On 18th March 2018 I tentatively drew back my curtains and proceeded to sulk like a child as I saw that the ‘Beast from the East’ had covered my hometown Lincoln in a blanket of overnight snow. I hate snow anyway, but this day was meant to be the Lincoln 10k road race, one of my favourite days and events of the year. Needless to say, there was no Lincoln 10k, with the event cancelled – or so I thought…
Fast forward nearly four months to July 1st 2018 and the Lincoln 10k was very much happening, for which credit must go to Run For All and the City of Lincoln Council for finding a new date for the event to take place. Whilst snow played havoc in March, race day take two could not have been more different if it tried. Landing in the middle of a UK heatwave (or have we just forgotten what summer is really like!?) it was very, very hot; a harsh 25/26 degree heat. Since the London Marathon in April, every race I have taken part in this year has been hot, but this was probably the closest it has come to those brutal marathon day conditions. As I walked to that start all I kept telling myself was if I could run 26.2 miles in that heat, I could do this.
The Lincoln 10k is special to me; not only is it my hometown event, but its where my running adventures really started. A very nervous 21-year-old version of me had stood at the same start line in 2013 and completed my first ever running race wearing battered gym trainers, old Primark socks, an analogue wrist watch and with the uncertainty of whether I could actually make it around a 10k route. Things have changed a little now! Since 2013 I have completed every Lincoln 10k and shared the day with some very special people in my life, which is why it felt lovely to have my sister and her boyfriend join me for the 2018 race.
As we arrived at the start line it was strange to see the starting pens completely empty – no one wanted to be stood in the direct sun for any longer than needed! We found a spot in some shade and waited until the last possible moment to take our spot on the start line. As we did I was soon greeted by many familiar faces from the Lincoln running community, parkrun friends and people I simply regularly spot whilst out training around the streets of Lincoln; we wished each other luck and joked about the very obvious heat. My strategy for the 10k was simply to run as I felt; the weather was clearly going to play a factor, so I decided to adapt as I ran, I would know if I needed to slow and if things felt overly tough, and with a much more experienced runner head now, this is an approach I felt I could take.
As the ‘go’ signal was given I raced off the line, probably getting a little caught up in the excitement of the day. A large section of the first mile is set on a gradual decline, which is also tree lined and thus provided welcome shade. My first split was therefore very quick. This rather ‘too good to be true’ first mile also meant that as the course turned onto the next road, set on long, gradual incline and in full glaring sun, things instantly felt a lot harsher. I tried not to let this panic me, and just focused on maintaining my place amid the runners I found myself running alongside.
Without stating the very obvious; it was just so hot, and as the first water station appeared I found myself vigorously pouring water over my head and body in scenes reminiscent of the London Marathon. Again, I thought back to this race – I did that, I could do this. Keeping calm and in control was crucial for me, and whereas in my last 10k at Woodhall Spa I felt after two miles I could run no more, today passing two miles I felt much more assured. I was working very hard still, and on a section of road which I wouldn’t usually think of as having many changes in gradient, I felt every slight change in incline as it demanded more from my already strained body. This was a theme for the race really; whilst the Lincoln 10k is generally regarded as a flat race, the heat made each climb feel like a mountain - long drawn out mountains basking in the sun's direct heat!
My knowledge of the 10k course and the fact I run these roads so often definitely helped me in the final stages of the race; I knew which sections were left, and I focused on the roads I had to tick off rather than my mileage or pace. As the course looped back past the start line again and onto the last section, people I knew in the crowds started to pick me out and cheer my name, I smiled back or gave a slight nod of acknowledgement, although I am sure with my sister running (who is actually my twin!) we caused a few people to think they were seeing double!
The support of Lincoln friends certainly boosted me on the final mile, which is another long, gradual climb which usually feels a bit of a challenge, but today felt like it simply went on for ever. I needed and was grateful of every enthusiast cheer. I started a little battle with a fellow female runner at this point too, each of us seemingly taking a turn to step up the pace before dropping back and letting the other try kick for the finish. As we turned the final corner with the finish arch in sight we raced each other to the line and crossed at almost the exact same moment. My actual finish time was 44:29, not a PB but only 30 seconds away from my current record and just 11 seconds slower than last year’s race, which was held in the usual spring weather. I was happy, absolutely drained from the heat, but very pleased with my performance in the testing conditions. After I had composed myself I found the lady I had raced with and congratulated her on a great final mile; she seemed pleased I had spoken to her and proceeded to pull me into an impromptu ‘selfie’ - a touching surprise.
As I wearily walked around the edge of the beautiful Lincoln Cathedral toward the post-race village set in Lincoln Castle's grounds (a finish setting which I think I take for granted being a Lincoln local) lots of people I knew began to spot and talk to me – which is one of the things I love about Lincoln 10k day, it brings so many people together whilst doing something so positive too. In the Castle grounds I continued to meet and chat to more friends who had completed the 10k, which led to my sister and her boyfriend joking I was a Lincoln celebrity due to all the people I knew! I am not, but the day reinforced to me just how much Lincoln is my home now, and what a big part running has played in making it feel that way.
So another Lincoln 10k medal has been earned, and it certainly felt hard earned this year! I think I ran the race well, although my first mile was quick, my other splits were much more consistent and seem to show I settled into a manageable pace which I could maintain in heat. I enjoyed being able to share the experience with my sister and her boyfriend, hear their thoughts on the race and recount experiences over a well earned post-race BBQ basking in the now welcomed sun in my back garden. Lincoln 10k day will always be special to me – and this year was no different.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...