Running the Valentine 10k – Kathryn Hammond

The night before……

We say goodbye to our last customer at Sportlink, after another busy Saturday. The till adds up, we run the hoover around, all the shoes are back upstairs and we head home. Tea is sweet potato topped chicken and leek pie, a pre-race recipe I tore from a running magazine a couple of years ago and which is very delicious (ask me and I will happily pass it on). The recipe didn’t mention anything about washing the meal down with a large glass of white wine however! Oh well, it was Saturday so why not?!

Sunday morning…..getting there

We set off for the race nice and early. The race blurb said that we may have to park further away than usual, due to another event being held at the college. As we trundled along through Old Costessey, we were met with a works van and a road sign – ROAD CLOSED. Ok, no panic and merrily we followed the diversion. I then decided on an alternative route to take us up to the Dereham Road, only to find yet another road closure. The air in the car turned blue, with various combinations of swear words, strung together by more swear words. I was not a happy bunny! We turned around and headed back the way we had come. Finally, free of road works and traffic cones, we made it to Easton, albeit travelling very slowly behind a large horsebox. Fortunately, we still had plenty of time. The parking marshal, kindly directed us to a parking spot but as I eased the car forward, a loud scraping noise could be heard. It would seem that the curb I had pulled up to, was higher than I had anticipated. The marshal turned away, politely pretending not to hear the noise of metal on concrete but Baz took it upon his self to wind down the window and shout across to the guy “women, see how they park!”. A red mist descended “how patronising”, “there is no way you are coming past me today, Hipwell!” I was totally fired up, just show me the start line, I am ready to race!

Race HQ

The race headquarters was filled with many familiar faces and pre-race chit-chat, “How are you feeling?”, “What time are you looking for?”, “How’s that niggle?”, “How are you getting on with your new trainers?”. We popped upstairs and collected our race packs without delay. Numbers secured to our vests and timing chips fastened to our shoes, we were almost ready to go, almost but not quite. The queue for the ladies moved quite quickly and is always a great place to meet with friends for a little toilet queue talk! Back in the hall, an announcement over the PA system to let us know that we had 15 minutes until the race start, so we headed outside to warm up. A jog up the hill, out on the road and back, did the job. Still not forgetting Hipwell’s parking comment, we picked a spot, mid-pack as our starting position. The air temperature was quite cold but not bitter, as it had been a week earlier. I was cold but nicely sheltered by the other runners, all huddled together in the manner of penguins! Good lucks were wished upon neighbouring runners, the horn blew and we were away.

The Race

A steady climb out of the college grounds and continuing into Easton. My watch bleeped, 1st mile done, 8:02. I tell myself that this pace is just fine, I just need to hold it there. I have lots of conversations like this with myself when I am running. Lots of people I know were with me at this point and Baz was up in front, as we head up the hill towards Colton. This stretch is always windy whenever I run it and today was no different. I dug in and soon we’d turned and it was history. Mile 2, 8 minutes, good. Kathryn 3 milesI spy the Parking Prefect and I realise that I am gaining on him. “You ok?” I cheerily ask, as I victoriously trotted past him. Now to hold onto that lead! I didn’t remember much about Mile 3, apart from focusing on my pace and wondering if I could maintain it. At halfway, things were going well and I felt strong. My 5k time was 24:33, I could go under 50 minutes. This wouldn’t be a PB but would be my fastest 10k since 2014. “Come on, keep going” I think to myself. I picked up the pace at this point and ran Mile 4 in 7:57. A downhill section into Marlingford, resulted in 7:43 for Mile 5 but then we started the climb back up to Easton College and the finish. The legs started to slow and negative thoughts entered my head “Can I hang on?”, “Only 8 minutes of running left”, “Don’t stop now”, “I wonder if Hipwell is close behind me?”. I wanted to walk but knew that I would beat myself up about it for the rest of the day and I would lose my sub 50, so on I ran. Half a mile to go, it seemed like an eternity, “Just keep running, only 4 minutes of running left”. I could now hear the commentary from the finish line but I still couldn’t see it! 6 miles pinged up on my watch, 8:12, my slowest of the race but not a disaster. There it was, the sun was now shining and the finish gantry was glinting in the bright February sunlight. Just a short push up the hill and we’re there. Cheers of encouragement from the crowd, spurred me on. A sprint across the blue timing mats and I was done. I staggered over to a nearby bin and flopped over it to catch my breath, soon share a bin hugging moment with Brendan Wilson from CONAC. I had finished in 49:56. I was absolutely delighted to go sub 50 and this has given me confidence going forward with my marathon training and hopes of a sub 4 hour marathon this year at Brighton. Baz also ran a great race, picking up a new PB of 51:01 and I forgot about the parking comment……for now anyway!