My seemingly never ending series of races continued today with the Laganside 10k in Belfast, my eighth event in just over five weeks.
It was also my fifth race in the Novosco Grand Prix series, following on from the Spar Craic, Titanic Quarter, Lisburn and Storming The Castle events.
As the name suggests, this was a 10k predominantly along the River Lagan, beginning in Ormeau Park before going onto the Ravenhill Road and then two laps of the Lagan Towpath before finishing back in the park.
I had considered not turning up for this. I had heard it was very ‘serious’, in stark contrast to the festival like feel of Carrickfergus last Sunday. I was worried I’d really struggle in face of strong competition, even at my pace.
Also, the weather forecast put me off. It had given heavy rain throughout the day and whilst running in the rain doesn’t worry me – I welcome it, in fact – the thoughts of travelling up to Belfast and then spending at least an hour getting soaked before the race even started didn’t really appeal.
But, in the end, none of the above was really a factor. Yes, it rained but it was more of a mizzle and, by the time I was ready to go back home, it was dry.
As for the race itself, again I had nothing to worry about … but more of that soon.
Arriving at Ormeau Park, I made my way to the registration building to get my number and, after getting sorted, bumped into a friend I’ve never met but have known for at least 15 years through football. It was good to actually meet him after all this time, albeit in surroundings I would never have expected.
I spotted a few members of my club dotted around the place but because they’re so much faster than me our paths have never crossed in training before so I didn’t really know them.
Happily, however, in the starting pens I did spot someone from my club group. It was great to see Parveen, and I think she was pleased to see me as well, it’s always good to see a familiar and friendly face to settle those pre-race nerves.
Off we went, and straight into a downhill section which, of course, made it a bugger of a thing to keep to a slow pace. However, I did do my best to conserve myself and wasn’t as fast as I might have been. I think that paid off later in the race.
About a couple of miles in I was reasonably happy with how I was getting on. By this stage we were on the towpath, there’s always something pleasant about running alongside a river – even if it was the Lagan!
As I said earlier, this was a two lap race so pretty soon the real speed demons were already lapping me and whilst this could rightly annoy some people and put them off I quite enjoyed it because it allowed me to see the front runners, something I don’t often get the chance to do.
The only difficult bit was seeing them turn off for the finish whilst I had another lap to do but by that stage I was involved in a little contest of my own so focused in that.
Pretty soon into the race myself and two women, one a lot younger than me and another around the same age, got involved in a game of cat and mouse with each other. We kept going past each other, and whoever was in front was then chased down by the other two.
I’m convinced each of us gave a wry smile as we went to the front and I know the older woman was aware of what was going on because we chatted briefly about it. It was quite humourous, and I’m pretty certain it motivated the three of us to keep pushing on.
With about 3km to go I decided that I wanted to ‘win’ so, drawing on my reserves having held back a little earlier on, I started to move ahead of them and eventually opened up a decent gap. Small victories and all that.
I then spotted someone else in front of me and made her my target to hunt down. I caught her with about a mile to go, and ran to the finish with her … it turns out there was a flicker of familiarity there because we’ve done many of the same races at around the same pace. Indeed, I think she was the woman that came out with the ‘Fast and flat my arse!” line that amused me so much as I went past her in Lisburn. It’s nice to catch up with the same people from time to time, and it’s always good to chat whilst running.
Approaching the line we decided to race for it and, with absolutely no shame, I’m pleased to say I ‘won’. As I said, small victories!
In fact I really went for it at the end, my final kilometre was my second fastest of the entire race and each of my last four were quicker than one that preceded it. I hope that bodes well for the half marathon in a couple of weeks.
My time was almost four minutes quicker than last Sunday so I’ve got to be pleased with that. The official results don’t reflect that – they have me three minutes slower – but I’ve been reading lots of accounts this evening of people having similar issues so I know it’s not just me.
Today’s time was also my second fastest in the Grand Prix series to date so, all in all, another successful day. Bring on my next race!