Running 2010 – Spooky Sprint 10K, Holme Pierrepoint

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Saturday, 30th October 2010 – Spooky Sprint 10K, Holme Pierrepoint

So my 3rd 10k of the year was on Saturday, 30th October, the so-called Spooky Sprint, a 10k to raise money for Parkinson’s UK around the National Water Sports Centre at Holme Pierrepoint near Nottingham. The course was described as mainly flat and the map suggested it was two laps of the boating lake and white water rafting course, so it had the potential to be quite scenic too.

I was a bit worried in advance as although the ITBS issue had seemingly sorted itself since the Northampton 10 at the start of the month, I’ve since been struggling with piriformis pains on the right side, and an added hip flexor and ankle issue on that leg too. With a mostly non-running week and two physio visits I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about my chances of actually completing the course. However, nothing daunted, at 4pm on Saturday I pitched into the car and pointed it at Nottingham, with Lynne coming along to offer support/hold my coat/look after my banana and cereal bar stash. We got there at 5.15, which was exactly as planned, parked up and walked down towards the start area. Lynne pinned my number on my supposedly glow in the dark t-shirt and I collected my head torch (everyone needed one) from the reception area before proceeding towards the start line, stopping off to use the indoor loos en route (there were portaloos but why anyone would use those if they don’t need to is beyond me). A banana from the supply was duly despatched and Lynne found herself a space on the clubhouse balcony to watch from, promising to attempt to get a photo or two if she could.

It wasn’t long before we were called to the start and around 300 runners set off on 2 laps of the very long, very flat lake, to the consternation of the various wild birds settling down for the night on the water. The geese in particular seemed somewhat disturbed by the horde of humans thundering round their “bedroom” just as it got dark. Head torch switched on, I found a position just behind the line. Interestingly there was none of that pushing and shoving that seems to go on normally, and when the starter counted down from 5 there was a smooth and orderly start and I just plugged in my iPod and ran at my own pace.

It was too dark to see my watch and even if it hadn’t have been, I didn’t have my glasses on so I had no idea how fast or slow I’d completed the first kilometre (very clearly marked thanks to the organisers) or even the 2nd one. And that was where the trouble started. My hip was hurting even before I started, but then it really started to kick in and I had to try and ram my thumb into it to stop it from hurting so much. I did a deal with myself as I was now around halfway round the first lap and that was that if necessary I would quit at the end of the first lap. I was in a position where it hurt just as much to walk so there was no benefit to that and it was as far to go back as to go on. It seemed a shame, too, to actually stop and not complete the event as I rounded the end of the lake and looked back to see dozens of headtorches glittering as they moved along, and a family of swans drifting serenely past on the utterly still lake, so I put the decision off and kept right on going.

Round about the 3.5k mark I learned a lesson that I’ll bear in mind in future when something started flapping round my ankle. Looking down showed that it wasn’t my timing chip coming loose (as I’d initially suspected) but my shoelaces untying themselves. I had to stop or risk being driven mad by it slowly flailing my lower leg to death, or worse, tripping over it. I remember now why I normally tie them in a double bow and will always do so in future. While I was retying the laces several people went past me, but I was able to repass them shortly after.

Then we got to the tricky bit as we deviated away from the main lake to the white water course by means of a curved bridge. The change in surface was abrupt and the wooden slats a little slippery, but more importantly for me that was when the right ankle decided the right hip could do with a little help and it started up in concert. I couldn’t stop now though. I could hear the commentator and I was pretty certain I was well inside 30 minutes for the first 5k so – pain or no pain – I had to keep going. The water station was just before the end of the first lap so I grabbed a bottle, swigged a little and poured the rest of it over my shoulders (over the head seemed unwise in case it shorted out my head torch – which was essential to get through the stretch from the white water course back to the main lake, narrow, dark and very leaf-covered). I was close to the start of lap 2 and the commentator was naming the runners as we came across the line – I crossed the line to start lap 2 rolling my eyes at Lynne as the guy mangled my name. I don’t know who Stella-Maria Thompson is but I hope she was having an easier time of it than I was.

I ran on, promising myself I could take a walk break after the 6k marker but not before. As it turned out by then I seemed to be running in a bubble, just me, the light from my torch and the sound of U2 in my headphones. The runners ahead were well clear of me and the ones behind were so far back I couldn’t see their lights on the path and it felt good, even with the stabbing pain in my hip each time my foot hit the ground. Of course that couldn’t last and it was amazing how far away the end of the lake (and thus the 7k mark) seemed to be suddenly. I was now having to talk myself into keeping going with repeatedly broken promises that I could stop at such and such a point. I did take a couple of walk breaks but eventually I made it to the bridge again. I wasn’t looking forward to the change in camber and sure enough the next thing that happened was the left ITB started to twang and I could feel the knee losing interest. However, I’d passed the 8k marker which meant that I only needed to keep it going for another 12 minutes maximum and I’d be home.

Now people were starting to pass me but there was nothing I could do about it. I just had to hold together at my own pace and get home. I could see the finish line ahead and an awful lot of lights behind me still and I pushed on, grabbing a drink from the drinks station as I passed it for the second time. This time I didn’t attempt to drink any of it but instead just poured it straight over my shoulders. And now I could hear the commentator again and he was talking about some of the runners who were just starting their second lap. I also thought I heard him say something about 54 minutes, which meant I was definitely on for a PB if I could just get over those last 500 metres. I kicked off and put on a sprint and almost threw myself over the line, just as the commentator got my name wrong for the second time!

Lynne was waiting for me as I sprinted over the line and I found her, collapsing round her shoulders for a moment or two while I tried to recover some sort of equilibrium. A deep breath and I was able to walk (or at least hobble) to collect my goodie bag (containing a medal, a bottle of a sports milk shake, a pack of Walkers shortbread fingers, a pen, a badge, and a copy of this month’s Runners’ World – which I already have). Someone requested my timing chip so I pointed at my right ankle and let her bend down to cut the tag off – I couldn’t bend by then. Lynne reckoned it was inside the hour but I didn’t have the strength to push the stop button on my watch so I’ll have to wait for the official times (wherever they will be).

Lynne fought her way out of the grandstand and we reunited at the foot of the stairs. She did offer to buy me a pint in the bar but I reckoned getting home was a better bet. We drove back at speed and once home I ran a cold bath and chucked a load of ice in. I sat in that for as long as I could bear it (about 7 minutes I think) then got out showered and limped into town where a pint of beer was swiftly despatched, followed by poppadoms and chutney, tandoori salmon and paneer, king prawn kasmiri, lamb cooked with various vegetables and potatoes, half a keema naan bread and some rice, washed down with half a bottle of rose wine. I felt a lot better afterwards, especially as it was followed by a large painkiller and 10 hours of sleep. I feel a lot better this morning although the hip is still stiff and in need of ice. It should start to improve with rest and the introduction of my new orthotics, but I’m not allowed to wear them for running until I can wear them for walking around normally for a whole day. As I only got them on Friday and I am only allowed to increase the wear time by an hour each day it’ll be two weeks before I can run using them, but when I put them on today for 3 hours my hip almost immediately hurt less.

All in all it’s got the potential to be a great event and it certainly allows for the possibility of a personal best. It was well organised, in a pleasant environment with good facilities for runners and spectators (Lynne had a half pint in the bar while she waited) and apparently there’s also an hotel on the site so if anyone fancies doing it next year, I can highly recommend it.

And when the results came in, I got a new personal best by 4 seconds (59:14 chip time). I was the 35th woman home… so there were 86 of them still behind me and I was 115th overall in a field of 235 runners! So it may have been worth the pain…

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