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.
2018 can probably be summarised as a year of things happening that I probably never expected would – both good and bad! Needless to say, running has given me the ‘good’ unexpected outcomes of the year, and looking back at the races, experiences and PBs I have set across the last 12 months I am proud of where my hard work and dedication has taken me. Perhaps the standout of 2018 has to be my marathon PB in Sydney, the trip of a lifetime culminating in a finish time I am not sure I quite believed would ever be possible. Personally, the year has thrown some unexpected challenges; if you were to tell me at the start of 2018 that there would be a change in one of my closest friendships and the deep impact this would have on me, I would probably have not believed you. However, having gone through the past months, I now know that the loss of a friendship you value dearly can indeed cause a great deal of hurt and heartbreak. Throughout the hard times this year, running has been my constant, and alongside my family and friends, the running community of Lincoln has often been my reason to keep smiling and has offered me the support and encouragement to keep believing in myself. Although my legs do the miles, running is not a solo sport for me, and 2018 has shown me that more than ever.
Leicestershire Half Marathon - 1:39:15
My first race of 2018 set on a bitterly cold and blustery winter’s day. The conditions were harsh at times with icy rain, hail, and one mile in particular set against a brutally strong headwind. Despite the weather, I felt strong running and set a new PB, recording my first ever sub 1:40 half marathon.
Cambridge Half Marathon - 1:36:51
The build up to this race was filled with uncertainty thanks to the arrival of snowfall in the UK. I had been chained to a treadmill all week and was therefore exceptionally happy the race went ahead. Set loose on the streets of Cambridge, running on tarmac felt like heaven, and with my parents cheering me on, I felt unstoppable. I raced hard and beat my half marathon PB again.
Milton Keynes 20 Miler - 2:47:33
Or as it is otherwise known - the training run that turned into a race! I entered this as part of my training for the forthcoming London Marathon with every intention of keeping it steady. Swept up in the race environment, I ran a lot faster than planned and definitely paid for this in the latter miles. It was a great experience though, and an achievement that felt like completing a marathon.
London Marathon - 3:54:06
A race I will simply never forget and one of the hardest experiences of my entire life, not just in running. The hottest London Marathon on record, and with no acclimatisation to running in heat whatsoever, it was a battle from the start. How we all completed 26.2 miles I am not really sure, but I do know that when I hugged my friend at the finish I have never felt so much pride at what we had both achieved and also relief just to feel we were both ok. Hugging my parents as I ran over Tower Bridge is also a memory I will treasure forever. Whilst I did not run the time I had trained for or felt I was truly capable of, in the conditions the finish medal meant the world.
North Lincolnshire Half Marathon -1:41:28
Two weeks after the heat on the streets of London I put myself through nearly the same pain again – a hot half marathon. It was hard, as to be expected so soon after racing a tough 26.2 miles, let alone when running in heat again, but I really enjoyed the challenge. I think mentally the race was also what I needed to get back out there after the intense emotions of the London Marathon.
Liverpool Rock'n'Roll Marathon - 3:48:39
This was probably my biggest challenge of the year – a marathon just four weeks after my last. I was very scared at attempting this race, and to make matters worse in the build-up I suffered from a bad cold, whilst race day itself was very warm – again! It felt a little like things were conspiring against me. However, I treated the race like a long run, savoured the wonderful if not slightly hilly course, embraced the support from my sister and her boyfriend, and ran a mere 35 seconds away from my marathon PB. I went from being unbelievably scared to unbelievably proud across 26.2 miles.
Woodhall Spa 10k - 43:57
More heat and more illness, with suspected laryngitis meaning I literally had no voice and slightly troubled breathing, but with a stronger mind and boosted confidence, I raced hard. Tactically definitely not my best 10k performance, but in terms of refusal to give up, one of my best. I gritted my teeth to a new PB.
Round Sheffield Run - 1:41:32
This event is growing rapidly in popularity and having taken part since 2016 I can easily tell you why. It is a test like no other and a concept like none I have seen before with timed stages combined with the ability to run as a pair ticking numerous new boxes. My friend and I took 5 minutes off our previous course PB and enjoyed a wonderful day out; it remains one of my happiest memories of the year and one of my favourite events.
Lincoln 10k - 44:29
If I thought Woodhall Spa 10k was hot, this race was like running a 10k on the sun; somewhat comical considering this was the rearranged date after snow had postponed the event earlier in the year. I love Lincoln 10k day, my hometown event, and as my sister pointed out, I know so many people running it has a special community feel. This year was another one for the memory bank.
Newark Half Marathon - 1:38:23
A cooler day – hallelujah! – and after weeks of long solo training runs for my forthcoming marathon, the chance to race a half marathon distance excited me. I got into a real zone when running, I could feel the strength my training miles had given me, and I was really pleased to log another sub 1:40 finish time.
Sydney Marathon - 3:40:30
My fairytale marathon. The whole thing still seems surreal if I am honest. A massive new marathon PB, achieving my goal of running a Good For Age qualifying time for the London Marathon, running in Sydney, simply being in Australia… the list could go on. The emotion I felt at the finish line was so raw and so personal. Life had been tough before leaving for Australia and it seemed like I had earned this moment more than ever.
Hedgehog Half Marathon - 1:43:20
A new race for me and one I also completed with a new focus on what a ‘race’ actually meant. I approached this challenging course with no pressure to perform to any standard, pushing myself enough without caring what the clock read. A complete freedom run which I enjoyed immensely.
Doncaster 10k - 43:16
Another event in which I put no pressure on myself, but this time left with a shiny new PB. The strength of my performance and the consistency of my 10k pacing filled me with pride, as did seeing my friend’s mum complete her own 10k after struggling with injury niggles. I may have got a little competitive with a running ‘friend’ too which had spurred my running on even more!
Santa Fun Run, Lincoln
I won a race! Albeit a festive fun run, but it was a nice surprise to be crowned the speediest Mrs Claus in Lincoln and also share my love of running with work colleagues and friends.
parkrun has changed my life and I could probably write a book about the amazing experiences, memories and the people I have met through a weekly 5k. This year's standout moments have been new tourist experiences at Ipswich, Southwark and Normanby parkruns, as well as unforgettable international tourism ‘down under’ at Coffs Harbour and Lawson parkrun. The latter was where I ran my 100th parkrun, and I probably never thought I would achieve this milestone wearing a sparkly cape bearing the numbers ‘100’ whilst running trails in the Blue Mountains! I also have set a new 5k PB of 20:22 – which again I am not quite sure how I ever ran that quickly, but I am determined to try challenge the marker one day soon! Meanwhile my home Lincoln parkrun goes from strength to strength and most importantly remains my happy place.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...