Just over two years ago my best friend, and running partner in crime, moved to Australia. Having your closest friend on literally the other side of the world has been hard at times, but seeing her for the first time this weekend, with the extra bonus of managing to get a race day experience in together, made it all worth while.
It seemed like fate that the first ever Doncaster 10k had fallen on this weekend, and in my friend's hometown. The race was within minutes walk of my friend’s Mum’s house, meaning it was very stress free in terms of logistics, plus it was a nice distance to race and meant my friend’s Mum could also take part and complete her first ever official 10k race. I was not really taking the race too seriously in terms of running, possibly emphasised by the fact I sat and ate a huge slice of cheesecake and a good sized mountain of chocolate profiteroles the night before! I simply just wanted to enjoy this day. Before my friend moved to Australia we loved a ‘race day’, travelling to random new places, running a race and then celebrating usually with one too many fruit ciders afterwards, and I have missed sharing times like this, as well as just missing her.
Sunday morning was one of those beautifully blue skied but bitterly cold winter days. Not quite the sunshine and beaches my friend has been used to of late! Before leaving for the race I had given my friend her early birthday present, matching ‘Best Running Friends’ running vests, which were perfect for the occasion, but maybe not quite the weather! We had to brave them though, although I did wimp out a little and put a long sleeved top underneath mine! I also included two bottles of our favourite ‘Old Mout’ cider and a giant bar of chocolate in my friends’ birthday package,ready for post race celebrations – we would be celebrating regardless of how the race went!
The Doncaster 10k started and finished at the Doncaster Race Course, which seemed a lovely place to host a running event. The atmosphere was equally as pleasant, although looking around pre-race everyone simply gave the impression they were absolutely freezing! My friend and I slotted into the race pack, keeping our jumpers on for as long as possible before revealing our coordinating race gear. My friend is a speedster and my aim was to try and keep up with her, not for time purposes, but we both just wanted to try and run together if we could. As the starting gun was fired we sped off, it was numbingly cold and I could not really feel what I was running, I just ran! My friend agreed it also took her about 3k to even begin to feel warm!
I had not really seen too much of Doncaster before and I really enjoyed the first half of the route which left the racecourse and took in some residential streets and the town centre. It was quiet in terms of spectators – not sure many would voluntarily rise early on Sunday morning in icy temperatures to cheer random strangers! – but I found the variation of the surroundings interesting and the relatively flat route good for keeping a run tempo going. Running through the streets of Doncaster with my friend felt surreal at times – in a good way! We had not been or ran together in so long, but here we were. My friend also made me laugh as we ran, insisting we kept running on the same side to each other so the split heart graphics of our vests made sense!
Just after half way we looped back past the race course and headed out to complete the final section, which was out and back on a longer road. I glanced at my watch at this point and could see we were running well. My friend was pushing me to keep going and her pace was admirable considering she had been at a Hen Do weekend and a wedding in the days leading up to this race! An out and back section may sound uninspiring, but I found it quite motivating knowing what I had left to run, and I liked seeing and cheering for runners on the other side of the route. We even managed to spot my friend’s mum and encourage her loudly.
As we entered the final half mile the power in my legs was fading, I think if my friend really wanted to she could have injected some of her enviable pace and sped away from me at this point, but she stayed with me and I was equally determined to keep my legs turning over as quickly as possible so not to slow her down too much. The final 200m of the race entered the race course itself, with the finish line placed next to the Grandstand. I was not sure for definite what time we were heading for, but I knew it was much better than I might have anticipated at the start. We crossed the line side by side ending in a massive emotional hug at the finish; there was both race and life emotion fuelling that embrace. Running with my friend really pushed me and I actually managed to set a new PB of 44:02, which was a real bonus, and meant my friend was also only seconds away from beating her own PB (judging by her performance, I am very confident she can beat this in the future!) We then took our free finisher pies (well quiche for us vegetarians!) and went to find a space along the finish to watch my friend’s Mum come in. She absolutely smashed her first official 10k race, not stopping once and running a PB – I felt really proud cheering her over the line.
For a first ever event I cannot fault the Doncaster 10k. Well organised, a great route, a lovely atmosphere and venue, a nice bit of bling, and the novelty of the free finish pie making it extra unique. It seemed the event had really brought a lot of people together too with a bumper, friendly field. Setting a 10k PB was totally unexpected, and I definitely have my friend to thank for pushing me to that time, and I am pleased what I managed without having really completed too much focused training of late. However it is the memories of this day and the meaning of it which matter to me most, and as I hugged my friend at the end it felt like we had never been apart - a real friendship. We then celebrated with a fruit cider (or three) of course!
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...