The Scribbler

10 June 2010

Blaydon Race 2010

Filed under: run — The Scribbler @ 17:32

I’m not sure this will be like my other race blogs. I wasn’t taking mental pictures, cramming my brain with sensations and consciously storing memories. I was just running. Running free and easy in the rain.

All day I watched the weather. All day I was distracted by that which was to come. Trying to control the anticipation. Careful not to build this up. Didn’t want this one to blow up in my face. Want to do well, want to do better, but not subject myself to the crushing pressure that charges adrenaline but leaves you feeling wiped out and empty.

Meeting runners I know from an online forum at the start, huddling in bin bags. Shivering, not stretching. The camaraderie is distracting, relaxing even. Trying to be friendly but still feeling very much like I need to be in my own space. Keeping a look out for Ian. I could do with a final piece of advice or maybe just a good luck. But it’s not to be.

Snippets of conversation, not really engaging in my brain. The band strikes up and I just want to be off and moving. We shuffle forward over the cobbles.

Where does this race start? I push the button well before I hear the handbell and start to weave through the pack. Dodging onto pavements, dropping back onto the road, squeezing elbows in through the gaps. I laugh out loud. I can’t help it. Release the tension with a bubble of joy as my legs start to kick in.

Away from the city, relishing the freedom and space of the Scotswood Road and the cool rain. Beep. I glance at the first mile split. 7.50-something…is that too fast? Doesn’t feel too fast. It’s a sub 8 min mile and it feels easy. Quick bit of mental maths 8 min miles x6 = 48 mins. That would be good. Hold it here, plough on.

Shivering from the bus stop Kathryn, a runner I know from work,  yells out my name, and I wave in surprise. I know she’d love to be running this, but she’s injured. I’m pleased to have been running so well as I pass her.

The band play and my feet pick up the rhythm, a welcome diversion from the straight road monotony. But my focus is always a few metres ahead, the next runner to pass, manoeuvre into the gap.

I’m merciless in my targets. Big arse…I can take that…baggy shirts and a cotton T… just a fun runner…plodder…you’re mine…he’s wearing a sweatshirt? I can have him. On and on I go. Pass them. Beat them. This run is mine.

Another sub 8 minute mile. Stop clock watching, run how you feel. Keep this going. Feels good actually, easy. Like my legs have grown an extra couple of inches. Breathing’s barely noticeable. Feeling strong, push on.

I promise myself a mango boost at 3 miles, a reward for keeping the momentum going. As the rain falls more heavily, I feel the unwelcome twinge in my neck and shoulder again. It’s cold, it’s wet, distract yourself and it will go. I raise my hand to give it some warmth and think about my feet. Rolling them forward, hips straight ahead, stretch out the legs even further, relax the shoulders. The pain disappears before I notice it’s gone.

Up and over the Scotswood Bridge. Last year it appeared like a mountain, this year I power on, picking up my feet, shortening my stride and overtake more runners before I reach the summit.

A bottleneck as we descend from the bridge. Slow to a shuffle. But I don’t let it stress me. Run the race you’re given. I can get back those seconds as I power down hill and out along the river.

Passing runners on the other side, I scan for familiar faces, but soon realise that means I’m losing my forward focus and look ahead again to pick off the next victim. The out and back feels shorter this time. I’m still feeling good, breathing’s easy, well into the fourth mile now and I still feel on pace. How long can I keep this going? Not far to go now, I can hold this pace for a mile or so more – no problem

Round the industrial units. The dust and heat blew up here last year, but this time they pass in a flash. My hamstrings are tightening and I feel cold on the back of my damp legs. Focus on the form, consciously relax and stretch out, though everything wants to tighten up. Do the opposite, push on.

The last little incline pulls as I start to anticipate the finish. It’s tougher to overtake my target this time, but I power up from the ground and take another one down.

Just beginning to sense a tiredness, but it’s too near to ease back now. The twists and turns of the final stretch taunt me. Have I built up the crowds in my memory, or are they really thinner this year thanks to the rain? One family screams and cheers as their runner passes by and I steal a boost from their energy.

Turn into Blaydon, no time for showboating high fives this year. It’s hurting a little now, and breathing is harder, but the end is tantalisingly close and I won’t give up now.

Into the car park and I start to pick up a sprint, pumping my arms and nearly knock a runner with a camelpack off his stride. We balance and go on again.

Spot the clock over the finish line as the commentator yells, “20 seconds to get under 50” and I punch it in, picking up my sprinter’s legs to blast out the last 50 yards. The last number I register as I dip under the gantry is 49:56.

For a second, I’m a bit deflated, that’s only just a minute faster than last year, and I felt so much faster and smoother. But a glance at my Garmin tells a different story 48:02 and a distance of 6 miles (showing that I hit the start button too early). And I’m elated. That’s a 3 min PB. And well, well on target for a sub 50 10k. If only this course was 0.2 miles longer….

Panting through the exit funnels, I keep my wits about me enough to keep my position this time.

So what’s changed? What was different? Why such a good run? Seems I like the cold and the rain. But I think it was me, in my head. My selfish focus on me and my race, my run. And the fact that I held on to it for the whole race.

Being quietly confident that I would do better because I’m stronger now and have the experience of knowing how I react to things in a race. Being excited, but not over-hyped about the run.

Coming off the back of a run of good form. A blistering mile in the sunshine and a good long run at the weekend. Then rest…even though I don’t like it, even though it can set me fretting. It does mean my legs are fresh and ready to go.

And having a good trainer and friend who has not only worked on the physical, making me stronger, fitter, faster; but also helped me undo some of the knots in my head. Kept faith in me and believed in me, so I have no choice but to believe in myself.

Garmin time: 48:02 6 miles
Official time: 49:56 ish 5.9 miles

Mile splits:
1. 7.51
2. 7.50
3. 7.43
4. 8.15
5. 8.12
6. 8.10



  1. What a great race Michelle and what a great writer you are – I got totally caught up in your account and now feel super excited about my little 5k on Sunday!

    Your running achievements are so inspiring. Sub 8 minute miles are incredible!!!!!!



    Comment by Katie — 10 June 2010 @ 18:50 | Reply

  2. Wow! Felt as though i was with you every step of the way…… well almost!

    Well done.

    Your proud sister xxx


    Comment by Helen — 10 June 2010 @ 22:02 | Reply

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