So last weekend’s long run was kind of a big deal. Hint, hint – race no.1 down, bucket list looking a little more complete. I feel I can now officially call myself a runner; I’ve completed my first official race, with a shiny medal to prove it (…plus a handful of blisters along with the dreaded post-race DOMS, but what’s running without pain?!)
The entire event was a world away from the pathetically unorganised school XC races I’ve been subject to so far in my youth. Racing involves more than simply running. I’m talking the very fiddly process of pinning on race numbers, attaching ankle timing chips, navigating the mile-long port-a-loo queue, avoiding being trampled amongst the stampede that commences once the klaxon gongs. I feel now more respected within the running community after crossing the finish line.
What have I learnt from my 10k race? Firstly, you return with so much more than a medal and free t-shirt. Going to bed the night before bubbling with nervous anticipation, waking up feeling like you might explode with excitement (along with the inevitable fear, because signing up to a race is pretty daunting), lining up on the start line, being cheered on every step, everyone seemingly feeding off each other’s endorphins. Partaking in a race is such a unique and rewarding experience, one that I believe every runner needs to relish.TRAINING
10K is tough; you can’t just stride from weekly park runs straight into a 10K race else you’ll burn out. Since embarking on my Strava 100km running challenge in the summer, my legs (along with mind, as the majority of running is in the mind) have adjusted to longer distances, to a point where I’m enjoying my long runs now more than the shorter outings. As I’m not currently part of a running club I tend to just go off how I feel. I’ll head out with a vague idea of a minimum distance I’m aiming to cover but if the legs are feeling strong I’ll push a bit harder, go a bit further. I made sure to do at least one 10K every weekend leading up to race day, along with other runs of varying distances throughout the week. It seemed to work; most weeks I found my time improved, plus I crossed the line on race day with a massive two minute PB.
When I’m not running, I’m either stretching or strengthening. Due to the wearing nature of covering long distances, runner and foam roller are bound to become well-acquainted – I’m no exception. Many hours were spent stretching and foam rolling, a torturous and tedious procedure I force myself to endure daily. (No idea what to do with a foam roller? I have just the post for you here. And how about some stretches too? Click here.) The PT at the gym recommended strengthening my quads and hamstrings to prevent knee injuries, so I also threw a sweaty dose of squat and lunge jumps into my strength and conditioning sessions to help boost my sprint finish. Not neglecting the glutes or abdominals either, which are paramount for strong running form. (See my favourite core exercises here) There’s certainly more to running than just running.
The aspect I most enjoyed about racing for the first time was soaking up the electric atmosphere on a completely unknown route. It’s not every run that you’re cheered on every kilometre by infectiously thrilled crowds, weaving through the peloton of fellow racers and feeling part of a pack. It was refreshing to run a new route, and running with others renewed my passion for the sport. Imagine you’ve always been stuck playing tennis against a wall, then suddenly there’s someone to play against. For a solo runner who often ends up running the same monotonous routes week in week out, it was quite the lightbulb moment, and I savoured every second of it.
‘CHILLING’ IN THE RACE VILLAGE
…Quite literally. Advice to anyone running a race is to bring ALL the layers. I’m talking leggings, hoodie, coat, blanket, duvet. OK, maybe not that extreme but you get the gist. I think with more races in the future I’ll become more acclimatised to the hubbub of the race village, where everyone seems to hang about in clusters, scarily over-enthusiastic for 8.30am on a Sunday morning. Rocking up to the race village as a racing newbie did feel a little intimidating, although once you get talking to fellow racers it all becomes a whole lot less scary.
First priority: toilets, or more accurately, port-a-loos. The last scenario you want to end up in is stuck in the queue whilst the klaxon sounds, so get business felt with ASAP. If like me and signing up was rather spontaneous (and therefore too late to collect maximal freebies) the race village is a prime area to snag the goods. There’s bound to be plenty of food, but I made sure to bring a protein bar for speedy refuelling post-finish line. I was a little tempted by the sports massages available in the race village, however wasn’t quite brave enough to put myself through the torture. Maybe next time?RACE TACTICS
As for race tactics, I tested out a piece of advice I’d been given by the specialist at the running shop (responsible for my revolutionary blue ASICS trainers, which have been a game changer on the comfort front), of starting right at the back. This avoids the chaos provoked by the start gun, enabling you to suss out the competition. So, when the final event of the day was called out – the big one-zero – I leisurely strolled over to the start, and hung at the back, cautious not to get caged in. This allowed for ample warm-up room, meaning when the klaxon sounded I was in prime shape to run.
As soon as I crossed the finish line I was anxious for results. Being a runner I think it’s only natural to want to know the details of every other runner in the race – slightly too competitive perhaps, but what’s sport without a bit of healthy competition? I finished 2nd in my age category and 8th female, results I’m very pleased with given it was my first race. Guess the tactics paid off.
I hope this medal will be the first of many. There’s certainly many more races left to conquer – I’m excited to see what challenges await. While the whole experience still feels thrillingly fresh in my memory I’ve got to hold myself back from going a little crazy and signing up to as many races as I can get my hands on – definitely caught ‘the running bug’. Saying that, on crossing the finish line I was handed a leaflet on a ‘Santa Race’ in December, so perhaps I can work towards that?! Running around a town centre amongst a crowd of crazy runners dressed as Santa sounds like quite the novel experience (what a blog post that’d make).
Naturally, after ticking off a 10k my next battle to overcome is a half marathon. All I’ve got to do is survive two 10k races, plus a tiny bit extra – how hard can it be?! Keep watching this space people – half marathon, I’m coming for you.