As much as I love the experience and the occasion that large scale running races offer, I also just as much enjoy smaller, local events where things feel a little more relaxed and remind you that it is just running after all! Woodhall Spa 10k is a relatively local race for me, set in a small village a short drive from Lincoln. I had never taken part in the event before and wanted to finally give it a try. It is always very popular and places sell out quickly, and on arriving at Jubilee Park in Woodhall Spa, I could see why. It’s a perfect setting for a local race, and I could tell most people had arrived in groups or with family; a play park for children to enjoy, ample seating for eager and willing spectators, food and drink facilities etc. I spotted lots of people I knew from the Lincoln running scene, although struggling with laryngitis, it did mean my lack of ability to chat with people was a little frustrating.
Race day itself was another hot one – my fourth event in a row which has been held in quite extreme conditions. The day had a different heat to it though, it was muggy with a dense thick air, which when the sun shone through felt almost suffocating. The start line was in shaded trees, which offered some respite before the ‘Go’ signal was given. I was totally relaxed as I stood here, not even really thinking about the race to come. It had been November last year that I had last taken on a 10k event, the Doncaster 10k, and on a bitterly cold day I had ran a new PB of 44:02. I know my speed has progressed since last year; however I was not really sure if I was in ‘peak’ condition, with slight illness and having just come off the back of two marathons in the space of a four week period. Needless to say I had no real time goal or race strategy (maybe a slight error!) and was literally going to run and see what happened.
On ‘go’ I raced off the line; the course is a large rural loop set on roads which feature only minor undulations. I will admit now I do not think I took much of the course in, as soon as I started running I was really just focused on that! I ran the first mile quick; I knew it was very quick in fact and more like a parkrun lap rather than a 10k start. I just kept going though; however after passing two miles I was starting to wish this was just a parkrun. Another mile I could cope with, but this was not even the halfway point. My head was telling me to stop, just walk, this is just too hard. My heart wasn’t willing though and I calmed down the thoughts whirring in my head, regulated my breathing, and just focused on keeping moving. My pace had dropped now, the heat and the fatigue in my body apparent. I could feel my body did not have its full energy; I think recent life challenges as well as running challenges had taken a bigger toll on me than maybe I had realised, and my breathing was slightly strange feeling probably due to my laryngitis - but I kept at it.
Passing four miles, I knew I could get two more miles out my legs whatever pace they were, I could do this now. Temptation to slow down and just in a sense ‘jog’ home was there, but there was also a mantra going through my mind. Someone messaged me before the race (who I know will read this!) and said 'race hard' and I just kept thinking of that. I wanted to run hard – I was here to race after all; if I wanted to just run a 10k I could be doing that anywhere. I battled through those final miles with a focus of not dropping my pace anymore. I had brief glances at my watch, but to be honest I didn’t have the energy to really do calculations as to what time I may be aiming for. The final few hundred metres were lined with supporters, and whilst my mind was not focused enough to see who they were, people clearly knew and/or recognised me, as my name was bellowed loudly, spurring me on. Grimacing and gritting my teeth I surged for the finish, and in a state of mild exhaustion, I crossed the line in 43:57. This was a new PB, only by a few seconds, but a PB nevertheless and my first time going under 44 minutes. I later discovered I also placed 10th female overall and 4th for my age category, which in a field of some strong female runners, many who I recognised/were names I knew, I felt quite proud about.
On reflection I need a better 10k strategy – going out like a parkrun and hoping three extra miles will be fine is not a good plan! I also think I can better this 10k time, in more pleasant conditions, with a fresher body and in better health. Although it was hard, I really enjoyed Woodhall Spa 10k and I will be back, and although I do not think I raced well, I am still proud of my time and my resilience to just keep on running.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...