Running 2010 – Northampton 10K, Northampton

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Sunday, 3rd October 2010 – Northampton 10K, Northampton

Today I ran the Northampton 10k – it was great fun. Here’s how it went.

I woke up a bit later than I’d intended to (set the alarm for 7am then didn’t switch the on switch, so I woke up at 7.20 instead). I lurched around getting a coffee and a carafe of water, which I then downed to make sure I’d be well enough hydrated to get through a 10k, and hopefully the coffee would make sure everything was through me so I wouldn’t get a case of the runners’ trots halfway round. I dressed only in what I needed, added my HRM, and pulled on my shoes (with the race chip already attached – did that the night before so I wouldn’t have to worry on the day). That all sorted I had a look out of the window and decided I would be going alone… a grey sodden sort of day was out there, so much so that I grabbed a plastic bin-liner as a coat for disposal at the start. Suitably equipped, and fortified with a banana, I left the house at 8.10. There was very little traffic on the run to the venue, and I was parked up by 8.30, with a 10 minute walk to get to the start area. I have to say the car parking seemed to be very well organised and there was little in the way of queuing to endure.

Leaving anything I didn’t want with me in the car, I wrapped myself up in my bin liner and wandered over there, far too early. I hung around the small selection of exhibitors stands for a while, and had a quick chat with the local triathlon club about the possibility of doing the Duston Tri next March, and then sidled back to the assembly area to have a last trip to the loos and see if I could find Sarah (a fellow member) only to locate her in the queue just in front of Sarah from the running club I belong to. What are the odds of meeting two people you know (but who don’t know each other) standing next to each other in a line just as you find them?

Anyway, we agreed that we would all run our own races, and try and catch up at the finish to see how we’d all got on. That agreed we fought our way into the 60 minute finish pen and waited for the off, which finally happened about 5 minutes behind schedule. By that point it had stopped raining pretty much so I dumped my stylish bin-liner and got ready to run. The first section was a fairly evil but steady uphill climb towards the city centre, so I set the iPod to rock, on a random play setting, stuck my earphones in and went for it. I decided I wouldn’t worry about pace this time (my undoing last time round) but would just run as I felt comfortable running. There was a certain amount of jockeying for position, with people over or underestimating what sort of time they were looking at, so it was a bit messy for the first kilometre or so.

There was a bit of a shortage of markers, the first one didn’t come until 2k so I had a check of my time then, and was well inside 12 minutes at that point. Head down, keep going, and suddenly there was an awful headwind, but it didn’t last long. As we got closer to the town centre, we were greeted first by a lone piper, which seemed rather more melancholy than I needed, and then a rock group playing bad cover versions about a kilometre further along. The piper was just before the 2.5k point, which was where the 5k runners turned back for home, and also where the first water station was. I took a cup, gulped a mouthful and threw the rest of it over my head. It’s not possible to drink from a plastic cup and run, so that seemed like the best policy to me. As for the rock band, I may not have been in the best frame of mind at that stage because we’d just gone up a long incline round one side of a dual carriageway, and I’d taken a very brief walking break, as it turned out the only one I would need. And then we came back down the other side of the road, and turned up Gold Street, one of the older, and slightly less grotty bits of Northampton. A swing round the Market Square eventually came and the competitors were thinning out a bit now, including Superman who’d been desperately looking for a loo a km or so back and presumably was pleased to finally find one! I never saw him again…

I didn’t see much of the crowds either, despite the belly dancer setting up on the stage in the Square. I suspect the weather put most of them off, and frankly I wouldn’t blame them. From there, it was theoretically mainly easy going though there was yet another bloody hill over the railway bridge, and I started to try and pick up my pace a bit once I’d got over it, knowing there would be one more hill before the finish (if anyone ever tries to tell me Northampton is flat I’ll give them such a pummeling!) After that we were back out of town again, having passed a silver band at the Guildhall, and a choir outside one of the churches. That meant we were back in the land of wholesale warehouses and the like, and heading to the finish at a good pace still. And that was where it started to get a bit tricky. Around the 7k marker my left ITB suddenly started to twinge. I suspect it had a lot to do with the weird camber all the way round, as it was constantly causing me to lean the same way. It wasn’t all the time, just every so often, and it wasn’t enjoyable but I could live with it, especially that far into the race, so I kept right on going.

One more loop into a dull retail park and I could see the Sixfields stadium up ahead, where the finish was. A quick look at the watch again suggested that if I didn’t let up I was on for a PB, so I took a deep breath and pushed up the final hill, swearing profusely – to the huge amusement of one of the race marshals, overtaking a couple of runners who had clearly got less left in the tank, and pelted for the finish line just as it started to rain again. My watch said 58 minutes and something, but as my fingers refused to work I couldn’t actually stop the watch, so now I’m waiting for the official times to be published. I’d also be interested to see the photos, especially as I think I got snapped just as I pulled out and did my overtaking move on the hill. Afterwards I caught up with Sarah who seemed to have also had a good run, and we limped through to collect our goody bags (a bit disappointing really – what use is an anti-tobacco car air freshener to a non-smoking asthmatic after all?), medals and water.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my first ever “proper” (non-charity) race, and am more than happy with my personal best, especially as it means I’m around 13 seconds faster than I was last year at the same time. Finding the car afterwards was fun (!) and I nearly mugged a bloke who got to the car park ahead of me for his banana, but then I found my car, and scarfed the banana and the Jordans bar I’d left in there for afterwards. A litre of water later and I was ready to drive home, shower and head down to the pub where two pints of Youngs, a portion of surf’n’turf with chips and half a bottle of wine went a long way towards restoring my equilibrium. There would have been pudding too but instead I came back home for plum crumble and custard.

And when the results came in, I’d finished 75th out of 182 runners (on chip time) in the female veterans category (which starts in the UK at 35 so some of them have got 16 years on me)! We won’t talk about being 840th overall out of 1401 runners… Slightly unhappy that the chip got me at 59:16 which is slower than my HRM said, but it’s still a sub-60 minute finish and a personal best so I’ll take it.

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