Yesterday was race day!! Finally the biggest day of my short running experience had arrived. Saturday was a good day. I volunteered at Horton Park, parkrun and was very pleasantly surprised to see some running friends turn up who I hadn’t expected. It’s always a good start to the day when you see friendly, smiling faces. After the parkrun I had a chat with some of them and that ended another cracking parkrun.
The rest of Saturday was spent catching up on housework and assignments and generally trying to keep myself busy and focused on anything other than running! By 8:30pm I was shattered and in bed, everything ready for an early start to Leeds and the Eccup10 mile.
Sunday morning I was up bright and early and feeling very, very good physically and mentally. Bag ready and in the car and off I set to Leeds. As usual I had checked the route and as usual I got it wrong. Not as bad as when I went to Copley for the Bolton Brow Burner but still got slightly lost and parking near race HQ was a bit of a nightmare as some of the roads were closed around the HQ but I found a suitable spot and was soon at the start together with some of my fellow Queensbury runners waiting for the gun to go.
And then we were off!! I was mid pack by accident so I just let people pass me and got on with my own race. Quite soon I was into my rhythm and going along nicely. The course is undulating with some long drags and short, sharp climbs. Although I run for Queensbury which is on top of a hill I’m not the best hill climber, but I was determined to climb them and not stop. The strange thing was there seemed to be more uphill than downhill! It’s always a relief to relax on the downhill after a hard climb but on this course there was little respite.
But I kept going. Even the canal side was uphill which was a strange experience as usually the canal side is flat but not this one. The mile markers went by steadily, 1 mile, 2 mile, 3 mile, 4, 5 and 6 mile. Everything was going well and then my inner thigh on my left leg started to ache. It was a dull ache but enough to put me off my stride and give me something to think about.
Then my left hamstring started to ache too followed by my left outer thigh. My mind was a mass of thoughts. Do I keep up the pace and hope it goes? Do I slow down and look after my thigh and hamstring? Do I walk the reminder of the course and finish? The only thought that never crossed my mind was stopping and pulling out. That was never an option. I was wearing the Queensbury Running Club colours and I have too much pride in them to quit.
However this didn’t help my leg which by now was nicely throbbing away and a constant reminder to me that it was there and the pain was not going away anytime soon. I choose to run the flat and downhill sections which there seemed to be more of at last and walk the uphill parts. When I ran faster on the uphill sections the aching seemed to get better. However I was also aware that this may cause more damage and even tear something which would have been a disaster.
This wasn’t how I wanted my first 10 mile race to be but this was the cards I had been dealt with on the day and I had to cope with them as best as I could. Miles 7 and 8 seemed to be the worse where I lost most time and got passed by other runners. Never a good feeling. By miles 9 and 10 I had somehow picked the pace back up. The fear of finishing last had entered my mind and this spurred me on to do better and push my mind and body beyond what I had ever done before.
And it worked. I was keeping pace with a lass and a lad and although the lass did beat me to the finish line the lad did not. I didn’t finish last nor was I the last male finisher. And I even managed a little sprint finish too! The pain was there but in life we all suffer pain at some time. I remember telling myself that pain is temporary but the feeling and emotion of finishing is there forever.
At the end I mentioned that my leg was aching and for some strange reason was directed to the Red Cross. I think they were bored and just wanted something to do! After having a couple of tests and being told my blood pressure was high, surprise, surprise, I had just run 10 miles! I hobbled back out and found my friend whose son was looking after my car keys.
Then in my socks I began the long walk back to my car. This was the first time I had ever walked in my socks on tarmac in my life, but it was easier to walk in socks than my running shoes. And then I saw a familiar, friendly face. One of the lasses I know from running was coming towards me. I recognised her instantly and it was a very pleasant surprise to see her.
And she stopped and talked to me. Even though I couldn’t string two thoughts together let alone two words we tried to have a conversation. It wasn’t the best of circumstances especially as I was still recovering from putting my body through a lot but I tried to chat. And she was kind enough to offer me some jelly babies which were very warmly received by me. Well when I had enough energy to get some! They gave me enough energy to get back to my car and home. It was a lovely gesture and shows just how friendly the running community is.
On the way home I began to wonder if I had done the right thing slowing down? Could I have done more? Should I have done more? Was the injury as bad as I had led myself to believe? With all these thoughts whirring round my mind I got home feeling quite emotional and upset. I chatted with a friend about it but as they said these are questions to which only I know the answers.
And the answer soon came. I went upstairs to get a shower and my leg was still aching and in one part painful. That was all I needed to know that I had done the right thing in slowing down and looking after my leg. Pushing on could have made it a lot, lot worse than it was.
And what have I learnt from this whole experience? Read the large print and realise what you are entering before you do! In hindsight a 10 mile race was a step too much at this stage in my running. I’ve only done 3, 5k and 2, 10k races before so a race of this length was maybe too much?
However I also learnt that I can push myself further than I ever thought I could. I can dig deep when I need to and I do not quit. And I am capable of far more than I ever thought I was mentally and physically. And there is a lot more to come too. A hell of a lot more. And with my renewed confidence and self-belief in myself I can achieve so much more in all areas of my life.
And what now you may ask? Well I’ve entered another race, the Yorkshireman ½ marathon. This is one of the toughest ½ marathons around. It’s all off road around Haworth, Denholme and Oxenhope, not far from where I live. But it’s 14.8 miles not 13.1. 14.8 miles is a Yorkshire ½ marathon. We do things our way in Yorkshire.
But is this really a step too far? Well I prefer off road and I know a lot of the route already so I’m under no illusions about what I’m undertaking. I also realised after the Eccup 10 I need to change my training and my diet too. I need to lose at least ½ stone if not more. But I believe I can do it and deep down I know I can. It won’t be easy and it will be the toughest race of my life but I have the confidence and self-belief now to know I can achieve my goal of finishing the race. I will keep you updated.