I volunteered at Whitley Bay parkrun on Saturday morning, and braved the blustery, windy conditions to stand and point the way over the path to the bridge, smiling at all the crazy costumes and Santa hats as the runners battled the elements.
I really didn’t feel much like running a 10k that afternoon in the wind and rain, but resetting expectations to just go and enjoy a run in a nice park in the expectation of seeing some Fetchie friends I headed over to Gateshead for the Saltwell 10k.
The wet weather made everyone keen to get their numbers and keep warm, rather than stand around chatting, but within minutes I’d spotted Jason, Rob, Jeff and Peter and said hello. And I walked up to the start with a couple of Elvet Striders who weren’t running but were supporting. As I lined up to start, Dave and Melanie said hello – almost unrecognisable beneath their hoods and wet gear, they looked well equipped for the wet conditions.
My Garmin didn’t like the rain and failed to start until a couple of minutes into the race, but no matter, it wasn’t about pacing or racing today. I set off at a decent pace, but one I felt I could keep under control, focusing on my running style. I dropped off the mid foot on the downhills, cruised the ups and generally had a good run.
Round the bottom of the lake Peter came past with a quip, and I tried to keep him in my sights for a good time, before deciding just to run at my own pace. I seemed to pass people on the downhills, although I had to ease up a bit to avoid slipping. I had a good couple of mini races with people close to my pace, and all the way round I kept hearing encouragement for ‘Sunderland’ just behind me, and hearing comments about a festive hat.
I was dying to see the comment-worthy hat, but kept my focus forward, trying to keep this close-paced competitor behind me as long as I could. Coming round for the second lap, she shouted out to the leading lady who flew past to lap us. It was fantastic to see Aly Dixon in full flow in her Sunderland Strollers vest.
The rain never eased up and it was a wet, soggy run. It was great to see Jeff and hear his cracking race time as I came into the park for the last time.
I felt like I’d dropped some pace on the last lap, and kept expecting to be passed by my Stroller nemesis, but as we rounded the lake, I found something of a last gasp spurt and held on for a muddy finish.
As I turned to see the famous hat, I realised it was being worn by Lesley Foster who I haven’t seen in ages, and who’d been using me as a pacing target throughout the race without realising who I was either.
With a chip time of 57:35, I was some way off my fastest time for this course, but I expected that, and my target really was just to get round, but going under 60 mins was a bonus. Comparing race stories with other runners as we shivered into dry clothes afterwards, we agreed it was another one to clock up to experience.
But actually, I really enjoyed it. I still haven’t really raced a 10k in 2012, but I was far from pootling round this one. Now I have my new running style, and my racing experience, I feel like I’ll be well set for next year. It’s reminded me I do enjoy racing and it’s always good to see a Fetchie or two. And I’m sure there will be plenty more chances to do that.