Another 10k race, a flat one this time, but on the unfamiliar turf of Teesside. Still I’ve been here before, watched movies at the nearby cinema and got soaked to the skin on the white water rafting course.
So I’m running this one with no expectations, no promises, no targets. It’s just a training run in a new place. But my body belies my brain’s cool nonchalance and there are two pit stops on my hour journey south.
I’ve rested this week. Haven’t run since a nice 10k on Tuesday night, but kept up the usual mix of boxercise, pilates and my favourite session of the week with my PT on the beach on Thursday morning.
I also went for a sports massage on Thursday night, to smooth out some tight spots in my legs. I had problems this time last year, as I started to up my mileage, with a tight tib band. A couple of massage sessions and fitting for some orthotics to correct my feet sorted me out and got me through the half marathon and beyond.
Fortunately this time the pain wasn’t in my tib band, but came from a tightness in my quadriceps, vastus lateralis, to be precise. Roz massaged and pummeled and it loosened off, but boy, I’d forgotten how much it aches the day after. Like a really good hard run ache, but you can sense it’s getting better.
At the Tees barrage I meet some runners I know by name only from a running forum and we shiver and question our clothing choices. The wind is biting and we’re eager to be moving. Huddled like penguins at the start line, the anticipation warms us, ready for the start.
The usual mental switch to find I’m running with so many people, picking my way through, finding a place, wondering when we’ll start spreading out. I find my space, settle and let the runner in the yellow jacket with spiky elbows get past me.
Suddenly there’s a sharp twinge from the top of my right shoulder, up the side of my neck. I’m barely even a kilometre in and something’s hurting. ‘Remember, remember, this happened at Hamsterley,’ my brain kicks in. ‘You can run it off. It will pass.’ And though it lingers for a while, it does. I focus on a couple in matching black and yellow club shirts and tuck in behind them.
My thoughts are unfocused as I run, breathing’s good, stretch out a little more, relax. There’s little more than this. Maybe because I don’t know the course, can’t sense the direction. It’s a break from my own head.
I do things to remind me to relax. Say thank you to a couple of marshalls, far chiller than we are, wrapped up in coats and bobble hats. I’m warm now that I’m moving, shrug my long sleeves up past my elbows and ditch my buff around my wrist. I don’t look at my watch, but I can’t help but count the beeps.
Between 4 and 5k I can sense I’m slowing. Strides have shortened, I’m in danger of shuffling. I slow the turnover, trying to stretch out. I’m passed by a group who are chatting away as they run, and a man with a buggy. I let my mind have a weak moment, then put it away in its box. I wanted to hang on until 5k for my mango, but it seems a good point for a boost. I’m chewing as I pass the photographer.
Round by the start and the psychological boost of the half way point with spectators cheering and encouraging raises a smile. I high five a little girl who is clapping the runners as we turn again over the bridge.
Relax and enjoy. Now I’m running on my own. There’s a group ahead of me and I can sense no one near enough behind. I can still see the couple in the black and yellow striped vests a bit further ahead.
Once across the river, the wind picks up and dances with the leaves and blossoms. For a while I run alongside a guy in a yellow top who is encouraging himself on. His breathing sounds heavy, but he’s running well. ‘Just 30 seconds outside,’ I hear him say, ‘Come on!’ I hope you got what you were looking for mate, you were certainly working for it.
When to push, when to push? I know I’ve dropped off in the middle, without looking at the watch. I promise myself I’ll pick it up in the last kilometre, but the wind’s coming head on now. ‘Show me what you’re made of…’ I start to kick in as I sense a girl coming up on my left shoulder. We encourage each other over the last few hundred and I finish on an adrenaline high in 53.07.