No pressure – I think that’s how I can summarise the last few months of my running adventures. From running 26.2 miles through the streets of Sydney, my post marathon recovery, my ‘training’ across the past weeks, my last ‘race’ at the Hedgehog Half Marathon, and indeed Sunday’s Doncaster 10k - I have had no expectations. I have simply been keeping my running ‘ticking over’ mainly for my own physical and mental health. I therefore entered the Doncaster 10k primarily for social purposes rather than chasing a particular time; I loved completing the race last year with my friend when she was back in the UK from Australia, so when her Mum asked if I wanted to come visit and run it again with her, I instantly signed up.
I travelled to Doncaster on Saturday and enjoyed a relaxed evening catching up and being made to feel very welcome – it was lovely. Waking on Sunday morning my calm attitude remained; if anything, I was just looking forward to running a 10k, which is a distant I often do not get chance to run. It was a cool, grey morning, and as we arrived at the start, which is based at Doncaster Race Course, we sought sanctuary in the indoor course venue - as did most other runners! The atmosphere here was friendly with that bubble of pre-race energy in the air, and I bumped into a few familiar faces from the Lincoln running community. We headed to the Doncaster Athletics Club meeting point, which is who my friend’s Mum runs with. Technically I was an outsider to this group, but I was instantly made to feel welcomed. Strangers chatted to me and gave me good luck hugs as we headed to the start line, I felt so at ease and like I was one of them - the running community at its best.
At the start line I took a brief moment to contemplate the actual race ahead of me, mainly due to the fact I had to decide which time marker to start by! I opted ahead of the sub 45-minute pacer, mainly as I hate running alongside a pacer, and secondly, whilst I did not think I was in PB shape, I thought I could challenge sub 45 mins if I ran well. A fellow Lincoln parkrunner found me at the start line and asked me what my aim was for the race; I answered honestly – ‘I am not really sure!’ He was clear with his race goal though; he simply said he wanted to beat me! With a wry smile we shook hands – I think I now felt like racing!
The start gun fired into the November sky and I set off, quickly getting into a comfortable stride. From last year I remember the first half of the 10k flying by; the course winding around the centre of Doncaster and surrounding residential streets. The views are not overly memorable (sorry Doncaster!) but at the same time it is not boring, with a good level of support to keep your mind engaged. I glanced a couple of times at my watch just to see what pace I was running, but in all honesty, I was now more focused on keeping just ahead of my parkrun friend, who was sat on my shoulder – waiting to pounce I presumed!
The half way point arrived very quickly as we looped back past the race course start, with the course then heading out to complete an out and back section on a longer road. I recalled from last year that this part of the route featured a sharp hill at the turn around point, followed by a gradual climb back to the finish. This would test my legs. They held strong though, my pace did not drop and the strength in my stride remained. Out and back sections can sometimes be soul destroying, but I like it at Doncaster as you get a boost from the runners each side of the road. On my way ‘out’ the speed of the frontrunners already heading toward the finish inspired me, and I shouted across to another female Lincoln parkrunner who was pushing to finish 3rd lady (which she did!) On the way ‘back’ I was boosted by seeing further friends from the Lincoln running scene and tried to shout across more words of encouragement. During these final miles I also got comfortably ahead of my racing partner and I was now striding out firmly on my own.
The final 200m of the race enters back into the race course itself, with the finish line placed next to the Grandstand. Here for the first time in the race I felt real strain, above normal levels of running related discomfort. Glances at my watch had told me that I was now chasing down a PB and every second counted. I pushed hard, I think all good running form went out the window as I surged for the finish. As I crossed the line I looked down at my watch – it read a new PB of 43:16. This was a time I definitely did not think I was capable of running and my average pace frankly amazes me! My finish time is one thing, but what I loved most was that I felt really strong whilst running, and reviewing my splits later on told me I had indeed ran very consistently. I relished every single step of the 10k and equally enjoyed the finish line moment where my body felt spent but my mind felt alive.
With my medal strung around my neck I quickly bustled my way through the crowds to find a spot along the barriers to watch my friend’s Mum finish and to cheer her on. The Doncaster 10k was her first race for some months following a leg injury, and I really wanted to see her finish with a big smile on her face. The weather conditions for racing had been near perfect, however they were not quite made for spectating in shorts and tshirt…! I stood by the barrier regardless vaguely hoping my post race euphoria would keep me warm. Thankfully a fellow spectator came to my rescue ‘you are going to freeze’ he exclaimed, ‘I will be fine’ I lied. But before I could protest, he had taken off his jacket and given it to a sweaty runner to wear – the kindness of strangers/mixed with the madness of runners! My friend’s Mum's beaming smile was certainly worth waiting for and as I greeted her after the finish line I gave her a happy hug; it is great to be able to celebrate achievements together.
The Doncaster 10k is not just a great course set at an excellent race venue, but it also offers little extras which add to the experience. We therefore enjoyed the free post run pies and hot chocolate whilst chatting again to Doncaster Athletics Club members before heading to the local hotel, which had put on more free hot drinks for runners, and carrying on the post race conversations in their warmth – it was a perfect end to the race.
I sometimes feel like people may roll their eyes when I say I did not set out for a PB and then go and run one – I may even do the same if it was the other way around! I truly had no expectations for the Doncaster 10k though, I was running for me not for the clock, and perhaps that makes my performance all the more pleasing.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...