After the high of my marathon training run last weekend things went a bit pear shaped this week – I was going to start tapering for my marathon race anyway but I managed to get the lurgy as well, so only managed two rather pathetic runs. I abandoned the second run after only a mile and meandered back home (as I didn’t want to get full blown Man-Flu) something I can’t remember having done for ages; I must be getting more sensible (or lazy). Either way I only managed a paltry 5.5 miles in the week.
So I was feeling less than prepared for our race on Sunday – the Beckenham Charity Trail 10k. I had wanted to run it last year (but it clashed with another race if I remember) so was pleased to do it this year, especially as it was close to my old stomping ground in Catford and an excuse to see my family. With the Medway Marathon (patent pending) still in my legs and snot still in my nose however, I was a bit worried about how I would get on. It probably also didn’t help that we hadn’t got to bed until 2 in the morning after a very enjoyable Halloween party on Saturday night. But a strong coffee, and a chocolate Hobnob, at my Mum’s on the way over seemed to perk me up a bit.
After picking up our race numbers from Beckenham Runners HQ we wandered the half a mile or so to Beckenham Place Park and the start of the course, which was to be 2 laps of the park taking in quite a few hills and a combination of compacted pathways and muddy trails through the woods. I know the park well as I used to play there as a kid many moons ago, and more recently run round it regularly in training when I lived in Bromley. I hadn’t been there since we moved out to the sticks (otherwise known as er…Medway) in December though, so was looking forward to seeing it again and if it had changed (spoiler – nope, it hadn’t).
The race was in aid of the Royal British Legion and St Christopher’s Hospice, two very worthy causes, and we observed a two minutes silence for Remembrance Sunday just before the race got under way. To mark the beginning, and end, of the silence a trumpeter played a haunting rendition of the Last Post. To suddenly go from milling about and chatting away with pre-race nerves to suddenly standing together in silence, on a wet field with just the wind in the background, was rather poignant. I felt quite moved by it and so did a lot of the other runners.
My thoughts then turned to the race itself; a few weeks before I was thinking of trying to get close to my 10K PB here. With my triple pneumonia and still feeling a bit knackered in general after my marathon (have I mentioned I ran a marathon in under 4 hours and poo rainbows now?) I decided to ease back a bit and aim for around 7 minute miles and a sub 44 minute time.
With a quick ‘Good luck’ to Claire we were off. I started mid-pack as I was tardy to the Start so immediately set about trying to get closer to the front and not get caught behind any bottlenecks of runners. The going was tough though as we were running on un-trodden grass that was long and wet and generally trying to slow you down with every step. Luckily after a quarter mile or so we were going downhill on some mud trail, before hitting an even bigger grass slope where the problem was trying to not go too fast and land on your arse. This may explain why I went off too quick (see also: stupidity) and slapped a 6:30 mile down to start (nearly 5K pace for me) and was huffing and puffing all over the place.
I was now just holding on. I tried to ease off a little, without slowing down too much, and recover and get my breathing under control, but it was difficult with the ever changing terrain and climbs the course threw in every few hundred metres (gits). I saw Claire coming round as the looped course came back on itself and with a high five and some shouting between us I felt a bit chipper and by 2 miles I didn’t feel like my lungs had developed leaks or my legs were being operated remotely by vindictive toddlers.
Coming to the end of the first lap I was pretty much on my own now and went up a horribly slippy hill mostly made of mud, followed by another climb up some evilly spaced steps. I did get to enjoy some respite on some oh so short downhill trail before hitting more uphill, this time up through the same sodding long, wet grass to complete the lap and go past the start/finish line area. I was still not a happy bunny at this stage and suffering. I declined the offered water, but did find the energy from somewhere to wave at my sister and mum who had kindly driven us to the race and come along to give support, take pictures and laugh at me in shorts.
Starting the second lap I tried to be more controlled on the downhills, but it didn’t really work as I slammed down the grassy downhill slope too quick again and this time jarred my right foot and gave myself pins and needles. Perfect! I swore at my own incompetence and tried to ignore how effectively I was messing the race up. Thankfully I wasn’t feeling too pressured from other runners as we were spread out along the course and so I could try and maintain a more comfortable pace and just get to the finish. My mindset was now all about survival; the course wasn’t as tough as the frightful Shoreham Woods 10k, there wasn’t half as much ascent here, I was just performing like a muppet.
I managed to stop being a miserable git at this point though and attempted to enjoy being out in the woods and doing something I love. I also tried to thank all the marshals as I went past a second time, as I wasn’t really in a fit state to do it the first go round; they were everywhere and were very helpful and encouraging. It was still hurting (and the pins and needles were getting worse in my foot) but suddenly the course seemed to be flying by (probably because I had gone through it already) and the twists and turns served to keep my mind occupied. I went past one runner at about the 5 mile mark and then tried to work out my likely finish time, but gave up after my brain told me to concentrate on not falling over or getting snot or vomit on anyone instead.
Nearing the end of the lap I began to steel myself for the tough climbs to the finish and tried to start gaining on the runner in front whilst ignoring the pins in needles in my foot. But joy of joys the second lap cut out the last climb so we cut across onto the open field of the finish area. I tired to pin my ears back and go but it wasn’t really happening for me, and although I did gain a bit of ground on the runner in front I wasn’t going to catch him. I crossed the line in 44:33 with my mum and sister’s shouts of support ringing in my ears, and gratefully took a bottle of water. I also got a medal (which appeared to be from a cracker) and a Beckenham Runners bag; but I wasn’t too bothered about the bling for this race. They had made it very clear you would only be getting a ‘token’ at the end, so I was impressed they had managed to muster anything at all, especially as the entry fee was so modest (£12).
After a few minutes I stopped feeling like I was going to honk and felt a bit more with it. I chatted with my mum and sister while we clapped in the other runners and waited for Claire to finish, which she did with a massive 7 minute PB for a trail 10k! She smashed it and bless her suffered as a result of her efforts so needed a minute or two get her breath back. I was getting a bit nippy as I had foolishly left my fleece in the car, so after a quick photo shoot we wander out of the park and back to the car for warmth and Chewits. Things went a little slowly however, as we had to work as a team to keep my mum upright down the slopes and through the mud; she had worn shoes with absolutely no grip whatsoever and appeared to preparing for a recurring role on ‘You’ve Been Framed’. Thanks Ma.
All in all it was a good race; well organised and with a challenging course and I would definitely do it again. I was disappointed in my run and time when I finished, but that was because I was being unrealistic about what state I was in and how much the long training run had taken out of me (and the quadruple pneumonia didn’t help either) so feel more positive about it now with hindsight. Now I need to recover and maintain some kind of mileage before tapering for the Riverside Marathon and hopefully a shiny new Marathon PB…
Thanks for reading 🙂