I look around at the start of the race and there’s a sea of orange stretching before and behind me. This is a race organised to benefit Muscular Dystrophy UK and they’ve requested that people wear the orange that represents that charity. I’ve dug out my Wicked Walden tee shirt in which I blend in nicely with the background throng. Now how often have you heard someone claiming to blend in to anywhere in an eye searingly orange tee shirt.
We set off with the usual shuffle. There’s a lot of stepping around and about as I try to find a way through. Even as we turn left onto Chesterton road and have one entire side of the road to ourselves it’s still quite difficult to find enough room to run at your own pace.
I take a quick inventory of my aches and pains for today. I have a bit of a hamstring pain in my left leg. This makes a bit of a change as it’s usually the right leg. My left foot is also uncomfortable. I’m considering whether I should stop and loosen the laces. I figure it’s only a 10K so I may as well just cope with it and keep going.
I think it was somewhere on Chesterton Road that I first spotted the people running in onesies. I think one of them was a tiger and the other was some kind of blue dinosaur with purple spots on it. They were a little way in front of me so I gritted my teeth, increased the speed and shuffled on by, leaving them to choke on my dust. We ran back into the city centre past King College Chapel and the Senate House. Carrie was there waiting with the camera and, of course, I couldn’t resist a bit of a pose.
Kings College is also doing a bit of posing there in the background but it does it much more naturally than I.
We then turned on to Jesus lane and watched a line of traffic that was going nowhere until the race ended. It contained many quietly simmering drivers trying to kill us with their eyes. We waved and smiled merrily as we passed by. We turned left on to Victoria Avenue and were greeted by the welcome sight of the drinks station. You probably don’t really need a drink of water on a 10K in October but psychologically it feels really good. I always grab a drink of water whether I need one or not. it gives me a real boost. Then we turned on to Jesus Green. I was feeling reasonably good although starting to slow down a little. Then horror of horrors the tiger and dinosaur onesie people came cruising past me. I was a little rocked back. I’d passed these people as if they were standing still earlier in the race. Had I really slowed down so much? Had they speeded up? I saw them run off into the distance and felt a little deflated. I’d thought I was going well and then the onesie people showed my poor effort for what it was. A little bit more of this whining and psychic self mutilation went on and then I managed to push it all to the side. I could still see the onesie people in the distance. Why don’t I try chasing them down.
I increased my speed bit by bit. I could see that the tiger and dinosaur were no longer pulling away from me although still quite a distance in front. I held that gap for the next two kilometres as we ran along the river and back to Elizabeth Way Bridge. There was another drink there which I grabbed gratefully and then surged on. We were only two kilometres away from the finish now and I still had some energy to spare. The onesie people were still about 500 yards in front of me and I gritted my teeth and increased the speed. It seemed that they were doing likewise. I was passing other people but the Tiger and Dinosaur still taunted me from their position of dominance.
Damn them and their furry coats.
I ran down the side of the Grafton centre and I could now see the finish line on Midsummer Common and a little bit later there was the 9 kilometre marker. Right – now is the time. There’s only one kilometre left. This is my last chance. I turned right along Victoria Avenue and I see that I’m catching them up. This is now beginning to look possible. I can do it. I will beat these onesie people. It just takes a little more pain and a dollop of agony.
I turned right on to Midsummer Common and the gap has now decreased substantially. I surged forward and as we zig-zagged across the common I caught and passed them. All I had to do was to keep up the pace for another few hundred yards. I saw Carrie on the left as I pushed on toward the finish and I tried to catch sight of the time clock but far too many people had decided that this was a good place to stand. It looked like it might be 56 minutes and something but I’m not sure.
I cross the line and am busily pressing buttons on my phone trying to get some information. It is frustratingly slow to update so I give it a moment. I collect my tee shirt, water and medal. Then Richard and Carrie find me. They reckon I’ve done well and may have a new PB. Strava eventually did update and I saw the magical numbers, 56:05. That’s a new personal best for me by a looong way. I’ve been progressively getting better and better 10K times this year. First at St Ives where I got 57:52 which I was delighted at. Then I got Saffron Walden where I romped home in 57:25 and thought was the pinnacle of my efforts. This time I had managed 10K in 56:05 which was better than I would ever have dreamed.
I got a new personal best and Richard, Jackie, Carrie and I went to the Castle pub on Castle hill to celebrate with Adnams beer and Castle burgers. Chris Newell joined us later and he had good news too. He jumped straight into running with marathons and half marathons and had never done a 10K before. Chris got a personal best but that’s not entirely surprising as he’d never run a 10K before. He ran 44:10 and seemed pleased with that.
As for me – I’m still doing the happy dance over 56:05. It’s far faster than I would have ever dreamed of. Thank you Tiger and Dinosaur.
Wish I’d have got a photo of them.