The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday 8 September 2019

Lichfield 10k Road Race

(I’m a bit tardy writing this up. It’s now 15 December and I’m referring back to a run that took place on 8 September. Just before this run I searched all the resources I could think of to find out when I last ran a 10k event (unfortunately, at some point in the last 10 years I decided I didn’t need all of my pre-2008 running logs, so no longer have those records). I eventually found the answer in this blog (October 2006), although unfortunately with no reference to the time I achieved. That highlighted the value of posting such stuff even if it doesn’t appear to sit happily with the real subject matter of this blog. So here it is. Better late than never.)

In the middle of August, whilst I was clocking up a string of my best ever 5k running times at various parkruns in Germany, I became curious as to how fast I could run a 10k these days.  The following day it occurred to me that the Lichfield 10k would be taking place in September and without hesitation I entered both myself and Mick.

I then read the course description…

…hmmm, undulations and hills? That didn’t sound like the sort of course on which I would be able to achieve anything faster than I was managing each week on my regular runs on the nice flat cycle paths of Germany, but I’d entered by then, so I immediately wrote it off in terms of my original objective and instead put it into the mental bucket of ‘a fun morning out with bonus t-shirt’.

We only arrived home a few days in advance and theoretically had time to make a running recce of the route – except that we found it to be on roads we wouldn’t want to tackle without the road closures that would be in place for the event itself. So, our familiarisation consisted of driving twice around the course. It didn’t seem too hilly, but then inclines never do when you’re in motorised transport.

The day of the event quickly came around and as we made our way to the start line, along with just over 1000 others, we were happy to see that there were pacers. A quick tactical chat and we decided that, based on the course description, the sensible thing to do would be to start just in front of the 60 minute pacer but stay behind the 55 minute chap.

We started out together, quickly gaining on the 55 minute pacer. Not knowing how the hills would take it out of us, we stuck with the plan and stayed behind him until (to the best of my recollection) just after the 6k marker where, with only 4k to go and feeling fine, it seemed silly not to trot on past. At around 7.5km Mick went on ahead of me. About a kilometre later I decided that I could bear a mile of effort, and put a spurt on myself.

The course

The first and last 1km of the course were along a main road, which for the return leg had been reopened to traffic, leaving the runners with the pavement and a narrow (1-person) margin between the kerb and a row of cones. With everyone thinned out by then, that would have been fine, if it hadn’t been for all the people running abreast, meaning I had to keep darting out into the road between cars to overtake. I overtook a lot of people in that last mile. In fact, I put such a spurt on that Mick only finished 20 seconds ahead of me (Mick: 54.02, me: 54.22).
The undulations per my recorded track. I think that classing any of them as 'hills' is a slight exaggeration.

The most pleasing thing about the result was that I’d not hated the running. Experience tells me that if I don’t hate it in the moment* then I could have gone quite a bit faster. Maybe next summer I’ll find a nice flat 10k to really test myself, but we’ll also happily enter the Lichfield 10k again – it’s very well organised. 

Those t-shirts are a lot brighter than this photo makes them look. Proper 'highlighter pen' orange.
Not a flailing arm - I'm waving at the photographer!

 Straying out into the road in the last kilometre

(*To me running events (except for parkrun, but that’s different) are Type 2 fun. It took me four days after the half marathon I ran last year to get from ‘hated every second’ to ‘actually that was okay!’.)