My first ever 5 mile race, a strange distance, but a good one. The race is so local to me that the route is one I run regularly. The top part of the course is my default “I just need to get out somewhere flattish and put a few miles in” route, and is also where I’ve been running my intervals. Probably because its so local, and I hadn’t managed to pre-register in time, it was only late last night I realised I needed to get myself organised for it. I piled up running cap, sun glasses, shorts and t-shirt, in anticipation of another warm, sunny day.
Mr B&T was up and out early, for a 175Km ‘Audax’ ride (think orienteering on bikes), so I stayed in bed for a bit longer after he’d gone. I didn’t manage to get any more sleep though, because the ol’ pre-race nerves were kicking in BIG TIME. I’d foolishly looked up last year’s results and seen how speedy most of the runners were. It was looking like I would be right at the back of the pack. Not a new experience by any means, but it doesn’t give you much leeway before you end up AT the back.
I finally got myself organised and out of the house, and off to collect daughter from her sleepover. I had to drive along part of the course and was a little confused to see runners already out. Had I got the time wrong I nervously asked myself??!! Quick check – no! I saw exactly where the water station was going to be, which is always good to know. It was cloudy and a bit chilly at this time, with a cold wind, so I was laughing at myself for picking up my running cap and sun glasses, and for applying sun cream before I set off.
Daughter finally collected and dropped back home, I sped back to the race HQ and was very relieved to find there was sill time to register, and still places (phew!) I completed the paperwork and pinned on my number at high speed, and then realised I had nearly an hour to kill before the race started. After (another) trip to the loo (I hate race mornings!) I found a quiet corner to see what the runners I follow on Twitter were up to. My timeline was full of lots of other people getting ready for races, and after I tweeted how nervous I was, a few good luck messages as well. Thanks Tweeps – it really helped!
Finally we were called for the pre-race briefing, and then told to assemble. It was still overcast and a tad chilly at this point, so I didn’t bother going and getting my sunglasses or cap from the car. 11 o’clock arrived, we shuffled forward towards the line (which was quite a long way away in my case – I always like to start near the back), and we waited and shivered in the chill breeze. Suddenly the air horn blasted, the sun sprung out from behind the clouds, the wind dropped, and we were off. I started my Garmin as the horn sounded rather than as I crossed the start line so my time would be consistent with the officially recorded race time. Down the drive from the rugby club, then a quick loop through a field to make the distance up, then back down the drive and onto the course proper. The field of runners were already well strung out, and I was delighted to see the normally deserted country lanes full of colourful running tops and club vests.
In a fit of runner’s logic, I had managed to convince myself to run at around last year’s 5K PB pace, because obviously 5 miles is only a tiny bit longer than 3.1 miles, and nowhere near as long as a 10K race. This pace was 8:56 minute miles, so I figured if I could keep to under 9 minute miles I’d be doing well. My secret ‘Gold medal’ result would be to come in under 45 minutes, with Silver being less than 50 minutes and Bronze being just conquering my nerves! The course has a very gradual incline for the first couple of miles so I knew it would feel hard and I should just hold on for the downhill bits.
Close to the end of this long incline one runner I’d been following had slowed to a walk. Ever helpful, I pointed out the tree that marked the top of the slope, and the start of the downhill and flat section. He gasped he’d been hoping the water station was along this section, so I also told him where the water station actually was (just call me Mrs Tourist Information!) He started running again, and we chatted in between gasps and puffs. He told me he had a muscle problem so was actually running a minute per mile slower than usual. I told him I was flat out hoping to stay under 9 minute miles. We laughed that both of our Garmins were ‘beeping’ quite a way before the official mile markers, just to confuse pace setting. We moaned in unison about the headwind which appeared as we came up the last uphill section. We ran together right up to the very last section, pacing each other along. I could see my average pace was around 9 so I was getting quite excited. Along the last section I had to pull in behind him as a car passed us, and I couldn’t catch him back up after that. I pushed onto the finish line, crossing (according to my Garmin) in 45:09
First thought – damn, missed my Gold medal by 9 seconds! Second thought – oh a medal and goody bag! (Like a magpie – easily distracted by something shiny). After a drink, a banana, a ‘thank you’ to my pacer and some stretches, my third thought was “well if I started well back from the start line, I actually ran further than most people, so I wonder what time I actually passed the 5 mile mark, according to my Garmin?” Statistics and technology are wonderful things – with a quick shufty through my Garmin data I can see I hit 5 miles in 44:32, and my average pace over the whole distance was 8:54 – quicker than last year’s 5K PB pace.
Hooray – I have awarded myself an honorary Gold medal for this, as with the heat and the nerves I think I ran a pretty fine race. It also looks good for a new 10K PB later in the month, if I can keep near to that pace for another mile.
Back home, here’s my finisher’s swag. Not sure what a ‘Titan’ bar is, but it looks chocolatey, it says its suitable for vegetarians so I think I’ve earned it. I just wish I could do something about those pre-race nerves – can anyone offer any tips?