First race of the season and after snow, ice, hail, wind and baltic blasts the sun shone and the breeze stayed calm, so it was a pretty perfect day for it.
I love this one. It’s my local. It was my first ever race. And I know a lot of other people like it too. It’s a nice route, it’s early in the season, it’s well organised and there’s a decent goody bag.
So, off to the start, and quickly spotted Rob for a quick chat along with a couple of parkrun regulars. I also spot Lesley, Diane and Peter as I’m getting ready to race, but there are many more who I miss. It’s very different from my first time at this race, when I desperately tried to spot Ian who was the only person I knew running it and felt very lost in the crowds of runners who all seemed to know each other or grouped together in club huddles.
But I wanted to give this a good focus, so I cut the chat short, warmed up with some drills, got my head in a good space and found a place at the start. The plan was to just run to feel. Wear the watch but don’t clock it. Run hard, race focus, not a social run, see where I am.
It’s crowded at the start and it takes a few seconds to get over the line. The runners move slowly and I’m sort of boxed in. I’ve snuck myself in close to Malcolm and Nigel from parkrun who I guess will run a similar, but slightly faster pace than me, but I tell myself to run my own race. They get a clearer run around the first junction and are away and I have to forget them, stick to the plan.
It still feels slow and I have to keep my wits about me as runners bunch together and then spaces open up. There’s room on the first downhill and I take advantage, relaxing my shoulders and just going with it, trying not to brake with my feet and having confidence that I can stay upright. Down onto the Fish Quay and I settle into my stride, keep the turnover quick and keep pushing.
There’s a twisty turny jink around bollards and picnic benches at the end of the quay and I have to keep my wits about me as we’re still a bit bunched in, looking for a fast way through. Then it’s onto the lower promenade and the sound of the sea makes me smile.
I’m trying not to overthink this one. Deliberately trying not to notice too much or pay too much attention to the scenery. This is about racing. Keep the focus, I tell myself. Keep the form.
But I know at the end of this stretch there’s the hill and then the other one. The short steep climb up from the promenade to the cliff top and then the road up past the Priory. I allow myself to cruise this, little steps, little steps, keeping the power off and the heart rate low. The idea is to have the strength to push on at the top and not burn out up the hill. It works.
Now I’m up on the tops and just a straight run out to the lighthouse like I’ve done a hundreds of times before and will do many hundred times again. There’s even a slight down slope where I pick up my breath, pass some other runners and push off onto the the straight.
But there’s a niggle. In my right foot I have pins and needles. I’ve had it before in training a couple of times. It seems to come on after about 3 miles and it will not shift. It’s the same today. The good thing is that I know I can ignore it and still run. The bad thing is that it can mess with my head if I let it. Today I choose to disregard it, but really I need to deal with it and stop it happening.
But I’m practically on the home straight here. You can see the lighthouse, the finish point, still impossibly distant, but full of promise. Keep the focus, keep the form.
I start to pick off runners in small groups. Girl in pink with a long plait. Guy in a bright yellow top. I’m not allowing myself to look too far ahead, just the next target and keep moving forward.
The pins and needles send me back onto my heels a little and I keep reminding myself to lean forward and stay on my toes. It’s harder to do, but I can feel the pick up in pace.
This isn’t a day for picking out landmarks or noting mile markers. I’m only vaguely aware of my surroundings, knowing the slight undulations of the ground as well as my own skin. I’ve kept the pace to the High Point, I know we’ve been subtly imperceptibly climbing a little and now it’s almost all flat and downhill, just a wee bump before the end.
Keep the focus, keep the form. Relentless forward motion. There are gaps, when I drift, when a part of my brain says ease back, it’s okay. These are swiftly and unmercifully dispatched.
This hasn’t been easy. Not even from the start. I haven’t had that wonderful magic free flow release of the run. But I’m not tense. I’m not too fretty (maybe a little crispy at the edges). I’m not forcing this, but I am working for this and I will be mad at myself if I let it go.
Keep the focus. Keep the focus. I will not look at my watch. But I do start to calculate how far is left to go. I figure I’m into the last 2 miles, maybe a bit less. My legs are tiring. My form is fading and I have to make more of a conscious effort to keep it in check. Sometimes you just have to go through the hurt.
I’m onto the Links now and I know it’s really not far. In a side portion of my brain, I register that there are people here cheering on runners. I see some kids with a banner. I even hear my name a couple of times, but I cannot afford the effort to look to see or identify the voices calling it.
Man, this hurts now. You know how at the beginning you felt maybe you were just holding back a bit? I don’t think you were. Hard to identify exactly what hurts. The right foot, but that’s been like that since the priory. Calf muscles – yes they’re working hard. Breathing, hmm, starting to go a bit ragged around the edges. I can feel myself draining away, and yet I will not listen to it.
Early on in the race, I passed Heather from Whitley Bay parkrun. She’s a good runner, but as I passed she was chatting to another runner, so maybe she was taking it easy. As we’re edging towards the end of the links, the finish line a last turn away, I hear a spectator call out ‘Go on Heather’. She’s right behind me and as I’m trying to hold onto whatever I have got left she’s gone past me.
I pick up and push on. Stay close. Stay focused. There’s the 6 mile marker. This really is the end game now. Mere metres to go and I cannot pick up. 200m – come on, you used to blast this at school. My legs are still winding it up. And so I leave it all to to the very end, the last gasp 100m. Power on, arms pumping, who needs oxygen anyway?
I think I beat Heather to the line. I know I took a few down and a guy tried to go with me in the last 40m. But I don’t care. I just know I ran my hardest today. I stop my watch and stumble forward only vaguely aware of any place in the line. The numbers 53:10. That’ll do.
I wanted a good run here. In the past couple of weeks I’ve started to feel my training is paying off and I got some of my belief back. It’s been a long winter and my focus has been divided between training and getting my qualification finished. Now that’s all done I can get set for some great events over the spring and summer, starting with my home race which will act as a marker for where I am now.
I’ve been wary of setting myself up for disappointment here. Of naive targets and hopeful dreams of resurrecting my best form to date. It’s early in the season and my focus has not been about running or speed work. I’ve barely run any 10ks and nothing over distance. I can put too much pressure on myself.
Today was about running pure. Putting it out there and seeing what I had. Finding my race focus again. Disciplining myself not to be distracted, even by this most beautiful and personal of courses. I think I did that.
Of course, me being me, I’m still thinking there’s a bit more. Some slight, small improvements that could help me edge off a few more minutes. Luckily I have another 10k next weekend to give them a try.
North Tynesdide 10k
1) – 0.62m – 5:12(8:22/m) – 63cal
2) – 0.62m – 5:05(8:11/m) – 62cal
3) – 0.62m – 5:09(8:17/m) – 66cal
4) – 0.62m – 5:49(9:21/m) – 67cal
5) – 0.62m – 5:19(8:34/m) – 67cal
6) – 0.62m – 5:18(8:32/m) – 65cal
7) – 0.62m – 5:30(8:51/m) – 66cal
8) – 0.62m – 5:19(8:33/m) – 66cal
9) – 0.62m – 5:24(8:41/m) – 66cal
10) – 0.61m – 5:06(8:24/m) – 65cal