We only signed up for the Oliver Fisher 10k a few weeks ago, and mostly to get a qualifying run in for the Maximum Effort 10k medal that Claire had kindly signed us both up to with POW! Virtual Running after watching Deadpool at the cinema. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect; we thought it would be a bit hilly as it was round Capstone Farm Country Park near us but didn’t know if it was going to be tough or a bit of a killer like the Shoreham Woods 10k we did last year (which at points was like scaling mountains with just your feet, hands and a plastic fork). But it was for a good cause and we’d get to see another bit of Medway we didn’t know.
We were a little less than perfectly prepared, having spent most of the day before (and night) round my mum’s for a birthday soiree which we had organised and catered with my sister. Getting to bed at 2am wasn’t great preparation, and in my case imbibing a few beers and Disaronnos (with way too much grub) added to an enjoyable evening but made the alarm call a bit rough. Luckily the race didn’t start until half 10 so we got a bit more sleep than we might have, but I couldn’t face breakfast so settled on the strongest coffee I could make that wouldn’t melt the cup to get myself going.
We arrived in good time for the start, but the first clue to what was ahead came as we drove from the entrance to the car park and went up a very steep hill that even Remy (our 18 year old VW Polo) had to take a deep breath in order to scale. Hmm, maybe put plans on a PB tilt back in the box then. We wandered around a bit, jogged to the loo to lighten the load a bit and warm up and generally tried to ignore the usual pre-race nerves. Before we knew it though we were all congregating at the start. I said good luck to Claire as she drifted towards the back and I bumped in to Jon Moreton, the lunatic who is running 12 marathons in 12 months (but whose now upped it to 16 in 12!), and discussed the difficulties of running with a gum shield in and boxing gloves on (his fancy dress from the day before at parkrun). I was so engrossed that I didn’t actually hear the start and hadn’t even got my Garmin on, so had do a bit of light shuffling before we crossed the line to get my watch synced and some space to run in.
Once I had got timing started, and hustled round some of the slower runners ahead of me, I could only see about twenty people in front of me. It was hard to judge who was running the 5 or the 10k, but I wasn’t going silly fast so let myself creep up to a good speed and it took my past some more people. We went round the field at the top of the lap and then entered a downhill bit and I could only then see a dozen or so people in front. I was a bit worried that something was a miss to be so far up, especially having dawdled at the start, but I was going the right way as I could see the direction signs and there were runners going the same way….
The first mile was mostly downhill after the start and was through woods and across fields, with just a few turns and the odd rise to keep things interesting and the need to keep an eye on your footing. I tried to relax a bit and not be too heavy on the downhill bits and tweak my knee or punish my ankles. Mile two was the same, with a bit more trail and a winding path around the park. On a steeper downhill bit I went past a few more runners and then got to a weird section where the camber of the trail was set at a jaunty angle which made me feel like my right leg had grown a few inches longer and I had to really concentrate not to veer off into a hedge… Trail problems.
The third mile saw a nice detour around a pond, and a wave at some ducks, before heading back to the start and past some people who kindly offered encouragement and warnings of a particularly vicious puddle. This meant we went back up the hill we had struggled up in the car earlier – and I struggled to maintain my pace on my own two legs. A fellow runner at this point gasped whether I was running the 5 or 10k race and I croaked out ’10’ which seemed to please him, as he celebrated by slowing to a walk while frantically looking over his shoulder. I soldiered on until I got to the really steep bit and then had to admit defeat too and started to hike up. I felt bad walking in a 10k race but I was breathing hard, my legs were turning to jelly and I was not getting anywhere fast. Walking wouldn’t cost me any time but might stop me from blowing up, so I put my sensible pants on and strutted my way upwards and back on to a flatter section before slowly winding up again.
I went past the start/finish section and glanced longingly at the finish straight but ignored it and headed back up to the field at the start of the lap after failing to take on any water, giving up and just throwing it on my head to cool down a bit. The open field meant I could see who was ahead of me and I tried to gain a bit on the runner ahead, whilst at the same time not going silly with the hill I now knew awaited us at the finish. I went past someone in the wooded bit and then made a better go of the turns and stiles we had to negotiate, as I knew what was coming (and had got my breath back) and kept up a fair clip.
On the weird cambered trail bit I started to gain on another runner, and after a minute or two went past. I didn’t try and increase my pace but was happy to just drift ahead as I was conscious of not working to hard, but he sped up and so stayed with me and then after a bit re-took the lead. For the first time in a running race I was actually racing someone! I wasn’t entirely sure what to do, but as we reached the steeper section of the hill to the finish I found myself accelerating – big mistake. I gapped him but couldn’t sustain the new pace up the climb so began to slow and then was walking as my legs went and my breathing went through the roof. What a plonker. He went past me as the climb began to even out and then was yards ahead. I’d blown it; I should have just stayed behind and saved me effort for the end.
As the route went back to flat however I started to trot again and he wasn’t any further ahead. In fact he seemed to be suffering from his efforts up the hill and the crowd at the finish were shouting encouragement and I could hear Claire shouting my name. I suddenly found myself running and then sprinting towards the line, with every stride eating up the distance and he couldn’t seem to respond. I was properly motoring; I was going to pass him after all! And then 10 yards from the line a little blonde haired boy ran straight across the finish funnel right in front of me! I shouted, checked my stride and missed kneeing him in the head by about 6 inches. I was over the line but behind the other runner.
It happened so fast I didn’t really know what had occurred initially, even as I stood gasping just past the line. Then I was a bit angry that I’d not beaten the guy in front and more importantly almost killed a three year old. I shook hands through gritted teeth with the other runner and swore a little bit to myself (ok and maybe a little out loud for anyone who cared to listen). But then Claire was telling me well done and giving me some water (she had decided to do just the 5k and save the hill for another time) and I had a bit of time to calm down, get my breath back and stop sulking. Some more water, a Jaffa cake and some rain calmed me down even further and I started thinking and (almost) acting like an adult again and feeling quite pleased with my run. I also caught up with Jon again and got to here of his plans for more marathons with the peeps at Saxon, Vikings & Normans Marathons. By the time I’d got to the car I actually smiling.
I would do things differently if/when I do it again (not be hung over/pay attention at the start/start at the front of the field/save my finish for the… er, finish) but I enjoyed the race overall. It was a tough, challenging course and a useful experience of racing on trail. We celebrated like all good athletes afterwards, by getting a new flush handle for our toilet and having an ice cream in B&Q’s car park… and celebrations continued when I found out I’d finished 7th out of over 130 runners! My best result yet, outside of a parkrun, and although it was in a modest 45:15 it was a tough course (especially having to do that hill twice and have a lap to think about it the second time around) so was happy enough.
There’s time now for one final long run this weekend and then it’s tapering before hopefully completing another marathon at the Roald Dahl Challenge at Samphire Hoe. Fingers crossed it isn’t as windy as last time though, or it might be a long day… :S
Cheers for reading, Adam 🙂