Sound the klaxon. Go on, give it a good old long satisfying honk.
Why? Because just over a month after coming last in a race for the very first time I faced down my doubts and fears and only went a set a new 10k pb at today’s Born2Run Antrim Castle Gardens event.
If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know I’ve been working really hard during January, either going to exercise class or running almost every single day and losing over 16lbs in the process.
But I hadn’t raced since New Years Day when I was so rubbish I not only picked up the wooden spoon but the entire cutlery drawer (!) in the Race Over The Glens.
I was a healthy mixture of curious to see how I’ve progressed and terrified of a repeat performance as I lined up at the start of today’s latest outing in the Belfast Telegraph Run Forest Run series.
It was my third time taking part in a Born2Run event, after Cultra and Minnowburn at the end of last year. It was trail race so I knew what to expect although, as it turned out, my biggest worry today was just keeping my footing in the mud. The course itself was largely flat.
I arrived in Antrim with Bronagh from my club. This was Bronagh’s first race in club colours, I felt honoured in a way that she’d invited me to travel with her. We’d done a couple of training runs together over the past few months, including her first 10k which culminated with a run around the Ecos carpark in the pouring rain to make up the distance (!) so it was good to accompany her on her ‘official’ debut.
We got there early to cheer on a couple of friends in Antrim parkrun beforehand, which was nice, and gave us lots of time to relax and get ready for our own run.
The race started (and finished) in the picturesque Large Parterre enclosure of Antrim Castle Gardens. I’ve run there a few times lately so I was familiar with the surroundings and, being a former resident of the town back in my teenage years, I also had a reasonable idea of the overall route.
Very often I struggle in races when I get it into my head that a certain point is miles away and there’s no way I can run there but, today, I could visualise where I was going and that undoubtedly helped when my legs protested.
Bronagh and I started together. Because she’s faster than me I was conscious – and worried – that I’d be possibly keeping her back, and that she’d be too polite to run on at her own pace.
As it turned out we ran side by side for the first two miles, at which point the build-up of fluid in my legs dictated that I needed to take a short walking break. I expected it, it often happens and it was only for 30 seconds but I ushered Bronagh on.
I was more than happy with my pace at that stage and even then I knew a PB was on the cards. Perhaps this kept me going. The pain in my legs eased considerably and I set off again at the same tempo as before, coping well enough with the puddles and mud.
Watching the race preview video I was looking forward to running past Shane’s Castle, and seeing the cannons built into the fortress wall looking out over Lough Neagh.
Usually, in these types of races, I’d stop for a picture or two but not today. That PB was still well within my grasp so I wasn’t going to jeopardise it for the sake of a view, no matter how stunning it was. In fact, I was so focused on my run that I barely even noticed my location!
This was the furthest point in the race – it was an out and back route – so I knew it was case of just doing what I’d already done all over again, and I was encouraged by the fact that there’d be no surprises ahead.
That allowed me to plan the remainder of my run and, again, this visualisation really helped. As each half a kilometre ticked down I was also calculating in my head what pace I’d need to be going at. This focus and concentration kept my mind from dwelling too much on my legs. I was still feeling good and my legs weren’t an issue but it was handy to have this distraction just in case.
Leaving the castle grounds and going back onto the footpath I knew exactly what I had to do. Kilometres seven and eight were identical timewise, I pushed myself a little in an attempt to buy some time knowing I’d likely tire towards the end whilst saving a little for a sprint finish should I need it and this tactic actually worked a treat.
Turning back into the castle gardens I felt strong and I felt totally in control. I could visualise the distance left and I knew exactly what time I had to do it in.
I really couldn’t have planned it any better. Going round the final bend and seeing the finish in front of me I put my foot down and just went for it. So focused was I on crossing the line that I didn’t even notice Parveen and Iverene standing cheering me on!
Knowing I’d done it, knowing I’d set a PB and that my efforts over the past month had paid dividends I might have let out a roar going over the timing mats.
I’m sure anyone looking on must have thought I’d taken leave of my senses but I really wasn’t aware of anything else at that precise moment, nor did I care to be honest.
For me this was a massive victory. I had responded to coming last at the Glens with a personal best in my very next event! That wooden spoon hadn’t beaten me!
BTW, the Born2Run series has been shortlisted in three categories in the 2018 Running Awards. Go and vote for them in Event Series, National 10k (Dambusters) and National 5k (Castlewellan) categories.