Seven years ago an extremely nervous and naïve 20 year old version of me lined up at the start of her very first race. Wearing all the wrong gear but having trained hard (I always liked training!) I was ecstatic to complete my first ever race - the Lincoln 10k. Fast forward 7 years and I am yet to miss an event in my now home city. As the years have passed my confidence, knowledge and performance as a runner have enhanced in almost equal measure to how much I just love Lincoln 10k day. I think it is fair to say I now have a reasonably strong presence in the Lincoln running community, as well as being part of a number of other personal and professional networks across the City. Therefore, the more people I know who take part in the event, and who also line the streets to cheer on runners, makes it extra special, as I get to share my passion with others – Lincoln 10k day will always remain one of my favourites of the year.
Across my years of participation, the Lincoln 10k has seen a variety of performances; there have been PBs, triumphs of going ‘sub something’ for the first time, surviving the heatwave of last year, and some years when a Spring Marathon has often affected how I approach the race. This year it was the latter again. My mindset was different - with Brighton Marathon only a week away I did not want to race. I did not want to have the fear of injury/overdoing it spoiling my race enjoyment, and I also did not want to spend the next week trying to recover from a 10k race when I was supposed to be tapering and rebuilding ready to race 26.2 miles.
On race morning I walked to the start alongside my sister, who was visiting for the event, and my friend from work, who was also taking part. The 11am start time of the Lincoln 10k is always a strange one for me; living relatively close to the race start I do not need to leave my house with much time to spare, and it is all almost too easy. My friend had parked at my house and I was pleased when she arrived as the waiting time was starting to make both my sister and I begin to feel nervous for no real apparent reason! As soon as we arrived at the race village the Lincoln 10k buzz hit me though; faces I recognised were everywhere and I started to chat to a number of people I knew or recognised from the Lincoln running community. Since my friend had entered the 10k I had been offering to run with her – a cyclist first and foremost - her last 10k had been in a time just over an hour. I was really pleased when she took up my offer on race day; selfishly because it meant I knew I would not be racing, but also as I wanted her to achieve her goal and deep down I knew she could do very well.
The organisation of the event this year was a little less slick than normal (more on that to come) and as we shuffled to the start pens it was clear it was a bit chaotic trying to get runners in the pens. I pushed my sister into one right at the front – she had trained well and was chasing a sub 45-minute time and I did not want her to get caught up in any start confusion. I squeezed her arm as we left her and told her to be confident – again I knew she could do it and I just wanted her to believe. My friend and I then headed back to try and get in the pack a little further down; it was not the simplest of tasks, but finally we got amongst the starting crowds, ready for the ‘go’ signal to be given.
As soon as we crossed the start line I already had a large smile on my face; I had worked out what pace we needed to run in order to go under an hour, but although I did not tell my friend this, I knew we could do better. A slight hold up in proceedings came very early on in the race as the route made its first turn. The bend is always tight, but this year it came to a complete bottleneck which forced the field to come to a total standstill. It widened out afterwards, but the stoppage definitely caused some frustrations, and I do understand why.
Running side by side with my friend I felt at ease physically, as the pace was comfortable for me, but inside I felt full emotionally and mentally. Going a bit slower meant I really could appreciate the Lincoln 10k and the support from the sides. People I knew cheered me on, and I also was able to pick out faces I also recognised and shout out to them. I had not paced anyone running before – my friend must have had a lot of trust in me! – but I decided I did not want to keep telling her paces, times etc. I wanted her to enjoy the experience, so instead I chatted to her for most of the beginning sections of the race, pointing out key milestones, giving a few hints about the route ahead, and trying to generally keep encouraging her. I glanced at my watch occasionally and knew we were running very strongly, well ahead of target pace, and the more miles we ticked off, the happier I grew for how well my friend was doing.
The second half of the race my friend had to dig deeper, I knew I was asking more from her now, but as I actually said to her, I knew she has a strong mental character and could hold on. When her legs started to hurt I told her all she needed to do was keep moving, and I reinforced we were still running very well and not to worry if she needed to slow a little – just keep moving. She held strong. As we ticked off the final streets and the remaining miles became less, we then started a quest to spot the Cathedral – who we affectionately call ‘Cathy’ - on the horizon, which would also indicate the finish. When the structure appeared, I think the realisation hit that we were going to do it, especially as the final hundred metre markers also popped up at the side of the course. ‘Come on’ I urged my friend ‘last push!’ – and she duly began to sprint to the finishing arch almost catching me unaware! We did it – 55:01 and a massive new PB for my friend. I was so proud of her, it was almost a little overwhelming how pleased I was that she had achieved her goal, and in comprehensive fashion. We shared a delighted hug at the finish line, and I squeezed her with a mixture of emotion and enthusiasm at what she had just achieved.
As we walked from the finish, we met my sister who had patiently waited for us. ‘How did you do?’ I asked eagerly. ’44:04’ she replied – her own PB and her first-time going sub 45 minutes. I affectionately punched her arm a few times telling her I knew she could do it and I was proud – sisterly love. I say sisterly, I think the fact we are actually twins had confused a LOT of people throughout the race. My sister recounted the number of people who had cheered her on as ‘Alice’ and even people I know on the start line who were chatting to her without realising it was not even me – twin problems!
I absolutely loved the race, running with a huge smile on my face throughout, and another friend who had been spectating commented that it was good to see me looking so happy. I genuinely was. For my first time pacing I really enjoyed helping someone else achieve, especially a friend. My friend messaged me later in the day to thank me again, saying she would not have got the PB without me. I told her it was a pleasure to run with her, but that she needed to give herself credit for the PB - she did the running, I just did the talking!
Two PBs, three equally happy runners – another memorable Lincoln 10k.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...