North Tyneside 10k 2017

Back to racing at the North Tyneside 10k

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North Tyneside 10k photo by Ian Harman photography – I’m in the red and yellow Fetch T-shirt

It’s been a long time since I wrote a race report, but then it’s been a long time since I’ve raced. September last year saw my final triathlon of the season at the Brownlees event at Harewood House and I haven’t done a competitive race since then.

Easter Sunday was to be the day I stuck a number on my shirt, a timing chip on my trainers and ran 10k along the North East coast from North Shields to Whitley Bay in the annual North Tyneside 10k.

This is my most local race and the first one I ever did back in 2009, so it has good memories for me. It’s always on Easter Sunday, which means that the conditions can be very variable. I’ve run it with snow and hailstones lashing down, and then another time got sunburned shoulders and plodged in the sea at the finish. But there’s always the promise of some chocolate indulgence afterwards.

I’ve been focusing on building up Wordstruck, my freelance writing and training business over the past few months, so haven’t done anything like the volume of training that I’ve done in previous years. One or two runs per week, and a weight training session is about all I’ve managed with any kind of consistency.  I also hurt my back a few weeks ago, luckily not badly, but it has meant I’ve been easing back into running and other training.

So, those are all my excuses. But really I don’t need to make them, because like everyone else running, I was prepared to get up, get there and give it a go. My aim was to run harder than I would do in training, run every step and to enjoy it. And I did.

In a well practised routine, I dropped my car off near the finish and got a lift to the start at the Parks Leisure Centre in North Shields. There was a great sense of anticipation, seeing lots of running club vests and runners all gathering together for a big race. The air was chilly, and the forecast rain and wind were being kept at bay.

My pal Peter Brooks spotted me and said hello and we had a nice chat before the start. I only saw a couple of other runners I know, which was surprising given the crowds. I remained quite relaxed as we made our way to the start.

Wearing my new Garmin Fenix 5S for its first race, I got set to press start as I stepped over the line, with a chorus of beeps showing our timing chips had been activated. I was off and running! And it felt great.

The first section of the course is pretty crowded as runners find their way through the streets of North Shields and then turn down the hill towards the Fish Quay. I didn’t have any problems running among the crowds though, just finding my own space and really picking up some speed on the down hill.

Along the Fish Quay, it felt quite sheltered and even warm, and there was plenty of space as runners in brightly coloured shirts streamed in a ribbon along beside the river. We all knew there was a hill coming, and as it got closer, there was an almost palpable sense of tension. I focused on shortening my stride and just keeping going, up, then a little left turn and up again, before the road opens out beside Tynemouth Priory and another steep uphill, crowned with supporters.

In a bid to do some training, I will come out and run hill reps up this slope, so I’m not frightened of it. I kept my pace steady, just pushing on, counting the lamposts to emerge at the top, and keep going, knowing there’s a nice easy downhill to help regather your energy.

Now I was on familiar ground, running along the route of many regular runs, the sea on my right, a cool breeze on my face. The only difference from my training runs are the number of other runners and supporters on the course.

St Mary’s lighthouse marks the finish line

Three miles down and I was feeling good, knowing the hardest part of the route was behind me. At this point, I was saying to myself, push on, keep pushing and don’t leave anything in the tank.

Having focused on recovering, I’ve been running at relatively easy effort, with little focus on speed, so I wasn’t too sure how I would feel picking up the pace for a race.

I was still enjoying it and high fiving the occasional supporter along the route. I got a couple of shout outs, but didn’t always see where they came from. One little lad with blond hair was doing a great job of cheering on runners and gave me a good loud “Go on Fetch” (reading my race T-shirt). That gave me at least a half a mile boost.

I deliberately didn’t look at my watch, but felt the buzz as I clocked up another mile. Knowing the route, I also had an innate sense of where I was and how far I still had to go. I glanced at the view a few times, but today was more focused on looking ahead and pushing on. I started to target runners in front to chase down and pass, but I was starting to feel it was taking more of an effort to keep up the pace.

Just before Spanish City, the path narrows sharply, and marshals directed us onto the road for a short section, before we ducked around the new hotel and back onto the footpath beside Whitley Bay links. Somewhere along here I saw a runner I recognised from parkrun, with her distinctive hair braids, and wearing a Newcastle Front Runners shirt. I went to shout her some encouragement, but blanked on her name, so burbled something incomprehensible that she didn’t hear. Sorry Vanessa!

By now I was running along the Links, knowing that there was only just over a mile to go. Nothing hurt, I still felt good, but it felt like I’d started to go backwards as my pace dropped and runners seemed to pass me on both sides. My old work pal Helen Riding gave me a shout as she passed by and I focused on keeping her in my sights as long as I could. But by now there were supporters and runners who had finished beside the paths, and I lost track of her as I absorbed energy from their support.

The signs appear for the last few hundred metres and a runner behind me encourages two girls to push on for the finish. I’m still thinking ‘leave nothing in the tank’ and pick up the pace as I round the final corner with the finish line in sight. After feeling a bit sluggish for the past half mile or so, my legs surprise me with a blast of pace and I manage a sustained sprint for the line. Wow! That felt great.

I have a chat with Helen at the finish. She thinks she’s got close to the hour and my watch tells me I’m just over 1h 1 min. I’m slower than last year when I just scraped in under the hour, but really happy with how I ran and how I felt running and racing again.

It is a glorious thing to be able to do, to just get up and know that I can run 6.2 miles. I’ve run further and faster, but 10k remains my benchmark of a decent but enjoyable challenge and the kind of run that I aim to do regularly, either training or racing.

Running it along a familiar and beautiful piece of coast line with so many fellow runners and friends is a once a year privilege, and one I hope to enjoy for a long time yet.

Stats and map

North Tyneside 10k – first race of the season

It’s always good to be back at this race, the first one I ever did in 2009. Traditionally one of the first events on the calendar, it has a celebratory atmosphere, with a chance to catch up with friends and runners, and no pressure, because it’s the first race.

It felt good to be fastening on a number and preparing to race. The sun was shining and the coast had put on its most welcoming face. My aim was just to run and see where I was at.

The last four weeks I’ve focused on run and speed training. I’ve been pushing myself to go that bit faster over shorter distances, running intervals, to try and break my habit of always running at a comfortable pace. I think it’s been working as the faster paces always feel uncomfortable, but I’ve been doing some decent parkrun times and could feel myself becoming used to pushing on a bit harder.

I bumped into lots of running pals at the start, did a bit of a warm up and felt quite nice and relaxed as I waited for the start. As i crossed the timing mat, I told myself to ‘go hard and hang on’ and bounded away to find some clear space.

I managed to negotiate the crowded start really well, without having to dodge and weave about too much. My feet felt light and I was enjoying running in the crowd, but very much in my own space.

Running up Priory Hill on the North Tyneside 10k
Running up Priory Hill – picture by Flip Owen

As I came down the bank onto the fish quay, I got a bit of a stab of a stitch in my right upper rib, so I focused on taking some deeper breaths and eased back on the pace a little. I had the feeling I may have gone off a bit too fast. As a couple of speedy runners I recognised cruised along from behind me to pass, I knew I’d most likely over cooked that first mile.

Along the quayside, I tried to find a better pace, one that was sustainable, but still hard. It took a while for my stitch to disappear, but I’d shaken it off before the steep incline up towards the priory.

For once, I didn’t try to power up the climb, but just kept the pace consistent, and tried to keep my breathing easy. It worked. I was very happily powering up the second incline and feeling strong when I was spotted by running pal Flip, taking photos of us toiling up the hill.

Definitely one of my better runs up that hill. Last week’s hill reps on the same route gave me a real psychological boost, and at the top, I just kept going, with no real need to recover, taking advantage of the slight drop down towards Longsands.

Almost half race distance as I passed the water stop and I was feeling good. Now I started to pull myself along by targeting runners in front,  to catch and overtake. My usual run route was passing in a blur and I was barely paying any attention to the scenery.

Some people watching made a comment about it being easy, along the lines of, “You could beat most of them..”. Hmm, I thought, I’d like to see you try. Sure we weren’t going as fast as the really speedy runners who would be approaching the finish by now, but we were by no means slow.

All along the course I kept getting shout outs. I wasn’t always able to spot who they came from, but they always helped put a smile on my face and an extra bound in my step. I also took the chance to high five a few kids standing watching. I don’t think it slowed me down very much, and it did boost my attitude and enjoyment.

I was avoiding my watch, just running to feel, but I started to feel the strain on my legs somewhere around 4 miles. I think I stopped focusing on runners to pass, and became conscious that my legs and hips were starting to feel the strain. It was costing me more effort to keep the pace.

Still I pushed on, reminding myself to keep my feet light. Sometimes it felt really serene, like I was floating, and I tried to hold onto that, but I was definitely feeling the strain.

I passed a couple of runners who had stopped to stretch or slowed to a walk. I knew that even though I was working hard, I wouldn’t have to stop, so I used that to push on again, hoping to make the most of the closing stages.

There’s a bit of a incline again around 5 miles. Not really noticeable, but a pull on your legs as you pass by the links and the crowds start gathering close to the path. Here I was watching out for my trainer Ian and his wife Kelda and was pleased to spot them and give them a wave. Ian shouted ‘Dig in’ – which is just what I was doing and just what I needed.

Despite my best efforts, I could feel I was slowing down a bit. There was a runner in a long sleeved pink top who had been near me at the start of the race, and who I’d clocked as I passed a little way before. She came through on my right hand side and try as I might, I couldn’t keep pace with her and lost her in the distance.

North Tyneside 10k T-shirt
Nice race T-shirt in the goodie bag

Still, run your own race, I told myself, knowing there was less than a mile to go, and preparing to push for a sprint finish. At the 6 mile mark, it gets a bit crowded with people watching the run and faster runners making their way back to cars and buses. I tried to push on and found another gear, but was still keeping something back until I could see the line and power down for the finish. A good shout from the Elvet Striders finish line posse and I was over the line!

My time on my watch was 56:05 and I don’t think I could have asked for much more than that today. I don’t like to set too many time targets for races, because I think they become self limiting. But I had hoped to run at around 9 min mile pace for as long as possible. With my first mile being well below that, I averaged out at 9:02/mile. So I am very happy with that, and the nice race T-shirt we all got in our goody bags.

It was great to see some of my running friends at the finish and hear of their good races and to hear of some terrific PBs. It’s not the fastest that I’ve run that route, but it’s more than 30 secs faster than last year. I’m feeling strong and confident in my training at the moment, so it’s a really promising start to my run and tri season.

North Tyneside 10k 2014

Go hard and hold on were my pre-race tactics. And I was raring to go for the first outing of the season. Not too outwardly nervous, deliberately not setting myself a time target, just go out there, give it plenty and see where I am. That’s not quite what happened.

This is my home race. It’s the first road race I ever did. And I reckon my legs could run the second half of it on their own, they’re so used to the route.

North Tyneside 10k 2014
Me getting into my stride after the hill

Today, as I arrived at the sports centre for the start, I reflected on that first race, and how I felt so out of my depth, seeing all the club colours and little groups of people greeting each other, wishing each other luck.

Now, as soon as I pitch up, I spot parkrunners and Fetchies, and Elvet Striders who I always muscle in on, as I’ve adopted myself to their crew. I catch up with some of my running friends and I know there are more that I won’t see, but who will be there.

I do a bit of socialising, but remember I am here to race, so take myself away from the crowds to do a good warm up. High knees, heel kicks, a bit of bounding and then just a gentle run around the park paths. I wave at Kev Lister, Newcastle parkrun legend and super speedy runner, and he stops and jogs on the spot for a bit until I join him for a bit of a warm up run.

He must be at crawling pace, as he’d be twice as fast as me at my top speed, but he seems happy enough to run alongside and chat for a bit, and I relax and enjoy and look forward to the race. Eventually I slow to a walk, and send him on his way as I do some more bounding and a couple of sets of strides. I feel good, nice and relaxed, legs fell like they’re ticking over nicely.

But there’s a niggle. My right shoulder, around the trapezius has been tight and uncomfortable, like I’d cricked my neck or slept funny. It’s a niggle I’ve had before, but rarely, and never due to an identifiable cause. I put it to the back of my mind and get set to race.

Go hard and hold on, I say to myself as I huddle in with some Elvets, rather closer to the front of the line than I like, but still excited to be racing. It’s felt like a long winter and I want to remember what it feels like to be racing

This isn’t a chipped race, so I start my watch at the gun and take maybe 10-15 seconds to cross the line, only to be baulked just afterwards as the crowds navigate a roundabout. But all good, no problems, we’re off and running. It’s congested at the start and easy to get knocked or elbowed, but I always seem to get lucky and find space, without having to jink about too much.

It’s a fast first kilometre with a steep downhill. I know to stick to the road and avoid the risk of turning an ankle on the curb at the side. I spot parkrun regulars Penny and Paul and pass them on the downhill. I’m tempted to try and stick with them as I know they’ll run a good even pace, and they’re regularly ahead of me at parkrun. But this is my race and it’s go hard and hold on, remember. And I do love a downhill.

Left turn onto the Fish Quay and the run opens out a little. There’s a good stretch of flat space here, a chance to pick up ahead of the hill. I normally find my feet and blast out along the promenade beside the water. But not today.

A sharp jab between neck and shoulder shocks me to actually cry out. And every footstep jolts and jolts again. The nearest I can describe it is like having a stitch. The pain, stabs suddenly sharply, then retreats to a dullness before jabbing again and again.

My mind runs to experience. I’ve had this before. It’s nothing serious. It goes if you let it. Just believe. It will go. It will go. I reach across and put pressure on the sore spot, hoping that an extra degree or two of warmth might soothe it. But it takes a while. And all the time, the hill is approaching.

I talked another parkrunner up this hill yesterday. Spoke of its twist and then the downhill and then the real climb up the road beside the Priory. Nothing to fear. Just short and sharp, face it and forget it.

But I need rid of this stabbing shoulder before I tackle it. So I let myself ease back just a little, breathe deeper, consciously relax my shoulders, rather than letting them tighten anticipating the pain. The jolts really hurt now, but I just have to have faith they will stop. I’m up the first rise and running the downhill before I realise they have gone.

Little steps, little steps, keep the heart rate down, ready to push on at the top. I pick up my feet, keep my cadence fast and top Priory Hill feeling stronger than I have at this point in the race before. Around me runners are gasping, breathing heavily, dropping back. I push on.

“It’s all downhill from here,” I hear someone nearby say. I know that’s not strictly true, but there’s nothing approaching that steep slope in the next three miles. But the damage to my pace has been done. Easing back to save my shoulder, I’ve drifted into my hard but sustainable groove.

I look for positives. I spot Gary and wave and smile for a photograph. Tell myself to dig in for the second half of the race. keep believing. Don’t let your head drop.

There is a headwind. But I’m not feeling it hurting my pace, just welcoming it keeping me cool. I know I’m battling my mental demons and am happy that I’m just about keeping them in check. Run your own race I say to myself. Believe.

That becomes my mantra for the next few miles. Believe. It would be easy to give up. To use the excuse of a jabbing shoulder to write off this race. To cruise round, high fiving the kids. But that would be the easy way out. You never know what the run’s made of until the finish. It ebbs and flows. Keep believing, keep looking for the flow.

In my running reverie, I realise I’ve turned myself into the lone runner of my training runs again. Head into the wind, tackling this coastal path on my own. When in reality, I am surrounded by other runners. Time to get selfish. Time to start using them, picking them off, overtaking.

I hone in on a target just ahead and cruise past him. And then another and another. Mile 4 to 5 passes and I’m in the last part of the race now. I become aware of a girl on my left shoulder in a red North Shields poly top. We cat and mouse a little over about half a mile, first her just a stride in front, then me. This is good, I think. Now I’m racing. Finding a focus as my legs start to tire.

A gaggle of club runners go past us and she shouts encouragement to one of them. I try to latch onto the group as protection from the wind, but there’s a little rise up and they pull ahead, and at the same time I feel my shoulder throb.

Come on, come on. It’s the last mile, I say to myself. Push on, push on. I feel a pat on my back and a cheery ‘Hello smiler!’ from Peter. He’d said he’d be taking it it easy. And although I know his taking it easy, would be a good pace for me,  I honestly think I’ve really dropped off the pace and have a moment of feeling down hearted.

Then I spot the North Shields Poly girl who had been running alongside me off to the side, looking a bit distressed. I’m clearly in better shape than her. “I was running with you,” I shout “Come on! Come on!”. Probably not the most helpful thing I could think of, but still I don’t want everyone to have a miserable race and I feel guilty about being grumpy as Peter passed me. She shakes her head, but I can see she’s trying to dive back into the run. I hope she finished and feels okay.

There are crowds lining the links and faster runners walking back along the course. I see the buses lined up waiting to take runners back to the start. The sign says 300m to go. Then the 6 mile marker, partially obscured. Then 200m and I try to wind it up. Then there’s a crowd of Striders and Alister giving a great big shout and it’s the last corner, and bugger the shoulder, I’m going to sprint finish.

Someone’s breathing down my shoulder for once and coming with me. Not now, mate. You’ve got to really try to catch The Scribbler in the death or glory final yards. I overtake one runner before the line, stop my watch and manage to keep moving, before looking at my watch – 57:41. That’s not so shabby.

I shuffle forwards and my shoulder gives me another jolt, pain kicking in after the adrenaline surge. But a swig of water and a walk back up the finish straight, soon takes my mind off it. There’s always a decent goody bag for this race, and this year, the T-shirt is very nice, branded up for the 10th anniversary, and there’s a pair of socks the right size for me.

I join the Elvets at the last corner in time to give a shout out and high five to Sue and Karen and to be sufficiently adopted to be offered malteser traybake. I LOVE the Striders.

I’ve probably made the thing with my shoulder sound worse that it is. It just threw me a bit at the start of the race. I did want to go and put it all out there. To run as hard and as fast as I could, even if that meant blowing up and shuffling to the finish. I didn’t do that today. As I remarked to the girls in the car on the way back, my legs didn’t hurt enough. So that’s there for another race.

I finished and in a decent time given the conditions. And I’ve set my benchmark for 10k this year. I enjoyed seeing my friends and hearing of happy runs and some cracking performances.

And I’ve had a sharp dose of perspective, reading  Nicki’s blog post today. She didn’t have a great time on a 42k run this weekend. She still finished, and knowing Nicki, she’ll be smiling and laughing about it over a beer or two. So really, I have nothing to moan about.

But still, I have unfinished business with this distance. I know I can run it faster. So, reflect, regroup. Stuff face with Easter chocolate. Lessons will be learned and experience gained. I just feel like I’m due a really good run.

North Tyneside 10k

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
Split Summary
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

A running anniversary

The North Tyneside 10k was my first ever race and every year it rolls around, it seems to mark a change in my running story. My first time, I felt nervous, lonely, out of place among all the running vests. But I finished with the hugest grin and knew I wanted to do it again.

My second time, I knew so many more people, felt at home in the crowd and ran my socks off for a PB. Last year, I was sorry not to run it, but it fell the day before my first tri, so I stood in the sunshine and watched and cheered friends, Fetchies and parkrun pals.

Me and Danielle at the North Tyneside 10k
Me and Danielle towards the end of the race. Thanks to Rob Kirtley for the picture.

This time, still conscious of coming back from injury, I offered to pace my twitter and parkrun buddy Danielle, who was aiming to get as close to 60 minutes as she could. It was a bit of a daunting task, as it would be my longest run since January, but after a good run at the Olympic Park last week, I felt confident I could run a nice steady pace and just enjoy it.

It was great to see so many familiar faces at the start, to fall in with a group of Elvet Striders (surely one of our friendliest running clubs) waiting in the sports centre. Smashing to chat to Adam on for a super speedy run and to catch up with Karen and Sue. Team Fetch was out in force, both running and supporting.

Grey and overcast, with barely a breath of wind, it was splendid running weather, and not too cold as Danni and I headed out to the start. My aim was to keep it steady, just under 10 min miling as we clicked our Garmins on the start line. We soon found space and kept it nice and relaxed, running along with Natalie from parkrun for a good spell in the first mile.

There’s a good down hill within the first stretch and then a turn onto the quayside and along by the river. Here I noticed my Garmin hadn’t started properly, so clicked it into action and just used the pace to guide me until the first mile when I lapped the timer to get roughly back on track.

Our first mile was a bit speedy at 9:20ish, but with the downhill and race rush, that’s almost inevitable. Danni hadn’t run this route before, so I tried to keep her ready for what was coming up. There’s a steep hill that bends round at the end of the quayside and then another almost immediately after up by the priory. We picked our feet up and powered past a couple of runners on the ups and made it to the top.

I thought Danni was running really well, as we recovered at the top and assured her that the rest was pretty flat, plain sailing. But maybe 10 min miles was a bit ambitious as she started to struggle at around 3 miles and needed a little break to get her breathing on track. We grabbed some water and pushed on along the sea front, with me pointing out my favourite spots.

I was trying to measure out the right amount of encouragement and push, but I could sense she was finding it hard and had to take a couple more breaks. I really felt for her, because I know how hard it is to push yourself for a time and the pressure you put on yourself.. So I said just to run at her pace, to keep moving forward and get to the end.

The skies were brightening as we got to 4 miles, and although I was pretty sure sub 60 was now out of reach, I thought we could still sneak her a PB. So I kept on moving, just willing her on and looking forward to some cheers and shouts along the links.

A couple of Go Fetchie shouts, and then there were Lesley Anne and Penny cheering us on, swiftly followed by Flip, Anna and Adam (finished and looking fresh faced and ready to run again). You certainly gave us a bit of a boost, as did the sight of the finish line and as we turned towards the lighthouse, Danni and I picked up the pace.

With 200m to go, she was finishing strongly and still keeping me at a decent sprint, so on we pushed for the finish. With me losing bait of time at the start, I was a bit unsure of our time, but sadly, I didn’t manage to get her that PB. But goodness knows, she tried.

The usual fab goody bag collected and I wandered back to catch up with my Fetchie friends, almost forgetting to collect my bag. But it was great to hear of so many good runs and a massive 5 min PB from one of Newcastle’s parkrunners. And just as nice to get a hug from Lesley Anne and a welcome lift back home and time to catch up with Penny.

My first reaction on finishing was that I didn’t feel like I’d just run over 6 miles, my longest run in terms of time and distance since January. But as we walked back over the Links, I did feel a small twinge of heel pain. It’s the last remnants of the plantar fasciitis and I’ve eased it quickly with ice and massage. But it does remind me I am still on a comeback. And as much as I long to go out there and blast out a fast run, I have to keep my patience.

So I’ll try to pick up bit of speed work, little by little and keep rolling, stretching and working with what I’ve got. And I really do hope this is the last race where I have to hold back. I enjoyed my run and it’s great to be covering the distance again, but I really miss the speed and push, the adrenaline rush of finding my limits.

Pacing my recovery

Pulling together my last swimming blog means I didn’t mention a pretty good weekend of training, including my return to running at Newcastle parkrun. And now I find myself a week on and catching up.

Last Saturday was as perfect as you’re likely to get on the Town Moor, a spot of spring sunshine and practically no breeze. There were certainly plenty of runners out. My plan was for a steady run. My back to run programme had a 30 minute run on it, so I figured that would be okay to get me round the course. Keeping my pace steady seems to be the key to preventing pain in my heel and plantar. So this was definitely one to treat as a training run.

I did a good 5 minute warm up with walking, knee lifts and heel kicks, just like I’ve been doing before every run. Then I got a bonus warm up as a couple of Northumbria Uni students took us through some jogging and stretches before the start.

I shuffled back through the crowds and stood with Penny, but I knew she would be off and away from the start. It felt good to be running on the moor again, among the happy crowd of parkrunners. I resisted the urge to surge off fast, and just kept telling myself easy, easy, easy as I approached the first km marker.

In two weeks’ time I’m going to be running 5 miles around the Olympic park, so I wanted to build up time on my feet and get a feel for what would be a sensible pace. It’s been tough to just run and not worry about pace too much as I recover from this plantar fasciitis. What I thought of as slow, easy pace, wasn’t really on the first couple of test runs and it made the recovery afterwards painful.

So the plan for parkrun was 9 min miles and at the first kilometre I was slightly ahead. A cheery thank you to Malcolm on the gate and off down the tree-lined path along Grandstand Road.

As I turned back onto the moor and along the rougher path, I caught up with Penny. After checking she was okay, we fell into step together. That really helped keep me going at the same pace through kms 3-4 as by now, that easy pace was starting to feel about as much as I wanted to do.

For once, the slight headwind into the last kilometre provided a bit of welcome coolness and running together, I could tell we were trying hard as the conversation dropped to a minimum. I was just happy to be out and running, not feeling any issues or problems and I think we picked up the pace a little as we approached the last turn.

I couldn’t resist giving my legs a quick turnover and putting on the power down the final straight. Not full pelt, top speed by any means, but I felt confident enough to give a quick finish a try.

A warm down and catch up over coffee rounded off a lovely morning. And it was great to get my parkrun text result. I enjoy volunteering, but it is nice to run too.

I pottered around the rest of the day, doing chores and made my first ever batch of lemon curd after getting some lovely unwaxed lemons in our veg box this week. I was a bit disappointed to feel a small tight spot in my heel by late afternoon. I rolled and stretched it, but it was still there and remained there even after my swim with the tri club, which often shakes these things out.

On the positive side, this plantar fasciitis is diminishing, but it’s a good reminder that I need to continue being cautious. Maybe 9 min miling around a 5k was a bit too much and I should have slowed down even more, but until I try it, I don’t know. And during a run, I generally feel okay.

I think that’s been the hardest part about dealing with this injury. I have never really had the kind of running fitness that would allow me to rock up and run a half marathon any weekend, but I have had enough to do a decent 10k on a regular basis for a couple of years. And now those 6 plus miles look as far away as they did the first time I ever set myself that goal.

I have the North Tyneside 10k rapidly approaching. It’s my home race. It goes past the bottom of my street and I run much of the route as part of my training. If things had been different this year, I’d have been building towards it, running fast intervals and working on my speed, pushing for a PB.

I know that’s not the case this year, and barring any drastic setbacks, I am happy just to run it for fun and the goody bag. But in my mind, running it fairly easily was still translating at around 9 min miles, which was my half marathon pace last year. Now I think that’s probably still a bit ambitious as I continue to recover.

I can’t unlearn what I know about pacing. Even if I don’t wear my watch I have a good idea about how fast I’m going and I’m quite good at finding a pace and sticking to it. So, no pressure, no unreasonable expectations, just a comeback run, but I do need a target pace to set myself off, or else I risk getting carried away and hitting it too hard.

I also managed a lovely ride out on my road bike on Sunday. I’ve been a bit nervous about getting the roadie out again, but within minutes I was enjoying the sensation of speed and the smooth transitions through the gears. such a difference from my trusty old mountain bike.

We raced together up the coast, enjoying the sunshine, into the wind. On the way back, on a downhill, with the wind behind me, I dropped and tucked and carried much of that rush all the way home again. And I knew, I’d fallen in love with Alice, my road bike again.

I’d been riding with flat pedals after losing my confidence with clipped in last year, but after such a brilliant ride, I took her to the bike shop and got her fitted out with some new ones. I’ve gone for mountain bike style clip ins this time and a dual option pedal which will allow me to ride with or without bike shoes. They may not be the sleekest or lightest pedals, but they should allow me to build up my confidence again and get used to clipped in riding before my first tri of the year in May.

So a weekend of running, swimming and cycling. Can’t wait for tri season!