One month after the joy of being back racing again at the Lincoln 10k, following many weeks of Achilles struggles, I was once again pinning a 10k race bib onto my running vest. Whilst the Lincoln 10k had been a bit of an unknown entity in terms of what my body could be capable of following lengthy injury, this time heading into the Doncaster 10k I had more of a benchmark of what could be achievable. After finishing the Lincoln 10k in 45:11, I knew I wanted to try and dip under 45 minutes at Doncaster – another marker on my comeback journey.
The initial weeks after the Lincoln 10k race, I felt confident in my running, upping my mileage slightly and incorporating a few short speed sessions in to my training (all based on advice from my therapist!) However, in the ten days approaching Doncaster 10k, suddenly my Achilles seemed to bother me again - it did not hurt as such, but it did not feel right either. This panicked me and I instantly reined in my running, so much so that in the days ahead of race day I barely ran at all, finding extra refuge in the gym and the spin bike again. However, my therapist cleared me to run Doncaster, so I tried to forget my concerns and head into the race with confidence.
Race day was a frosty, crisp morning - or in more plain terms, absolutely Baltic! However, the gale force wind and rain which had battered the country the day prior had at least disappeared. I travelled over to Doncaster with my sister who was visiting for the race, and after prying ourselves from the warmth of my little car, we met up with some of my Run Club friends at the race start based at Doncaster Racecourse. This was my 4th Doncaster 10k event and I can advocate why it has won many awards – the setting is fantastic, with the backdrop of the racecourse feeling unique and the added bonus of having excellent facilities; parking and plenty of actual toilets on site! The course itself starts outside the racecourse, before heading into the town centre for a loop, then passing the racecourse again to complete a final out and back section, to finish back by the grandstand. It’s the course where my 10k PB was set – 42:42 – and whilst I knew I would not be challenging this time today, I still hoped to try sneak a sub 45-minute time.
I lined up at the start next to my sister, huddled in on an old jumper trying to strategically plan when to remove my final layer and brace myself for the chill to hit even more! Akin to the Lincoln 10k a month prior, the extreme elements meant that as the start gun fired, I was not really thinking about anything else other than just to run! The first couple of miles I felt I was trying to settle into the race as my muscles warmed up and I attempted to regulate my breathing against the harsh air. I had no idea what pace I was running and had also completely unintentionally found myself running pretty much next to my sister. Winding through the town centre I settled into running a little more, a couple of short inclines challenged me, but also seemed to help wake my body up and force me into a stronger rhythm. As I closed in on passing the racecourse again, and hitting the halfway marker, I felt much more in control.
The second half of the Doncaster 10k is dominated by the out and black section, which I really enjoy. Some people do not like out and backs, but I feel it offers you chance to feel even more connected to the runners around you; cheer those on who are already heading back to the finish, and encourage those about to follow in the steps you have just completed. This section of the course inspires me and is what’s needed in the final sections of a 10k. Heading along the ‘out’ part of the course I was still running next to my sister, who had not taken on the Doncaster 10k before. I had prewarned her about the slight hill at the turnaround point; its short, sharp, and hard work for those few seconds you battle the incline – but the downhill reward comes very soon after.
Hitting the hill, it felt I was going backwards; due to my injury, hills are not something I have ran in months, and I was glad that this was the only true hill on the course! The power and rhythm I had in my legs was sucked away instantly, and I worried for a split second that this may be something I would struggle to recover from. I embraced the downhill though and tried to relax back into my running, although the biggest boost came from spotting one of my club mates running on the other side of the road, powering up the hill not far behind me. I screamed out her name, knowing that her proximity to me would mean a huge PB would be on the cards if she could keep going. This simple act energised me, and I turned to look for my sister who I had lost a little on the hill. With only a mile now left, I urged her to catch up with me, suddenly forgetting a few moments ago my legs felt like lead weights.
Pushing towards the finish I was continually energised by the sea of runners on the other side of the road, spotting more club mates and other runners I knew from Lincoln. This final mile was hard work, and I felt a lot less in control than I did towards the end of the Lincoln 10k a few weeks ago, but I knew heading for a good time if I could just hold on. The ‘back’ section of the course eventually turns off in the final few hundred metres to enter the racecourse and head to the finish line. My mind wanted my body to surge on from here, but my legs had very little left by now! My sister now drifted ahead of me, but I couldn’t hold onto her, and instead I focused on keeping moving and the sight of the finish arch getting closer to me.
Crossing the line my legs were spent but looking at my watch to see 44:15 on the screen I knew it was all worth it. I had achieved my goal of getting back under 45 minutes, and whilst I am still a long way from my PB shape, it felt a big achievement. My club mate I spotted on the hill crossed the line soon after, a huge PB secured. My sister had also come within seconds of a PB, and we then stood and cheered lots of my other Run Club friends over the line, with many achieving their own race goals - so there were lots of successes to celebrate over our post-race (free!) hot chocolates!
Doncaster did not disappoint as event again, and I did not disappoint myself either. It’s been a strange second half of the year for me in running terms with my injury battle, but I have managed to take some highs from these final months. I hope I can now begin to rebuild my mileage and look to bigger 2022 goals.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...