The 3CXC league: the first two events

Our club competes in the Three Counties Cross Country series each season and it’s one of the groups of races I absolutely love.  Cross-country, being off-road and running over challenging terrain is very much my thing.

The first two events have been tough ones though, in more ways than one.

I ran the Dunstable race last year, but never posted a recap.  I had travelled back from Norfolk to Northamptonshire for the race the night before, receiving a phone call on the return journey from Dan to say that his Nan had just died back in Wolverhampton.  Dan had spent the day visiting his Nan who had suffered from a heart attack a few days earlier.  I had been unable to head to Wolverhampton along with Oscar as my Mum had been gradually getting weaker and weaker all week, having not spoken since several days before.  Her eyes had been closed all day on that Saturday, but I stayed alongside her, watching Oscar coasting around the hospital bed that had been placed in my parents’ lounge for her to rest in.

The next morning Dan took care of Oscar while I got myself ready to head to the cross-country event.  It’s the event in the Three Counties Cross-Country league that is the furthest away and so I travelled down with a friend to the start.  The race was a tough one.  A bottle-neck start and a tough climb in the final mile.  But, I enjoyed the race.  We finished, headed back for rolls and cake, talked race tactics and tried to work out who would score for our club that season.

On arriving back at the car I checked my phone to find a missed call from my Dad and also one from Dan.

My Mum had died as I stood on the start line to that race waiting for the gun to go and I hadn’t even known.  Not that there was anything I could have done of course.  I rang Dan first.  My Dad had already told him the news and Dan had begun to pack a bag for both Oscar and I.  I don’t think I even showered when I arrived back home from the muddy race.  Just checked Dan’s packing, threw in a few more bits, tucked Oscar into his car seat with a blanket and cup and set off for Norfolk.  When I arrived my Dad asked me if I would make those horrible phone calls.  We’d already prepared for this day and made a list a few weeks earlier so that we were sure not to miss anybody out when it happened.  Most people kept the phone conversation short and sweet, perhaps aware that it wasn’t the time to offer small talk or keep me on the phone for long.  There were a few who made the task unknowingly harder; breaking down on the phone or keeping me on the phone without any pause for conversation back.  It wasn’t the nicest job I’ve had to do as an adult.

Because I’d not written about the race last year I think I had almost pushed the full memories of that day out of my mind until I typed the postcode into my phone the other week and watched the map scan across to the race HQ, ready to give directions for the drive.  I felt anxious for the whole journey.  More so when on my arrival I was directed to the very same parking spot we had been in last year.
That’s where the similarities ended though and I quickly made my way to the start to surround myself with other club runners, not that there were many out for the first event of the series which was a shame.

Due to the large volume of runners expected at the first race, the organisers had made the decision to reverse the course this year, meaning that Heartbreak Hill would come very early on into the race.  It was a tough hill to climb, but at least I didn’t succumb to a walk this time round!

Heartbreak Hill on the Dunstable 3CXC course(This photo gives you a little idea how tough Heartbreak Hill was!)Dunstable 3CXC courseIt was tough going to start with – very crowded along the narrow track heading away from the start line and it was impossible to find your place in the race.  Eventually though, the path widened and the pack started to thin out as everyone fell into their own running rhythm.

Somehow, the reverse course was so much harder than it had been the previous year.  I didn’t walk Heartbreak Hill, but there was an incredibly long, drawn-out hill in the final mile that from talking to faster friends after the race, I found out even they walked parts of!

Dunstable 3CXC courseUgh.  I hate this photo of me.  I look like I have lost all tone that I gained from training for the 100.  If anything is an incentive to up my fitness game, this is it.  So, I’m keeping it real and will leave this picture up on here.  Just let it be known, it’s not my favourite!

It was a tough course.

Position: 403/483 (Fairly happy with this.  I’m usually much nearer to the back!)
Gender position: 402/481
Age category position: 13/17

I had thought that the Dunstable event was tough, but that did not prepare me for running our home cross country event!  I haven’t had a chance to run it since 2015, when I was at my fittest, and boy did it show how much fitness I’d lost running the course again this year! The day before the event, our club heard the devastating news that we had lost one of our members.  He had suffered a cardiac arrest whilst out on the Wednesday night trail run and despite the best efforts of other runners, ambulance crew and hospital staff, that Saturday morning he died.  I wrote a little bit about it on Instagram last week.

 

 

 

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He was the first non family member to visit following Oscar’s birth and brought with him the most thoughtful gift in a baby vest, emblazed with ‘WDAC’. He said that he was sure Oscar would soon be whizzing round parkrun and would need a vest of his own to wear to represent the club. – I would never have gotten as far as 78 miles in June at my first 100 mile attempt had it not been for the fantastic crew that I had behind me on race day. It was a really hot day and all I really wanted was cold fruit out on the course. I’m pretty sure the fruit he handed me was actually a selection of what he had brought for his own lunch. – Three months later at the 100 mile event I did complete, once again, a lot is owed to my crew and pacers on the day, selflessly giving up their weekend to help me achieve the goal that meant so much to me. He acted as both crew and pacer that weekend, running me the final 20 miles to the finish line of my biggest achievement to date. Listening to me whinge about blisters on my feet and telling me tales-keeping me motivated for the hours it took to complete those final miles. – Yesterday, our club wore black ribbons as a way of paying our respects to Guy, one of our own who suffered a cardiac arrest out on a club trail run on Wednesday night and very sadly passed away on Saturday morning. Other clubs honoured the minute silence we held at the start of our home cross-country race. – Our club is very much a second family for so many and it was so touching to see old members and those who weren’t running the race still turn out to show their support. ❤️ He was one of the good ones and will be missed. – #WDAC #runningcommunity #runningfamily #3CXC #threecountiesXC

 

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The night before our home race I laid out pins, scissors and ribbon on our kitchen table, and along with two other club members we folded together 120 black ribbons for runners, marshals and club supporters to wear the following day, wherever our club members may be racing.

I had offered to help hand out race numbers to members before the cross-country race and so now also handed out black ribbons for them to wear.  I handed them out to previous club members, those from other clubs who had run with Guy in the past and made themselves known to me, and friends.  It was really hard.

The minute’s silence at the start of the race was fitting.  We’d published information that it would take place on our club social media the day before in the hope that it would be heard over the pre-race chat.

The race started and we shot off across Croyland Park towards the first set of hills.  The far side of the park has loads of small up and down sections.  Great, I would imagine if you were ten years old and out on your bike, but pretty energy sapping when you were running the whole section twice during a cross-country race.

I had my first little walk at mile 2.  I felt like a total failure!

Wellingborough 3CXC raceThe best part about running a home course is all of the fantastic support on offer.

Wellingborough 3CXC race

The number of brook crossings had reduced from four to two since the last time I ran the course.  I’d been told by my friend who was Race Director for the day that the race inspector had not been happy with the size of the crossing, but I wasn’t sure if it had changed or not.  The day before apparently they had been out to widen the crossing point and had added a dam in order to ensure the water was deep!

In actual fact, the crossings weren’t that bad.  It wasn’t too slippy getting into or out of them.  The crossing was too wide to jump all the way across, instead, a gradual slope down the bank to a ridge, enabling you to jump into the water below.  Much less daunting than when I ran it previously.

Wellingborough 3CXC raceIt wasn’t as cold as I was expecting either.  At it’s deepest the water came up to about my knee.

Wellingborough 3CXC raceWellingborough 3CXC raceNot everybody managed to stay upright during the crossing…!

Wellingborough 3CXC raceThere were a couple more sneaky walks as I entered the other side of the park.  I was feeling proper fed up with my body by now and vowed to take some trips over to Croyland park in the near future to train on the hilly ground.

Wellingborough 3CXC raceThe far side of the field was very open (with very little chance for unseen walking breaks…I got spotted and shouted at once!)  I was glad to see the brook crossing in my sights once more, knowing that there wouldn’t be too much longer before we reached the finish now.Wellingborough 3CXC raceI really powered down the final hill, not letting anybody come past on my way to the finish.  Strava says my last bit of mile was run at 7:30mm pace.  I just wanted to be done!

I was the last runner to finish for our club, but did still manage to push the scores down for some of the other teams, so at least my run still counted for something.

Position: 341/404
Gender position: 108/158
Age category position: 17/23

Although I had a shocking race, my positions at our home event weren’t too far off those from the first event, so I would assume that most others found the course as challenging as I did which was some sort of comfort.

Three more races to go!  One more before Christmas and two in the New Year.  Here’s hoping I’m a little stronger by the time they roll around!

Have you seen race photos and just thought ‘Ugh!’
Are you taking part in cross-country this year?

Ugh, a new PB and cake

dsfI’m pretty sure that the three of us came away with food poisoning last weekend. We’d taken Oscar out to a large indoor play area on Sunday afternoon. He was having so much fun, and we were having so much fun watching him enjoy himself that we completely didn’t realise how quickly the afternoon had flown by until Oscar started to whine that he was hungry, and we realised restaurant feeding options were minimal in the area.
It was a quick trip to the nearest one we could find, where Oscar sleepily, but thoroughly enjoyed chicken skewers with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob. Dan also went for chicken, and I demolished a mushroom burger.
Oscar with cornBecause Oscar was so tired he left quite a bit of his meal, which is unheard of for him, so we got it boxed up to take home for his lunch the following day.

The next morning, Dan groggily appeared downstairs for breakfast. By that point Oscar had already been through two nappies, and was about to fill his third. Dan managed to force some cereal down but Oscar just moved his breakfast around his tray looking rather sorry for himself.
Fast forward to lunch and, having not yet sussed out the link between the meal from the previous night and our poorly household, I pulled out the remainder of Oscar’s meal for him to have for lunch. When he once again, did not seem too fussed about eating any of it, I placed it onto my plate instead. Sweet potato fries are my favourite!

Ugh.

They are not my favourite any more. And neither is chicken.  :(

I spent the start of last week feeling rough, with a painful crampy stomach and zero energy. I sensibly decided to take a few days off from running until I fully recovered.  It was frustrating not getting out to run during the first week of the Summer holidays, but I knew that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t be able to hit any of my training paces, and would feel rubbish for attempting to do so in the first place.

The Thursday before had been our club’s annual Pre-Welly 5 BBQ run.  Always held 10 days before our club 5 mile road race, the idea is to check over the course, practice our marshaling and to give everybody a chance to run the event who might not be able to on the day if they were marshaling instead.

After a couple of rubbish BBQ runs in previous years I had a great run last year and set a new 5 mile PB of 45:55.  Although it’s not an official race – but instead more of a social event for our club, it is run on the race route, so I’m counting it as a PB!

Having run really strongly since starting my training using the Hanson’s Marathon Method, and having already achieved PBs in 6 mile and 10k events over recent weeks, I was hoping for another PB this year.

It didn’t start well when I arrived feeling knackered and hungry though.  I instantly had doubts for the run and began to talk myself out of it.

When we first set off I looked around and instantly felt like I had placed myself way too far forward, with runners usually much faster than me.  But my heart rate monitor told me that I could run faster, so I carried on.

Pre Welly 5 BBQ run

I chatted to a couple of people early on in the first mile.  Again, projecting my doubts about a decent time to them.  Kev came alongside me and commented on how well I had been running just lately.  I told him that I was hoping for a good time again that day – perhaps something around 9 minute mile pace.  I could see him trying to work out the math!  We spent several minutes talking before he nipped into a bush following the pre-run pint of Guinness he’d enjoyed in the bar before setting off!

I had sat behind the same people for the whole run until we hit the slight hill at mile 3.5.  Here, still feeling strong, I managed to gradually pull past other runners one by one.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to hold a full on conversation any more, and this ended up being my slowest mile at 9:07.  (So happy that I can say a mile at this pace was my slowest mile now!)

In fact, I ran really consistently for the whole run.  My mile splits were 9:01, 9:06, 8:49, 9:07, 8:50 and then 7:20mm pace for the final 0.09 recorded on my Garmin.

I overtook a couple more runners who I never would have been able to overtake normally in the final mile and then opened up my stride to power through to the finish.  As I headed towards the finish line I struggled to remember my exact PB time, but knew I was in with a shot of hitting it, and so commented to the Group 4 running coach as I came alongside him, who then insisted we run through the finish holding hands.

Pre Welly 5 finish line pic

Watch stopped, 45:33.  A full 24 seconds faster than my previous best!

Despite not really looking it in this pic, I was completely comfortable and was barely breathing heavily at all, able to chat and laugh with other runners whilst heading down the finishing chute.  I guess this picture must have been taken literally as I pulled back from a run to a walk.  You can see the official finish line drawn on the floor just behind me.

Although initially disappointed that I didn’t come very close to 45 minutes, having set myself a rough target of 9 minute miling, I soon cheered up when I checked my watch to discover that with the slight over-distance run I had actually ran an average of 8:57 minute miling!  Hanson’s is definitely doing me some good!

For the first time since the BBQ run has been taking place, we didn’t actually have any BBQs.  Instead, a pizza van.  So I waited in line for my turn to demolish a hot, veggie pizza and sit nursing a drink at the bar.  Very satisfying mid-week and with just one day left of the school term.

So that was last week – poorly sick following a good 5 mile race.  This weekend was a little different again.

I started off this weekend by running Kettering parkrun with Laura whilst pushing Oscar in the buggy.

Kettering parkrun start(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

This was parkrun #87 for me and I completed it in 34:25.  I should really count the amount of parkruns Oscar has been to.  He must be coming up to 20 now?
{Position: 196/255 Gender position: 67/108 Age category position: 10/12 }

Kettering parkrun midrun

(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

Having come right from the very back of the run and Kettering being a very difficult course to overtake with a buggy, I’m fine with that.  Oscar stayed wide awake for the whole run, gripping onto his Sophie giraffe toy.  Good job, because I didn’t really want to have to keep stopping to pick her up along the way!

I’m hoping that at some point during August I will be able to run a parkrun hard and see what time I am currently capable of.  It’s been a while since I raced a parkrun and I’d like to think I’m a little quicker now.

In the afternoon I headed over to The Garden Deli with Laura and Steph for cake and a catch up.  The cake there is a good.  I went for this lemon and ginger sponge.  I don’t even really like lemon flavoured things.  I can’t stand it when bartenders add a lemon slice in your drink when you go out, but this looked too good not to try.

Lemon and ginger sponge cake

The drinks are also amazing!  I went for a strawberry and vanilla fruit crush and was not disappointed!

Strawberry and vanilla fruit crush

Then yesterday was the actual Wellingborough 5 race.

For the last few years my role at the race has been to direct cars down the driveway and onto the car park before the race begins.  I then take photos of the runners along the first 100 metres of the race, again in the final 200m as well as ensure runners turn safely into the final section along the field at the very end of the race.  There were a couple of other marshals with me at the end this year, which meant that I could take pictures without worrying about where runners were headed.

I love taking photos of the event.

Last year a runner suffered a cardiac arrest during the race and was air lifted to hospital, so it was a sigh of relief when all runners were back safe and sound this year.  The club invited Tom, the runner who had been hospitalised following the race last year to our BBQ run the other week, and he finished at a run/walk along with his wife and one of our members who happened to be a doctor who had stopped and helped him on the day.  He finally got the chance to finish the race route!

Wellingborough 5 trophies

This year I also took pictures of all of the prize winners.  Prize giving always seems to go on for ages.  I couldn’t even dream of ever being good enough to receive a prize at a race.

Welly 5 winnersHow did you spend your weekend?

The final races of the EMGP and a new PB

So, I wrote a post a little while back about entering the East Midlands Grand Prix weeknight series of races which took place during the final half term of school (very inconveniently timed with my return to work!)  There are eight races in total.  I wrote about the Silverstone 10k, Blisworth 5m and the Rugby 6m (PB) in my first post about the series.  I’ll jot down some notes about the second half of the series below.

I wish I’d had a chance to blog about the events sooner though, as I always find it hard to go back and write about a race later on, especially if I race several events in quite quick succession.  I’ll do my best to remember as much as I can about each race, but if you want the events summed up in a few bullet points, see below.

* There were eight races, of which I ran six.

* I PBd twice during the series (at 6 miles and 10k).

* I nearly missed the start of every event bar one due to traffic/leaving late/getting lost.

* Once my watch died before the beginning and once I forgot my heart rate monitor.

Those four bullet points pretty much sum up my last six races!  But if you are after a little more detail, then read on…

Corby 5m

What sort of sadistic Race Director starts a 5 mile road race on a steep hill, and then finishes the race on that same hill too?

The Race Director at the Corby 5 race, that’s who!

If a race starts with a steep uphill, you can usually fairly safely assume that you will be finishing on a downhill, in order to get back to the same spot.  However, the Corby 5 runs up a steep uphill at the start, then has a nice, fairly flat/slight downhill couple of miles, before throwing in a couple of hills and ends by running back up that same steep hill that featured at the start of the race before running through into the car park and across to the finish.

I had only run the race once before – in 2012 before I began blogging – but I still remembered those hills!

Nevertheless I planned on giving it my best shot.  There is a nice downhill section into the village in mile 2, and I took advantage of this, knowing that my legs wouldn’t enjoy the steep climb back up to the finish for the final quarter of a mile!

Corby 5m

Towards the end of mile 4 I hit a hill and couldn’t maintain my heart rate, so decided to walk a short portion of the race.  I chatted to another runner as I broke back into a run again.  The other runner hadn’t run the event before so was quizzing me on whether there were any more hills.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that final hill is tough so close to the end!

As always, my club was super supportive and were all there crowded around the finish cheering everybody in.  It’s much easier to produce a finishing kick when you have everybody in front of you screaming your name!

Official time: 48:14
Garmin time: 48:13
Position: 319/360
Gender position: 96/129
Category position: 24/33

More than a minute faster than when I had run it back in 2012.

Banbury 5m

The Banbury 5m event fell the day after I returned to work full time (I had been in for odd days only before the half term holiday).  Oscar had started full time at nursery the day before and, unsure yet of what time I needed to get up each morning to ensure that I was round and ready to leave Oscar in a state suitable for nursery and me fed, showered, and looking presentable with food for the day meant that I was getting up at 4:15am.  Two days in – by the Tuesday evening – I was already absolutely exhausted from lack of sleep.  Oscar gets up once during the night, and I had been going to bed late to try and get my work complete before morning.  It left me without much sleep and within minutes of arriving home from work on Tuesday I announced to Dan that I would not be driving the 55 miles to Banbury (the furthest distance to travel of all the races) and promptly fell asleep on the sofa, where Dan woke me several hours later!

Harborough 5m

This was a new-to-me event, as both times I’ve raced the series in the past I believe it has fallen on parent’s evening.

For some reason Oscar was super tired when I collected him from nursery.  He whinged and whined every time I tried to put him down so that I could get changed or go to the toilet.  Dan arrived home from work at about 6:20pm and I madly dashed around trying to collect everything I needed for the race and get out of the door.

Unhelpfully, as well as leaving late, one of the roads the satnav sent me down to get to the race start was shut and the satnav wasn’t picking up any alternatives, with the diversion signs being no help whatsoever.  I am so reliant on the satnav when it comes to getting anywhere, so I rang Dan and got him to quickly talk me through what alternative route I needed to take.  Luckily, as navigationally-challenged as I am, Dan is the opposite, so he managed to get me to the car park for the race with three minutes to spare.  I dashed out of the car desperate for the toilet, pinning my race number on as I ran over to the mob of green vests I could see by the start.  Somebody called out to welcome me and I screeched back “Where are the loos?!” before rushing in the direction I was pointed towards!  What a welcome Mary!

Quickest wee in the world (only possible because so many people abandoned the line fearing they were going to miss the race) and I managed to make it to the back of the pack just in time to hear the starting shout.

Not so lucky when it came to my watch though.  I had switched it on to find signal as I arrived, only to see this screen…

Harborough 5 Garmin time…it never even made the start line.  :(

The aim for the race had been to run to heart rate (170bpm) but now I would have to go entirely on feel alone, something which I still haven’t been able to judge very accurately since returning from pregnancy.

In actual fact, I think the first three miles of the race were run at parkrun PB pace (8:35mm ish).  It resulted in a really bad stitch, meaning I had to break into a walk, and then even slow that walk down for perhaps quarter of a mile!  That fourth mile would definitely have been nothing to shout about so perhaps it’s a good thing I don’t have any Garmin evidence of it!  My last mile was strong though.  There was a fairly long, drawn-out gradual hill in the final section, and playing it sensible, I was able to pass several of the runners who had zoomed past me during my feeling-sorry-for-myself walk.  I haven’t had a stitch in years, and it was so, so very painful!

Both the start and the finish of the race were a lap around the grassy field – always difficult to remain strong when your legs are tired, you go from road to thick, long grass and you have everybody watching, but somehow I managed to overtake three runners during the lap to finish in 47m 32s.

Position: 280/312
Gender position: 84/107
Category position: 16/21

Weedon 10k

The one and only event where I made it with plenty of time to spare!  Although as I stood waiting to go, somebody asked if I needed to collect my number, as I wasn’t wearing it!  Quick jog back to my car to find it required!

I hadn’t been able to find my heart rate monitor anywhere in the mad rush before leaving the house.  I normally hang it over the bed post at the bottom of the bed, and when I arrived home that evening I discovered that it had fallen off and gotten tucked under the bottom of the bed annoyingly.  I threw my old heart rate monitor in to my kit bag in a hopeful attempt to be able to have some sort of data to base my pace on, but it is my old heart rate monitor for a reason, and it refused to pick up on my Garmin at all, so I ended up offloading it to another club runner’s husband at the start instead of running with it and annoying me the whole way round.

It was another hot day and it wasn’t until we were stood on the start line receiving the race briefing that the Race Director told us all there would be no water station on the course, as there had been a few marshaling problems.  It didn’t really affect me, as I wouldn’t take any water on for less than 10 miles anyway, but there were a few restless runners around me despairing and wishing they had brought water with them for the race.

Weedon is a race known for it’s tough hills, with a large hill at both 2 miles and 4.5 miles.

Weedon 10k hillsThe first hill always seems short and sharp, and there are people stood at the top cheering, so it’s hard to slow down too much as you have an audience!  I find the second one tougher mentally though – perhaps because it’s getting towards the end of the race by that point.

Weedon 10k(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

A few of the runners around me seemed to struggle a lot with the hills, and one guy asked me after the first hill if there were any more hills on the race.  I told him there was another tough one, although I couldn’t remember if it was at mile 4 or mile 4.5 at that point.  Two marshals stood up by the water tower were also asked by a nearby runner if there were any more hills, to which they responded “See the water tower?  That’s the highest point on the course!”  Although the top of the tower might have been fairly high, we didn’t run up there, and there was still a pretty tough hill to come!

Weedon 10k(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

The end of the race is all downhill though, and once you hit the downhill it’s easy running until the last 200 metres, which head up a steep hill towards the finish funnel.

Weedon 10k

Poor form in this downhill shot though…

Weedon 10k 3

…but clearly I perfected my spot-the-race-photographer smile during this race!Weedon 10k

Official time: 61:22
Garmin time: 61:20
Position: 290/324
Gender position: 73/97
Category position: 18/24

My initial plan had been to run to heart rate (170bpm) but unable to do that I was then happy on a hilly course, on a hot day to come away with a sub 10mm pace time, which I achieved.  It was also a time more than 3 minutes faster than the previous time I had run the event back in 2014.

Weedon 10k 2014 recap

Milton Keynes 10k

This was a stepping stone ‘target’ race for me.  Milton Keynes 10k was where I had achieved my previous 10k PB (58:27) and where I knew I had the best shot of improving my 10k time this year.  The course is fairly flat (if you don’t count the numerous redways) and is not overly crowded with a fast, flat, open finish.  I knew that I was in with a shot of coming away with a PB if I ran a smart race and didn’t get carried away at the start.

It was back to my usual problem of getting there on time though.

Leaving late, combined with a bad road traffic accident on the way meant that once again I arrived with just minutes to spare(!)  The start line is a short walk from the race HQ, and I arrived with just enough time to nip into an empty loo as I passed and tag along with a group from my club who were then walking over to the start.  One of the runners hoping to get under an hour asked me what time I was aiming for and I admitted that I was hoping to PB, but that my current time was 58 minutes.  I got the impression that they planned on staying with me, and I secretly hoped nobody would try chatting to me during the run – I wanted to focus and run strong!  I started chatting to one of the club’s membership secretaries and all of a sudden everyone started running forwards.  The race had begun, without our knowledge and so we hurriedly pressed buttons on Garmins and leapt into action.

Like several of the races, the start line is on a field, and so a wide path of runners set out, before narrowing as we came out onto the road.

I counted steps and also kept checking the numbers flashing up on my Garmin, trying my hardest to ensure they stayed between 165-170bpm.  I was struggling to run fast enough to bring my heart rate up to 170bpm, so decided to aim for 165, and reassess at the halfway point if needs be.

Mile 1: 8:45 – 146bpm
Mile 2:
8:51 – 168bpm
Mile 3:
9:08 – 167bpm

Milton Keynes 10k

(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

I was still feeling strong.  I passed a few runners from my running club who have finished other races in the series ahead of me.  I knew I was on target for a good race, and really did not want to spoil it.  My head kept trying to work out the sums over and over, but I can never work out timing math when I’m trying to run!  At least it kept my mind busy!

At mile 4 a bus drove past quickly through a deep puddle and soaked me and another lady that was running alongside me.

Milton Keynes 10k

(Photo by Barry Cornelius)

Mile 4: 9:20 – 168bpm
Mile 5:
9:06 – 164bpm
Mile 6:
9:12 – 165bpm

As my watch ticked over to 6 miles, I pulled alongside Margaret and puffed out that I was heading towards a new PB, as way of explaining why I was overtaking a runner from the same club.  She pushed the pace up a notch to challenge me further and I managed to keep with her, pushing past just before hitting the final field and managing to finish six seconds in front of her.

Milton Keynes 10k

Nubbin (0.27m): 8:11mm pace – 170bpm

I was obviously super happy and crossed the finish line beaming!  It was several minutes before the crowd I normally finish with began to trickle over the line.  I had PBd by nearly two minutes!

Official time: 56:40
Garmin time: 56:36
Position: 394/456
Gender position: 96/136
Category position: 28/35

My watch shows that I ran an average of 9:01mm pacing over the whole distance, so the obvious challenge to set myself for MK10k next year in 2018 will be to get the pace down to something starting with an 8:xx!

A great way to finish the series!

MK 10k 2014 recap
MK 10k 2015 recap

Overall standings:

11th senior lady (out of 16) with 105 points.

To score, runners must take part in at least 5 events out of the eight.  You are given scores relating to your age category for each race.  So, the first Senior lady is given one point, the next two points, and so on.  At the end of the series, each runner’s lowest five scores count and the lower your total score, the better.  (The winner of the series actually only scored 5 points, as they won all races they entered within their age category.)

EMGP resultsBecause I ran six events, my highest score (Silverstone) was disregarded when working out my total.

When was the last time you PBd?  Was it by much?
What is your favourite race distance?
Have you ever missed the start of a race before?

The Welly 5 and a 999 call

Sunday was our club’s annual road race – the Wellingborough 5, or ‘Welly 5′ as it has become known to locals.

I was down for my usual job of marshaling at the top of the track leading into the Old Grammarian’s Sports ground car park heading to the start/finish line.  This time with Nic, another lady from my club.

{Previous Welly 5 marshaling recaps: 2013 * 2014 * 2015}

For 2016 we were no longer able to park runners in the large farmer’s field opposite the Old Grammarian’s (OGs) as they have started developing this site into an industrial estate.  It meant that all marshals and all runners would need to park in the OGs (much smaller!) car park instead and this required lots of organisation!  After the stress of being placed on car parking duty at the South Downs Way 100 a few weeks back, I was glad to see that my marshal position remained at the top of the track and that I wouldn’t need to be directing cars into spaces on the day, but instead merely pointing them in the direction of Colin, who would be indicating exactly where they were to park.

As we knew there would be limited car park spaces I headed down with Tom, who needed to head out with the van and lay the signs for the course out on the route in the morning.  Because it was still too early to direct runners into OGs when I first arrived, I helped set up signs and start lists inside with those who were on registration before heading out to my marshal point a little before 8:30am.  The race didn’t begin until 10:30.

Race numbers at the Wellingborough 5

Dan had decided a few days earlier that he would quite like to run the Welly 5.  Despite not having trained for it he has been going to the gym twice a week for the past month and regularly going to footy training for several months.  He managed to snag the last remaining place of the 300 on offer.

This year the t-shirts for runners were polyester technical tops.  If you haven’t yet tried a polyester technical top I suggest that you hunt one down immediately!  They are so light-weight and cool for Summer running.  I picked one up for marshaling at Pitsford Triathlon the other week and am hoping there are still a few Welly 5 tees going spare as well next time I’m at club.

Polyester technical tops at the Wellingborough 5The road that the OGs is located on is locally known as ‘The Mad Mile’.  It is one mile of straight road with nothing on it but the turn into OGs.  Cars really pick their speed up coming down this little country road and I was surprised at how fast-moving the traffic was even at 8:30am on a Sunday morning.  There is no way that we would be able to run the race if we were disallowed a road closure for the Mad Mile for the hour the race takes place.  At times it got a little hairy when runners were waiting to turn their cars in to the car park from both directions and other road users were trying to squeeze through the middle of cars turning in!

Miraculously the car park team did a great job of slotting in all of the cars and the race began on time once the road containing the start had been closed off.  I had been asked by our Race Director if I would take photos at the start and finish from my marshal position, as I had done in previous years, so I took my camera along to get a few shots of the runners setting out.

The start at the Wellingborough 5

Tom had been posted as tail runner so jogged along behind the final two ladies as they made their way past the car park track and then the 249 runners that had turned up for the race, the lead bike and Tom disappeared off into the distance.

It was perfect race weather – quite sunny yet still with a slight breeze.  Much nicer than last year when it tipped it down for the entire race!

We had a good 23 minutes or so before we would be able to see the front runners heading back round the corner in our direction and several other supporters from the club had gathered by this point with Nic and I.

It probably wasn’t much more than 10 minutes later when a car rushed down the track from the car park towards us at full speed.  Hazard lights were flashing and the horn was honking as the car approached us.  Despite us not supposed to let any cars out of the car park until the road reopened, we could do nothing but leap out of the way of the speeding car, which then sped off to the left past us.  It wasn’t until it passed that we realised that the guy sat behind the wheel was dressed in a St. John’s Ambulance uniform.
He was driving with too much urgency for it to be something as straight forward as a sprained ankle or broken leg.  I glanced up to see Colin running from his marshal spot over to us and immediately thought that something must have happened to one of our club members.  Colin though, hadn’t been aware that it was the guy from St. Johns, and had actually been running over to remind us not to let anyone out.

A further few minutes and the car came racing back down the road in the other direction – heading towards the way the runners would be coming towards us for the finish.  Not long after, he was followed by a paramedic vehicle and closely afterwards, a police car.  We were very worried over by the finish now, especially after having seen the police car speed by.

The front runner came past, and my job as photographer began.  So that I could begin photographing the runners I passed my phone to another club runner so that she was able to call the Race Director and tell him what little information we knew – that there had been an incident on the course.  He was already aware.
Lead runner at the Wellingborough 5The first guy (Mark Ryall of Milton Keynes AC) won by a huge margin.  He had been leading from the very beginning of the race.  There had been no chance of anyone catching up with him and beating his very impressive finish time of 26m 49s.  Second place belonged to one of our green vests that you can see way back in the distance of the above photo.

The end at the Wellingborough 5

As our finishing club runners started to filter back out to cheer where we were stood it became apparent that the majority were not aware that there had been an incident, and of those that were, knew no details.  We worriedly ran through names of our own who were still out on the course and mentally ticked them off as they came past one by one.  There was one obvious runner missing, but it wasn’t until Dan came to find me after crossing the line that we learned of any further information.  (Dan had a very consistent race and had finished in 49m 51s.)

The person that had suffered a cardiac and respiratory arrest had gone down before Dan had passed through and Dan was able to inform us that it was a male runner from Northampton Running Club.  Although instantly relieved that it wasn’t the one of our own we were still missing, we were still very anxious to know that all was OK, especially as an air ambulance now droned overhead in the direction of the course.

Team Balancise at the Wellingborough 5

Our lead bike had headed out to pick up the tail runners on delivering the front runner across the line.  He returned now, along with the back runners and informed us that the road had been closed off completely so no cars were to head in that direction.  Nic and I remained at our marshal post to ensure all cars turned left out of OGs rather than headed to the right where the incident had occurred and where the road was now closed.

A gentleman came over to me and said that he hadn’t seen his friend finish the race yet.  Had all the runners arrived back now?  Only he didn’t think that his friend was normally this slow.  I asked what club vest his friend wore as a way to sound out whether or not I needed to share what limited information I had been given so far.  I was told that his friend didn’t run for a club but he couldn’t remember what colour top he had been wearing that day.  Tactfully I was then able to say that there had been an incident on the course involving a male runner, and that it had been confirmed that the incident involved a club runner from one of our local running clubs who would have been wearing club colours.  By this point I had also been told that a few runners had stopped to help when the runner first went down, including our missing club runner so I shared this information as well.  I was told by the gentleman that his friend was a policeman and he was sure that he would have stopped to help if he could.  He thanked me and left to make a phone call.

A few minutes later a marshal car came past and they could confirm that amongst those who remained helping on the course were a nurse and a policeman, so I headed over to reassure the man where his friend was.

It wasn’t until 20 minutes or so later that I saw Tom walking back towards us with another runner who was walking alongside him.  This chap was the policeman who had stopped to help.

The Northampton runner had collapsed very early into the race.  Tom was first to reach him and was able to call for help.  So many members of our club and runners out on the course were quick to think and react with everybody jumping into roles such as slowing traffic, performing CPR, reassuring the man’s wife who had also been out on the course, calming other runners and giving instructions to the ambulance crew.  They ended up performing CPR for half an hour before the Northampton Road Runner (also called Tom) was airlifted to the local cardiac unit.

Although things didn’t sound too good to begin with, we received an email from his wife on Monday afternoon and it appears that things have now started to improve.  She was able to tell us that he woke from the induced coma himself, recognised his family and when given a pen and paper managed to ask what time he had clocked for the race!  Apparently he was rather upset that he had DNFd!  Although still in intensive care and not yet ‘out of the woods’ everyone is remaining positive.

Hopefully it looks as though Tom will make a good recovery, but it made several of us think about ensuring our first aid qualifications were kept up to date and highlighted the importance of carrying a mobile phone at all times on a run.

Are you first aid qualified?
Do you take your phone out with you when you run?