To run a race multiple times can only mean one thing - it is worth entering! I love the Doncaster 10k simply because it is a fantastic running event; well organised, excellent race facilities, bespoke bibs and medals, a post race area filled with thoughtful free refreshments, and a great running route. This was my third consecutive year at Doncaster 10k, and on the previous two occasions I had not only ran a PB, but had also had two very memorable days shared with friends; in 2017 my friend when she was visiting from Australia, and then the following year with her mother. I just love sharing running experiences, and to be honest the thing I was most looking forward to about this year's Doncaster 10k was to have a first real group outing for my Run Club - Lincs S&C Run Club.
Doncaster 10k was the first time I had pinned a race number on since Chicago Marathon. In the weeks since this race I have been running pretty much just for enjoyment, no real structure or plan, just doing what I feel. It has been what my mind and body has needed, so I felt no pressure to meet any form of goal at this 10k. Driving to Doncaster with a fellow Run Club member who had also ran an Autumn marathon, we both seemed to be in the same boat - just planning to go with the flow and see what we could do on the day! On arrival we met with other club members inside Doncaster Racecourse, which is the hub of the event and where the route starts and finishes. We stood and chatted, took a few photos and I just felt completely relaxed. I was also so pleased it was such a pleasant November day - I stood in shorts and a vest quite comfortably and I knew it would be great running conditions.
My happy mood continued as we made our way to the start line; I could have stayed chatting with friends in the start pens all race, but I eventually realised I probably needed to position myself somewhere suitable in the time zones. I opted for in between the sub 40 and sub 45 minute pacer - whilst I had no strict time goal for Doncaster 10k, I do believe you have to have some form of notion about what you may be capable of. I think I thought I ought to be running a sub 45 minute time, but I also probably thought I would just about squeeze in under this marker considering my lack of focused 'training' of late. After a poignant minutes silence to remember a fellow runner who should have been on the start line among us, but sadly passed away before race day, the start gun pierced the air and it was time to race.
Doncaster 10k almost feels like a race of two halves - the first 5k is a section into Doncaster town centre, followed by a weave around some of the main streets, and then back to the racecourse. The second 5k is then virtually an out and back section heading away from the racecourse again, before returning to finish inside the venue and next to the main stand. During the first half of the route I ran hard and allowed the runners around me to sweep me along. I remember seeing the splits tick over on my watch and scarcely believing them; sub 7 min/miles were being logged, yet it did not feel like I was pushing that much. I used this confidence as I passed through the half way point and another sub 7 min/mile split ticked over. Half the race was in the bag now and I was just telling myself to hang on for another 3 miles. I guess my mentality was that I have pushed myself for a much longer duration and asked more of my legs for lengthier miles before, so I had to keep believing I could sustain this for a just a bit longer.
The out and back second half of the Doncaster 10k is actually something I really enjoy - I seem to feed off seeing runners on the other side of the road. The turn around point at end of this 'out' section is however slightly less enjoyable, featuring a short but noticeable incline; I knew it was coming, but I was still not prepared for how much it tested me this year. I felt like I was running through treacle going up it; it really took the momentum and drive out of my stride and I could feel my speed plummet.
As I neared the top I had pretty much prepared myself for my race now to be over and I presumed I was going to come off this hill completely spent - I had rode my luck for some miles and now the reality would hit. It didn't though, and as I turned to head for home, I felt my body almost restore in strength with each step. Along this return to the racecourse I was now able to spot lots of Run Club members and friends on the other side of the road and we cheered each other; it really motivated me to dig in that little bit more.
With the final turns approaching I was asking everything from my legs; it was hard but I also loved the sensation of pushing my limits and feeling powerful and strong. I did attempt a few glances at my watch, but to be honest it felt like wasted energy, and I just needed to focus on chasing down the finish archway on the horizon. Running across the finish line and stopping my Garmin I ground to a halt, hands on knees, feeling that pulsing effort in my body - a bit like how I seem to feel at the end of parkrun each week when I have pushed myself over 5k! However this was double the distance, and when I had gathered myself to read my watch face I could not quite believe what it said - 42:42 - a new PB and my first time running sub 43 minutes.
I was honestly shocked by that time, and maybe even a little embarrassed. I had been very open before the race that I did not feel I was in shape to challenge a PB and that it would be very surprising if I even got close to one, yet here I now was with a new PB and a time I probably never dreamed of running a few years ago. I guess my marathon training strength is still in my body, both mentally and physically. I felt determined during the race; I had a tenacity to keep pushing and I almost overrode the discomfort I felt, which I guess comes from challenging myself across all these races I have ran! I drew on experience and determination rather than any recent specific training, and today it just worked!
What made Doncaster 10k an even more memorable day was how many of my fellow Run Club members and friends also ran new PBs, or met their specific pre-race target,. It was a fantastic feeling being stood at the finish waiting for people to cross the line and seeing that joy on their face. Being able to share Doncaster 10k with a large group from my Run Club seemed a fitting way to sign off my final race of 2019, as joining the club has probably been the biggest change in my running life this year. I have never been part of a running club before, and if you had asked me a year or so ago I would have said I did not want to be part of one. Things changed in my life though, and I found myself missing the social element of my running - Run Club has given me that, as well as the chance to be a Run Leader and play a small role in supporting others on their running journeys.
I can run, train and race to my heart's content, but what makes my heart fuller is sharing my passion with others.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...