The Scribbler

17 May 2009

Pier to Pier race

Filed under: Great North Run,run — The Scribbler @ 19:10
Tags: , , , ,

After the brilliant buzz of my first race, I knew I wanted to do it again. I already had my place in the Blaydon, but 9 June felt like too long to wait. I spotted a couple of 10k runs locally, but then one of the other runners at work mentioned the Pier to Pier.

It sounded a bit barmy. For a start, the distance is approximately 7.5 miles. Approximate because there’s no set route. It runs from the pier at South Shields to Roker pier in Sunderland. Once you get to the cliff tops you can take your own route over paths and fields before heading back together for the beach finish.

Barmy too, because they say you might get your feet wet. The race starts and finishes on the beach. And this year they had to put the start time back to make sure there was enough sand to run on.

But it’s a nice spot, it’s a coastal route, and my friend in the changing rooms assured me it wasn’t that barmy. So that’s why I found myself shivering next to the fairground in South Shields this morning, set to take on my longest race to date.

Unfortunately, no matter how I may be feeling about a race, my bladder definitely gets nervous. I don’t think I need to worry about how to pass the time at the start of the Great North Run. I’ll be spending it queuing for the portaloos.

This time, I met a nice runner called Hayley, and we chatted away, passing the time quickly before the start of the race. Then we all lined up along the beach at South Shields. No gate, no megaphone, just a line in the sand and a whistle to start us.

And it was great! Quite a bit more challenging than the North Tyneside 10k, partly because of the longer distance and partly due to the changing terrain. Although it was mainly flat, with only one slope and one set of steps on the route I took, I ran over sand, gravel trails, grass and earth. That kept things interesting. It was actually quite nice to feel the difference, so the path came as a nice relief from the sand, then the grass was a softer surface than the paths.

It was confusing to see runners splitting off and heading over the grassy banks to take one route or another, but it was a good way to split the field. I’m sure regulars have their preferred route. I just decided on the spur of the moment which way to go, but it did leave me with the nagging feeling that I had picked the longer path.

At times the paths were narrow and I became very aware of the runners close to me. Sometimes we were in single file, following the line of flattened down grass. I was most comfortable when I was on my own following a group just a little way ahead. I like my own space when I’m running. That will be a challenge in larger races.

Once again I spotted runners I thought I could keep up with, to keep my focus just ahead. My competitive spirit kicked in a couple of times as I over took them. It’s just annoying when you recognise people you passed earlier overtaking you on the final straight.

I ran pretty much the whole race without listening to my music. It was just nice to enjoy the fresh air and seabirds. But after realising I hadn’t started my stop watch for the first 10 minutes, I spotted my pace was a bit slower than I wanted. So I plugged in the headphones to help me find the right pace. And I picked them up again when I felt I was flagging. A burst of music to get me smiling and enjoying myself again.

It also helped that I only used my watch to keep an eye on my pace and heart rate. I had no idea how long I’d been running for, I just knew that I felt okay. I kept reminding myself of the coaching points: breathe into the ribs, stretch out the stride, push off the back foot, keep the arms efficient and hips pointing forward.

No sprint finish this time, but I did have enough left in the tank to tackle the leg-sapping last hundred yards or so over soft sand. 12.28k or 7.6 miles in 64 mins – that’s a result!

Race results

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