The last time I was in London was March 1st 2020 when I took part in the Big Half. I’d been putting off going back to London for along time since then due to the pandemic, but I had to sooner or later. My hope was that I’d be able to travel there, race, and get back without getting COVID-19. At this point in marathon training it’d be almost catastrophic. This race though would fit in well mid-week as it’d replace what would have been an 8.5 mile tempo run, with a 10K race. My hope was that I’d be able to push hard, and see where I am in training.
After some last minute drama around hotel bookings, my plans had changed and instead of driving, I made my way to the train station in South Wigston that first got me to Leicester, and then on to London St. Pancras. Once in London I then needed to get across the city to Canning Town where I’d be staying overnight, and where I could relax for a few hours until the race. Fuelling for a night race is a little tricky as I'm used to eating earlier than I would be, so I figured snacking on a flapjack would be a good plan.
As day turned to night I got ready to run, and headed across to the tube station. I headed from there to Waterloo station and onwards to Battersea Power Station. Perhaps it's not the easiest of parks to get to. It was just after 18:00 and less than an hour until the race start. It was cold and I just couldn’t decide what layers to wear. There was a row of about six portaloos in a clearing near the bandstand, and these were in complete darkness. It's lucky that we all carry torches with us these days in the form of a mobile phone! I decided on a short-sleeve base layer and my very reflective tee. Minutes before people were being led over to where the warm-up takes place, and the race starts, I did wonder if I’d made the wrong decision. I started to move my race number across to a long sleeve top, but changed my mind again, and kept with short sleeves. Maybe it'd motivate me to run faster, even though I'd be wanting to run slower in the dark.
I shivered as I watched people warming up, and could feel cramps in my right leg where the muscle was tensing too much from feeling the cold. My warmup had been a short jog from the tube station to the park, and felt like stretching now would be pushing my luck. By the time we were led around to the actual 10K start it felt good enough to run on, so I did. I started fast and then reigned in the pace to what I hoped I could manage for the whole race. The route passed the 5K start position, and then the bandstand, and then when it reached the edge of the park it turned left, and then left again to go passed the courts. Eventually it turned left one more time and headed back towards the start. It was dark, and I know that without keeping an eye on my watch, my pace was slowing as it always does in the dark. Something makes me feel like I need to be more cautious. I think it’s paranoia of tripping over something I can’t see. I'm sure faceplanting in the dark would not be the best of ideas.
At the end of the first lap I passed the start of the 5K race just a second after that race had started, so for my remaining laps there’d be people to overtake. Although I didn’t feel the cramp in my leg any more, during lap 3 I did get a stitch for a while, but I controlled my breathing and slowed down for a while, and it was soon gone. I felt at ease after that and in the fourth lap it felt like I wasn’t pushing at all. In fact, I wasn’t. Of course I could have reached over and pressed the 'light' button on my watch, but I didn't. When the third lap was over, I wondered at what point during this lap I should speed up. I knew I'd got more in my legs, but it wasn't until my watch buzzed to indicate I was at 6 miles that I decided it was time to. This was the final straight and I sped up to strides, without going for a proper sprint. I then crossed the line 48th out of 277 10K runners, with a time of 40:07. I couldn't believe how badly I'd done. Sure, my 10K times can range anywhere from 38 minutes to 41 minutes - slower if it was a trail. This however seemed to be a perfectly flat park. I decided there and then that perhaps I should try this race again, when it's Chase the Sun - maybe then I can get a time I'd be pleased with. I would definitely recommend this one as having PB potential.
My next race now is in Milton Keynes, for a 20 mile run that will be treated as training, not a race. Hopefully these experiences will help push me to do better at Manchester when the day comes.