foot in front of the other. I wasn’t stressed, I don’t think I even felt consciously determined to get round or anything strongly in any direction. It also helped that I had forgotten my GPS watch – so I had no idea how far along I was (I wasn’t even registering the distance markers for the first half) and I had no idea what speed I was doing to compare with how I ‘thought’ or felt I should be doing. No reference to how my pace was near the end compared to the start. Just me and the trail (and G hacking behind me!). Whenever I run at Kielder I find myself running very much in the moment and this race was no different for that. I would get as far as I got before I walked – whether that was 4k or 7k or 10. And I would finish. I would get there. My P was waiting for me at the finish line and I would make it there on my own two feet.

There is a dog-leg through the woods in the last km, with several ‘false finish’ points where it’s easy to think you’re closer than you are to the end and start draining the tank trying to pick the pace up or just keep moving. I knew it was there and just kept steadily plodding along (we still hadn’t walked!), but I must confess to nearly faltering as the 800m mark came into site. My knees were feeling very tired and the tank was running on fumes, but if I walked now even once I would probably need another even between then and the finish line – my pattern would be broken and I wouldn’t get it back.

I had a quick glance around for P at about the 200m mark but didn’t see him. I determined to go for it. I don’t know where I got the steam from but I managed a sprint finish for the last 200m before crossing the line and trying desperately not to collapse into a heap. G was not far behind me and we only had to wait a minute before F followed us across. There are very few races where I’ve had the solid satisfaction of a sprint finish knowing I’ve given everything I have to get across that line; it’s one of the few emotions in life I can evoke in my mind at any time I feel it that strongly – that lady who crossed just after me and was on the brink of tears; I know exactly how she felt. I finished and I finished strong and I’m really really pleased with that. I came in at a steady 1:11:45 so no records broken, but I’m pleased with that – a steady approach which took me to the end and the best distance run I’ve had in months, if not for the whole year. I feel at peace and ready to start picking things up again.

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You can download the GPX data for this race from my Dropbox account by following the link below:

GPX data from Dropbox

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