Stood in a patch of warm sunshine which had managed to find its way through the tree canopies at Sherwood Pines, it was hard to imagine that a few hours earlier I had been soaked to the skin, pushing my rain splattered limbs around Lincoln parkrun. I was stood with my friend waiting to start the Robin Hood Trail 10k race, which was slightly unconventionally held on a Saturday afternoon. This timing had therefore left a nice little window of opportunity for me to squeeze in a Lincoln parkrun still, as well as running there and back to the parkrun location itself. I had not held back when running parkrun and had attacked it with my usual vigour, probably because I was really seeing this afternoon’s race as a bit of a fun challenge, as opposed to something I was taking too seriously.
With the autumnal sun now dominating the crisp blue sky, we really could appreciate the beautiful surroundings of Sherwood Pines, and as my friend and I huddled amongst the relatively small field of runners about to take on the 5k or 10k distance, the situation actually had a bit of a parkrun feel about it; there was no pressure and the atmosphere around was friendly and light-hearted. As we listened to the announcer give a small pre-race briefing I was a little disheartened to hear the course was two 5k loops, as I sometimes find this a bit demoralising. My surprise at this fact demonstrated how little I had really looked into the race details; however I was prepared in the sense I was at least wearing my trail shoes! As the ‘go’ signal was given I was certainly pleased to be wearing these shoes as I carefully weaved through the mass start and also the boggy patches of grass underfoot.
During the initial half a mile or so my legs felt quite heavy, especially as we ran up a long incline, and I did start to debate whether I was being completely mad now asking my legs to run a fast 10k. However, as the race to thinned out a little and I found a comfortable running spot, I seemed to settle and any discomfort in my legs faded. I was not really sure what strategy I was adopting for the distance; I wasn’t naïve enough to go out like a 5k parkrun, but I was going to push myself to suit the environment, and maybe see how 5k went before committing to any form of 10k goal. The first loop really seemed to go by quickly; I enjoyed the route with a nice mix of longer steady inclines which tested you without being too brutal, and some downhill sections which allowed your legs to recover. It was also a little less ‘off roady’ then I had imagined, with the course mainly being set on well trodden woodland paths, which was probably not a bad thing considering the morning’s rainfall!
As I started loop two the field was a lot thinner and I felt I could really begin to appreciate the beautiful autumnal surroundings. It really was a glorious place to be running, and I think this continued to make it feel a lot less like I was running an actual race. My shoe lace came undone on one foot and this bothered me momentarily, with visions flashing through my head of my shoe being left behind in a patch of sticky mud. Thankfully I survived, with my laces seeming tucking themselves back inside my shoe in some kind of miracle blessing! Even though I had contemplated using the first lap as a bit of a tester, I did not actually glance at my watch or pace as I started this final 5k, or even throughout the race really, and just continued running to feel. This run was not about a time for me, it was about challenging myself on the course, and I knew I was doing that. I found myself in a bit of competition on this second lap, I overtook a guy who clearly was not keen to be beaten by a female as he attempted numerous times to re-overtake without much success - and it did make me smile.
As I hit the 9k marker I tried to have my first real study of my watch to give me some vague idea of what time I may be aiming for. This proved to be pointless, as I have no idea what sort of time I can run a kilometre in anymore, as I always operate in miles! I had to hold off my new found male running buddy though I knew that! My legs did feel a bit wobbly during the final kilometre, especially as I pushed up a shorter climb toward the finish, and then again when I battled through the boggy grass which led to the finish line. I just wanted my legs to hold out now and also my shoe to hold on for these final steps! I beat my ‘friend’ who did not want to even look at me as I went to speak and congratulate him on the run – so in that sense the race definitely did not have a parkrun feel anymore! After crossing the line I then only had a quick check of my finish time, before I rushed around the barriers to catch my (real!) friend finish - she just loves me getting an action shot of her running (or is learning too..!), so I couldn’t miss the opportunity!
Reviewing the race after, I realised I had ran much better than I anticipated, finishing in 45:29, which it later came to light saw me finish as third female overall. This is my second fastest 10k time to date, and with the course not being on my more accustomed road surface, this was very pleasing, especially with a fast parkrun and a 4 mile run commute in my legs already that day. My friend and I agreed we had really enjoyed the run and that the course was especially pleasant, and we both did not mind running two loops, which is a big testament of support. As we gathered under a tree canopy, now trying to get out of the sunshine to take a post run medal selfie (without having to squint!), I realised it was our last race together for 2017. This made me sad, but not in an upset way, in a kind of wistful and reflective way. It has been quite a year of running for us both, and I know I would not have been able to achieve what I have or enjoyed what I have done quite as much without my friend’s unwavering support and companionship. In that sense, the Robin Hood Trail 10k really was a lovely way to sign out the racing year together.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...