Sunday, 18 May 2014

Market Drayton 10K 2014

A week ago today,  I was taking part in my second Market Drayton 10K Road Race. This race is special to me, not just because it has been voted best 10K in the UK for two years in a row, but because Market Drayton is my home town. My house is actually on the route which meant that my parents could come and babysit my two little ones here while the rest of the family took part AND support us as we all ran past.

Hubby runs past first with a wave

Posing for a quick photo

High Fives

The race is well organised, well supported and provides a rather fantastic goody bag and technical T-shirt for all entrants. This year, I was part of the team of volunteers who prepared the 2,300 goody bags.  2,300 mars bars make a small mountain of mars bars. 2,300 bottles of water (provided by the wonderful Oruna curry house with a £5 voucher towards a meal) make an epic wall of water. 2,300 ginger bread men make an impressive army of ginger bread men. Slowly as the bags were filled with these items and much more; the mountain became a mole hill, the wall became a scattering of rubble and the army was well and truly defeated. Instead, there was a  sea of bulging, white drawstring bags ready to be distributed.

Last year, the start of the race was a little chaotic with runners of all abilities grouped randomly together. Criticisms were noted and this year there were clearly marked pens to gravitate towards depending on your estimated finish time. As my husband made his way toward the 50-55 minute pen, my daughters and I took our place at the back in the 1 hour + area. I run... but I run slower than the proverbial turtle running through treacle.

Last year, I completed the race in 1hr 14mins. This year I was hoping for a steady 11 min mile pace all the way round to give me a  time not far off 66 mins (with a reasonable sprint finish). Unfortunately, my best intentions to train and prepare thoroughly for this event went a bit out of the window. At the back of my mind was a niggling worry that I'd be lucky to make it round in any time.

It was a wonderful feeling to be at the start with the 2000 + colourful crowd of people, each with their own goals and expectations. The countdown commenced and the elite runners poised on the front row were off. It took about 2 minutes of slow shuffling forward before we passed the start line and began our own individual challenges.

Trying to get a good position in such a dense crowd of runners was tricky and I quickly lost my daughters in the confusion. As I was hoping for a slightly faster time than them, I pushed on without waiting for them to catch me up.

The first 2 miles went really well. It was wonderfully uplifting to see my parents and my little ones cheering me on. Mum was especially enthusiastic with her support! I was ahead of pace. Maybe that was my undoing - too much speed at the start. Subsequent miles saw my pace slow down until I felt like I was dragging myself along for some stretches. I was missing the special camaraderie from my running daughters who were still somewhere behind me.

The weather was muggy with the occasional downpour of rain. The rain was glorious. It cooled me and temporarily cleared the fogginess of my mind deprived of the sugar and oxygen that my muscles were greedy for.

The townspeople who came out to support the runners provided a massive incentive to keep going - especially if someone recognised me and called my name. It was a lovely surprise to see my sister and her family (under their umbrellas). They had chosen a spot just after the most challenging hill on the course - Phoenix Bank.

Phoenix Bank is my nemesis and although sometimes I almost feel as though I have the better of it, this time it defeated me. My heart was pounding, I could barely breathe, my legs turned first to rock, then to jelly. Despite a lively group of drummers providing an invigorating beat that should have sent my spirits soaring, my spirits slumped like my posture. One of the members of my running club was  marshalling near the top of the hill. This particular club member often leads training runs and is always very supportive and encouraging. I tried to imagine his words of encouragement in my ears - but my ears were not playing. All I could feel was a sense of loyalty to someone I admired and pushed myself on just a little further... just a little further until I was past him... I couldn't let him witness my defeat... and then I'd had it. The slowest of slow running ground to a halt and after a wobble in my knees that made me fear I might fall, I started walking. Not dawdling, though. Pushing forward with purposeful strides. I felt myself begin to recover and tried to break back into a run. It was almost as if my legs had forgotten how to. My mind was screaming at them to MOVE but they were having NONE of it. I walked a little further. Marshalls at the very top of the hill, including a line of  boys in uniform (scouts? cadets?) were shouting the encouragment that I had failed to give myself. My legs obeyed. I was off again.

This was the perfect moment to see my sister. I was so delighted that she had come out to offer her support that the photograph she took of me completely fails to show the agonies I had just endured trying to conquer Hell Hill.

I knew that I didn't have far to go and I managed to pick my pace up a little but not enough to achieve my aim of 66 mins. I did, however, knock 5 minutes off my last year's time. I was a little confused at the finish - mostly because the inflatable arch that marked the finish line had at some point during the race deflated and been discarded. I found myself running blindly without a finish strategy. I'm quite certain it would have made no difference  anyway!

I was proud to cross the line and proud of my 1:09:03 time. My husband was waiting for me with some much needed water and a hug. I was proud of him for smashing his own personal best and achieving a fantastic time (with some credit going to my daughter's boyfriend who very kindly paced him all the way round). As I enjoyed the euphoria of finishing, I heard the compere badly mispronouncing one of my daughters' name and looked up to see both girls cross the line. My proud meter shot right off the scale.

We made our way back home through pouring rain laden with goodie bags plus yoghurts and pies donated by Market Drayton based Mullers and Palethorpes.

Despite that hill and any other little troubles I experienced during the ten kilometres, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. And as for achieving that elusive 66 minute goal.... there is always next year.

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