Southend 10k race 2009

As part of my half-marathon training I scheduled a 10 kilometre race - and the nearest one falling at the right time was the Southend 10k.
Despite the fact our family is going through a very sad time with the tragic loss of my mother last week, Alison and I decided to go ahead with the race. Although Mum was concerned about my health, what with being overweight and running, I think she was proud of what I’ve managed to do over the last year. The half-marathon next week will be the culmination of many months of effort and I think she would be cross if I didn’t complete my program. Next week, I’ll be thinking of her every step of the way.
So, back to Sundays race. The day was bright and sunny. As we left the house just before 9am, this didn’t do much for the temperature and it was still quite chilly, especially around the bare legs. Even arriving at Southend, nearer 10am, there was still a bite in the air - which I actually hoped would remain as a bit of a chill help keep your temperature low as you run.
One common theme to races appears to be the obligatory pre-race visit to the toilet. There were over a dozen port-a-loos each with a queue of some twenty or so people in front of them! So, we joined the ritual, but with some creative queue jumping by visiting the toilets at the adjoining park! I was getting quite nervous about the race even though I knew that I would be toward the rear of the pack. I am at a loss as to why the nerves should start up, as I would have only expected the people aiming to win the race to feel that way.
Before the race
Eventually, it was time to go to the start line. Regions of the road were labelled with the expected finishing times, although these signs were being ignored with obviously slower runners standing in the sub 45 minute area. I decided there was no point being a mobile road block, and moved toward the rear, where I expected to stay!
I had spent a good hour beforehand planning the many potential strategies, before settling on the classic one of setting my goal pace, and trying my damnedest to stick to it. So, I set off at a dogged 10:20 pace, ignoring the fact that at this point it felt like I was plodding gently along. Of course, if I still felt that way an hour later I would have been stunned. Loads of people were passing me, but I stuck to my guns. I knew if I maintained the pace then I would have a good time and that it didn’t matter how many people passed me.
After the first mile or so, the tide was turning. I was passing joggers and walkers and feeling good. The pace was still feeling easy and had identified a number of people running at the same pace, and we were starting to run together. Every now and again, someone I was using as a pacer would speed up and move off, or slow down and fall behind, but there was always someone else I could choose. I think it helped me ignore my GPS watch to do this, and is something I will seriously consider doing again next week.
Another mile and we met the elite runners coming back on the opposite side of the road. I thought that this would have been fairly demoralizing, but it wasn’t. In fact, whenever I saw a Colchester Harriers top, I clapped loudly! I was looking for Alison, hoping she was doing well. We missed each other, as we probably passed in the half-mile section at turnaround where you can’t see the runners coming the other way. By this time the running had settled down, and there wasn’t much passing going on. The marshals were very encouraging, cheering us on. I started to find it tough around here, and the water station was a much anticipated and appreciated landmark.
Another mile or so, and I started passing the first people that were running out of steam, and starting to walk. I felt strong, and thought that the strategy was actually going to work. At this point I had been totally consistent with my pace, only varying by a few seconds. Then the perils of a “out and back” route were starting to tell, and I started recognising landmarks that I knew were quite some distance from the finish, and I was starting to run out of steam myself. I kept seeing the same girl walking, and thought I was hallucinating - same red top, same chunky white music player, and then I realised she would walk at which point I would pass, and a couple of minutes later she would run past, and then I would pass again. This happened quite a few times, so I decided to ease off the pace so as not to start doing the same myself, as it was getting tougher and tougher.
The temperature was starting to rise quite sharply by now, although I wasn’t in a position to tell for sure as by this point I was sweating quite profusely. So much for the cooler air aiding with my run.
I felt I dropped the pace through the floor, but was determined to jog to the finish instead of walking. Analysing by GPS watch later, I was doing quite well by slowing the pace a bit, recovering and speeding up, then slowing, and so on. I only dropped about 20sec/mile off my earlier pace over those last two miles.
Alison cruising to the finish
By this time, Alison had finished, had some water, found Dad and the finish line and was waiting patiently. Dad was taking pictures of random overweigh, bald men hoping that I was considerably faster than I was and that he was getting the right photos.
Going for it…
As I rounded the last corner, I noticed the finish line and was just considering picking up the pace when I heard Alison yelling “Sprint! Go for it!”. At this point, the brain isn’t working at 100%, so I did what I was told, tearing past some poor woman like a mad thing. I almost paid for it as I crossed the line, as I got quite wobbly on my feet.
The result - 6.21 miles (10km) in 1h4m40s. 8 minutes faster than July’s Brentwood 10k, and on target for my half-marathon next week. Here’s an “after” photo, showing (I hope) that I still looked reasonably fit… You may notice Alison’s top being removed between the before and after photos - that’s another story…
After the race
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