Last year I took part in the Woodhall Spa 10k for the first time – a very popular local race in my Lincoln area, which always sells out quickly. On a hot day and struggling with possible laryngitis, I was very pleased to be able to run a new PB at the time of 43:57, and to go sub 44 mins at a 10k. Fast forward a year and I have secured a place again, it is another very warm, muggy day and I have just about recovered from another bout of what I can assume was once again laryngitis. I really wanted to have my voice back for Woodhall after being practically a mute last year, the popularity of the 10k means I know a lot of runners taking part and it is a great social occasion. Being able to talk therefore helps! What also helps when you are about to race a 10k distance is to have a pair of fresh, fully functioning legs, and unfortunately, I couldn’t really say I had that…
Stood on the start line the noise among the crowds of runners was the first thing that hit me. Woodhall Spa 10k is a big event for local running clubs, and you can sense the fact people know each other as conversations fill the air, instead of perhaps the silent nerves of larger, less intimate events. The air itself was warm, dense and muggy, and even a relatively strong breeze seemed to have no cooling effect. I knew I was going to find the heat hard; unlike last year when I had already ran a good number of events in warm weather by this point in the year, the British summer has been less freak, and I definitely did not feel accustomed to warm weather running yet.
I also knew physically I was going to have to endure extra pain this year at Woodhall. My legs were not great; sore and tight from some track running in the week, with my quads especially at a pain level which was still rather high. My race strategy was therefore pretty non-existent; I rarely race 10ks and I am not very accustomed to how I should best approach them anyway. Given the weather and the state of my body, I did however anticipate the next 6.2 miles would be pretty hard work.
As the starting pistol fired, I raced off, setting what I knew would be a quick first mile. It ticked over on my watch as 6.45ish min/mile pace; too fast, but I knew I would settle. I did for the second mile, but my body was becoming very warm, my face almost felt like it was burning and keeping in the heat rather than sweating. I was therefore very grateful to grab a cup of water from the aid station and pour it over my head. I began to slow during the third mile, the water had helped me cope with the heat a little better, but now my legs were struggling, and I could feel I was not able to use them to their full capacity.
Mile 4 was the worst for me – it nearly turned my race into a disaster. The Woodhall course is pretty exposed, set along straight rural roads which form a large loop, and this meant there was no escape from the wind. It blew strongly into my face on this section and I just felt awful. I seemed to be plodding along now, my pace very slow in comparison to my starting speed, and I just wanted to get to the finish.
The final two miles were simply a process of ‘keeping going’; I was hot and my legs hurt, and if I am honest, I was just not really enjoying myself. Time didn’t matter to me now at all; there was no way I could get quicker, I just wanted to get it done. I did manage to salvage some speed to improve from my mile 4 dip, and it was then simply me telling my mind not to give up, and hoping my legs could hang in there.
As I crossed the finish line I was hurting but also happy this meant I could stop running! My time was 45:11, which is not great for me, but not horrendous either. I know I am not at my quickest speed at the moment, so a sub 44-minute time was probably too much to ask. Sub 45 minutes would have been preferable, but I do not think I was in a good enough shape on the start line to achieve this, and I probably should have eased into the race better knowing this.
The best part of my day actually came once I had crossed the finish line. My knackered state meant I hovered around the finish area for a while and chatted to lots of people. I must have stayed for over an hour and actually manged to get quite sunburnt! I needed to do that though, as sharing my hellish experience with others helped me compute it a little, and I was also able to realise I was not alone in my struggles and being quite far off an expected finish time. I know I can run a quicker 10k in more pleasant conditions and with a fresher body – things cannot always all fall into place at every race and I do pride myself in my determination not to give up!
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...