The morning weather in Crouch End certainly wasn’t promising, as it started raining just before we left. But I stayed confident that my weather app predicted the rain would stop by 10am. Luckily, the sun was shining as we stepped off the Overground at Hackney Wick and made the short walk to Victoria Park for the Middlesex 10k.
(Apparently this was an important race for clubs all over London; runners from my club, London Heathside, were highly encouraged to run and rack up points for the internal club road race championships. As I heard the course was flat and fast and the entry fee was nominal, I signed up. The looming race also motivated me to do some longer runs, of which I hadn’t done many in the past few months, in August.)
But back to the race. The weather gods ended up providing near-perfect race conditions of sunny and cool (maybe low 50s F?) with a small cross-breeze. The majority of the almost 300 participants sported race singlets from clubs around London — Heathside (of course), Serpentine, Middlesex AC, Mornington Chasers, and more — which contributed to the communal yet competitive atmosphere.
After a short warmup and a couple of striders, I lined up with some Heathsiders I knew to be of similar speed, and off we went promptly at 10:30am (side note: the race was hand-timed — old school!). After a half mile straightaway start, the course was three laps around Victoria Park’s wide, paved roads. It was helpful to have seen a course map so I could break my race into thirds: 4k, 3k, 3k. Also helpful were the markers for each kilometer.
I didn’t have a set time goal in mind, though I obviously wanted to run a PR/PB; all I needed to do for that was to run a smidge faster than I had in June, which meant averaging under 4:39/km. Physically I felt quite fit. Mentally, I wasn’t sure I wanted to push myself so hard. Of course, that changed when the race began.
Setting off at a relatively comfortable but quick pace, I came through the first kilometer in 4:18. Wow, that’s good! I thought to myself, now I just have to maintain this pace for the rest of the race. But it’s still early. I caught up with two Heathside men between 1 and 2k, and we had a short chat before I moved up (they passed me later on and I never caught them, though seeing them ahead of me for the rest of the race was helpful).
My rough plan was to run the first 5k steadily and hopefully come through the first half in under 23:00. When I reached 4km in 18:00, I knew that was possible. 5k in 22:50. Great, now just try to maintain through 7k. Don’t push too hard but don’t lose too much momentum, either.
Typically, the middle third of the race is the toughest for me (and probably many others) mentally. You’re past the halfway point but not far enough in the race to kick it up a notch for the finish. So, after coming through 7k in 32:00, I not surprisingly spaced out a little bit and the next kilometer was my slowest, about 5 minutes. At the 8k in 37:00, I was glad there were only 2k left in the race so I could pick up the pace and run a PB/PR.
Setting my sights on the older man in front of me, I gradually increased my pace until I finally passed him around 8.5k. Just around 9k (in 41:30), I passed two Serpentine women, then started really using my arms to eke out a bit more speed from my legs and changed my breathing from three-three to two-two as I started running faster. Coming into the last straightaway, I grunted “come on!” to myself a couple of times, (mentally) gritted my teeth, and let a few fellow Heathsiders cheer me towards the finish.
Final time: 45:41. That’s an average of 7:21/mile and 4:34/km. A PR/PB by more than 45 seconds!
I am loving the 10k race distance; it’s long enough to get into a nice rhythm but short enough that I can run it pretty fast and it’s over pretty quickly. In this race, I focused a lot on my breathing, trying to keep it a steady three in-three out until the last kilometer or so. That helped me maintain a nice rhythm and even feel zen-like at times, especially since I was running alone for most of the race.
Next up: cross country! I’ve never run XC but there’s an active contingent within my club and the monthly races take place in parks all over London. Should be a fun new experience.