I woke to the sound of the pouring rain and an ache in my right shoulder. Oh, good, just perfect for race day ! I ate a pot of Oat So Simple honey and vanilla flavour as I got ready, and decided that I would be wearing my 2XU compression tights under my Ron Hill running shorts. I would also be wearing the race tshirt, as they very cleverly want us all to be wearing them to better promote the fact that the event is in aid of the excellent Grove House charity, and my Merrell Trail Gloves (which are not gloves). I drove over to Harpenden through the heavy rain, eating cashew nuts and drinking some of my water with a High5 tablet in it on the way, and as I could not see any roadside parking available I took advantage of the free parking which had been arranged at Harpenden railway station. It was still raining and even with my Ron Hill showerproof jacket on top of my race tshirt I was soaked through before I got out of the station car park.
I followed the line of people through the town and into Rothamsted Park, continuing to sip on my water as I was walking up the hill to get to the huddle of tents which offered shelter from the cold rain. Except that the tents were already full of people who had arrived before me. I had to get in, though, because I was not sure if I still needed to register or not. I had received everything through the post in very good time but did not know if that meant I was clear to race. It turns out that it did, but at least I was now in the warm, dry marquee. I got myself organised, took off my jacket, left my bag in the bagdrop area, and headed out into the cold rain to eat my banana. And the rain really was cold and pointed. These were not the conditions I had envisaged when I signed up for this. My current running training schedule called for a 6 mile run this weekend and this 10k run seemed like a good way to tick that box and get myself a properly measured and timed run I could compare to my own measurements and timings for training runs. The weather and the ground conditions were pretty much kicking that one into touch, and especially when it was announced that the 8km mark was waterlogged. I took a final toilet break and then did some stretching along with the Fitness First warm up session in a somewhat vain attempt to warm up.
We were kept waiting in the rain for some time as I think they allowed the proper runners at the front to set off and get a bit of a lead on the rest of us. Then another wave appeared to go, before finally we were off. Very slowly. I had positioned myself at the back of the pen for 55-60 minutes, and did not seem to have too many people lining up behind me, but right from the beginning I was encountering runners I could easily overtake and I could not help but think they had not put themselves in the correct pens for the times they were likely to achieve. The ground conditions were also slowing us down as we were running on grass which was wet and muddy and slippery, and so as we came past the 1km mark I was both pleased to have hit it at 6 minutes, and disappointed that I had been a little inhibited in my running and kept from getting there a bit faster.
We were still running in open ground and the rain was still pouring down, and I reached the 2km mark on 12 minutes. That was fine by me because if I stayed at that pace and added a little push at the end I would achieve my target of beating an hour. We came down on to a track and runners were going around the big puddles rather than straight through them, which meant we stayed bunched up. I did not bother with any drinking water at the water station at 3km and was pleased to note that I had got there on 18 minutes.
Then I had my first piece of misfortune. I know how to tie my laces. I’ve known how to tie them for many years now, and I know to tie them with a double knot if I am going to be running. So I was annoyed when I noticed that my right lace had come undone. I stopped to redo it but my fingers were so cold and wet that was a lot easier said than done and it took me some time.
It also knocked the rhythm and momentum I had going, which was a pity because now we started to go uphill on a lane past Redbourn Golf Club. And continued to go uphill for some way as we joined Kinsbourne Green Lane. I was pleased that I kept running the whole way but less pleased when we got to 4km and I saw my time was 26 minutes. I had lost 2 minutes on my target time and now we continued to go uphill for a little while longer. I reached the 5km half way mark at 32 minutes, so I was back on 6 minutes per km pace in terms of my current running, and had two minutes to make up over the second half. And then disaster struck as my left lace came undone. Once again I found it very hard to retie because my fingers were frozen, and as I came down Roundwood Lane to the 6km mark I saw I had dropped another minute and was now at 39 minutes.
We were running along residential streets now and I felt good inside, felt good with my running, and thought that I could push it on a bit over the last section of the race to improve my overall time. I took a cup of water at the water station and hit 7km on 45 minutes, so was back to running a km in 6 minutes. Which means I should have guessed that something like my left lace coming undone again was about to happen. I retied it and pushed on as we came back to running on grass tracks and through fields.
I reached the 8km mark on 52 minutes, so my laces had taken another minute out of me. To be honest, the ground had taken it out of my legs and my idea of a second half spurt never happened. I hit the 9km mark on 58 minutes, after another 6 minute km. At least I have that consistency, I suppose. Now we were running through muddy fields until we reached the grass once more and were on the final stretch. I passed a sign indicating that there were 400 metres to go and I tried to pick up my pace. I came round a corner and could see the finishing line, so I pushed a bit more and went past a couple of other runners, giving it everything to cross the 10km mark in 1 hour 4 minutes and 33 seconds.
I had to stop and fell to my knees to get my breath back, so I knew I had left everything on the course, and I cannot ask any more of myself than that. It had been cold and rained throughout the race, the ground had been difficult to run on, and my laces had not helped me at all. I was satisfied with my time, if not pleased.
I got my medal and my bottle of water and my banana, and retrieved my bag from the marquee. I must say everything was very well planned and organised throughout, from the mailing of my entry pack, to the announcements on the day, to the excellent marshalls across the course, to the people at the finish distributing all the goodies. I could not fault any of that. And, if nothing else, the wet and cold weather and the ground conditions had been excellent practice for the Winter Wolf Run in November. As I began my walk back to my car while eating my banana I noticed that the rain had eased. I also noticed Steve, one of the instructors from Regiment Fitness, who had run the race with his far better half. We had a good old chat about the run, the weather, the ground conditions, and that cheered me up. Which was good, because I then sat in my car for about half an hour waiting to get out of the station car park because there were temporary traffic lights in place for road works.
My speed was 9.08 km per hour, which is 6:36 minutes per km. I came 1583rd out of 2181 overall, and in the male Veteran 40 class I came 354th out of 408. I would say that is a gradual improvement on my results from the Silverstone Half-Marathon and the St Albans Half-Marathon from earlier this year, and so long as I keep improving I will be happy. I will be back again next year to break the 1 hour mark.
You can see more photos from the day here.