First race since injury five months ago, and it was a good one! Arriving at Lee Valley Country Park early Saturday morning for the Women's Running 10k series, I was immediately hit with some serious village fete vibes - lots of families milling around, scouts dishing out tea and pastries, a few dogs running around, and the sense that everyone was chilled out and relaxed, looking forward to the scenic race ahead. This was my type of race, no stress, no pressure, just 230 women out to have some fun!
Saturday morning was freezing cold, you would have been forgiven for thinking it was March and not May! No matter though as fitness coach/Women's Running cover model/all round enthusiasm machine Jacqueline Freeman led us through an energetic warm up getting our blood pumping and our energy levels sky high. Plus as we warmed up, the sun came out - what more could you ask for?!
The course at Lee Valley was two laps of fast and (mostly) flat course, with a mixture of wide tarmac pathways, and meandering trails over bridges and along the pretty riverside. Even as a dedicated city runner, even I could appreciate how lovely it was.
I hate the first 15 minutes or so of any run. I have no idea why, but hopefully it means I will be good at longer distances! True to form, the first 3k of this run was hard, it felt long and my legs didn't like me very much - approaching the 3k marker and I was inwardly groaning and frantically shuffling for something perky to listen to (hello Katie Perry!). I am pretty sure I am not unsual feeling like this, but it is always a mental battle getting through it.
By the 4k marker, and again true to form, I was feeling a lot better. I had hit my stride, I was comfortable and my head was in a great place. I was a happy runner bunny and I am pretty sure the smiley marshals and their delicious water helped! You can never underestimate the value of good marshals, and this lot were perfect - enthusiastic without being insincere, smiley and kind! On a course with few supporters, they were invaluable.
Nearing the half way point (and that horrible moment where you have to run past the finish line!) and, out of nowhere, I was faced with a massive ramp. I do not exaggerate, it was insanely steep. Throughout the course there had been a couple of ramps up on to bridges that we hadn't been prepared for, but this one, was mean! Oh and as it was by the event village, loads of people were watching! Steeling myself I paced up slowly, cursing that I would have to do this for a second time in the last 100 metres of the race.
Ramp out of the way it was down the other side, controlling my pace to avoid going in to the second half too fast. Concentrating on my pacing and focusing on the second lap, I thought I heard my name over the PA, but was so absorbed in what I was doing I dismissed it and got on with the matter in hand.
The second half of the race was a dream. It was lovely to trot along the course, feel like I was in my pace and enjoy myself. I loved the meandering paths as the broke up the run, keeping things interesting, and singing along to my playlist made sure I kept a steady pace (seriously, singing is the secret of steady pacing!).
In to the final kilometre, I upped my pace slightly, feeling the push, dreading the second take a the mega ramp of doom! It was one of those urgh how will I keep this up moments where I had to steel myself, focus and get to the finish...head down, up the sodding ramp, headphones out and absorb the supporters...especially that woman reminding everyone to sprint finish. One more push and I was across the line, clutching a water bottle, and a lovely lady was putting a medal around my neck and saying congratulations while my name rang out over the PA. Turns out I had heard right, each runner had had a call out, a really awesome gesture!
Within moments of finishing I received a text message with my chip time - 57 minutes, 37 seconds! I had beaten my previous PB by over three minutes - while I was aiming to come in under 60 minutes, I hadn't expected such an improvement! It was even more exciting to check out my results of Results Base when I got home and see that I was the 61st person to cross the finish line!
I can't recommend the Women's Running 10k series highly enough. The Lee Valley event was beautifully organised without being over the top, the atmosphere was amazing and the goody bag was excellent (think 9bars, Original Source goodies, Drumstick sweeties and a technical t-shirt from Kalenji) - what more could you want from a race?! In fact, I am seriously considering whether I can take part in one of the other races happening across the country this summer!
top image via Women's Running Magazine.