Sprinting for the line
Last summer, just after I moved back to Brockley, I joined the Kent Athletics Club which trains at the Ladywell track just down the road. Since moving up to the 'B' group in the autumn my running has come on leaps and bounds.
Running with a group of runners who are all a lot faster than me is both inspiring and a fantastic source of tips on how to train more smartly. I realise that back in Australia I was a 'one pace plodder', not pushing the boundaries with any speed work. But also running too quickly during my recovery and long runs.
Everyone you speak to has different ideas on how you should best train, but sifting and distilling through all the advice I've started to mix up my training a lot more and have been upping my weekly mileage (perhaps a little bit too much).
One of the most important things I've taken from the group is confidence in my own abilities. I've always been worried about 'hitting the wall' or not making it to the end of the race which has been having a negative effect on my times as I've held too much back. Having runners that I look up to telling me I've got good times inside me is a great confidence boost. Even if I'm having trouble believing them at times!
One piece of advice I've taken on board is running a shorter race to give you a benchmark of where your fitness levels are and what is possible. When Rich invited me to join him at the Ashford and District 10k last Saturday, I thought it was a great opportunity to use it is a predictor for the Reading Half Marathon.
But how fast could I run a 10k? When we train on the track there are lots of short intervals with rest periods in between it makes me doubt how my stamina will hold up over a sustained period. A week before the race I joined David and Luke for a 5 mile run at speed. It was a challenge and my lungs felt like they were burning for the last mile, but (after a short recovery) I felt refreshed and like I could maintain that sort of pace over a 10k. David sent me words of encouragement during the week that I could go even faster in the race. I wasn't sure, but the confidence boost didn't hurt!
Last Saturday we arrived in a cold Ashford ready for the race and I still wasn't quite sure what pace I wanted to run at. We picked up our numbers and Rich and I jogged up to the start. I felt like a bit of a fraud pushing forward so that we could start from the third row, surely everyone around me would just come bolting past?
The run was round undulating country lanes. Rich and I set off together, and with a sweeping downhill not long after the start, we set a cracking pace and didn't really slow down. It was good to be pacing along with someone of a similar level. It was tough, harder than I've run before, but didn't feel unsustainable.
At the 5k mark there was a water station. I didn't really need a drink, but I grabbed one anyway as water wouldn't hurt and I wanted to practise drinking while running at speed. Half the water went all over me and the bit that made it into my mouth almost made me choke. Not the most successful experience!
Rich ran the race last year and warned me of a steep hill in the course. As we passed the 7k mark there was a shout of "this is it"! Perversely I've always quite liked running up hills and found it's where I can overtake people, so I tried to power up and managed to pull away from the group we were running with and overtake another couple of people on the hill.
I was pretty shattered at the top of the hill and decided to fall in behind someone that I'd managed to catch, but not quite pass, to give me some time to recover. After around 50m I realised I was going really slowly so I gritted my teeth and pulled out round him. The last three kilometers were tough going, but I was determined to try and keep those I'd overtaken on the hill behind so I just kept driving on.
With 1k below I got within touching distance of the person in front of me, but as he saw me it seemed to spur him on and he pulled away again. I just hoped it was him speeding up and not me slowing down!
Sprinting to the line I managed to hold off everyone behind me and I was across the line in a new personal best of 36m 12sec. Incredibly pleased with the time, I was even more shocked to discover that I was tenth. I thought I was comfortably in the midfield somewhere.
In the days after the race I got congratulations from others in the club on my PB, but also words of encouragement that I could go even faster. That's run club for you.
The official results are here.
The data from my watch is here.