I've been looking forward to this moment for a long time. This moment now. The moment when I'm no longer running the Woodhall 10K. The moment when the Woodhall 10K is behind me. Truth is I had no idea how I'd cope - the furthest I've run so far is about 6K and the longest time I've run uninterrupted is 27 minutes. I was actually nervous when I woke up this morning; even more so as I lined up with all the other starters - I believe there were about 1,200 runners in total.
The start line was interesting - separate spots for sub 45 minute runners, sub 50 minute runners and sub 60 minute runners. Where was my spot? They appeared to have missed out the sub 2 hour lot! Every time I run I have one of those smart phone app thingies which tracks my progress and I do a kilometre in about 10 minutes. I was, therefore, aiming for a time of around an hour and forty minutes. Sadly, I didn't quite make this - I haven't seen my chip time yet but I clocked myself at an hour and 48 minutes. I don't think the British Olympic Team Performance Director is going to be knocking on my door but the important thing (to me at least) is that I ran the whole thing. No breaks. No spells of walking. A full hour and 48 minutes of (very slow) running, breaking my previous best by over an hour.
It's a cunningly designed course - start and finish in more or less the same place but still manages to be slightly uphill the entire way round; surely this is not actually possible? The air horn announced that start and we were off! It turns out it is very difficult to maintain the pace you know is the maximum you can manage if you're to cover 10K while thousands of people stream past you (including Wonder Woman and Batman). Still I'm nothing if not dogged and I maintained my discipline. By the 2K mark I'd pretty much lost sight of everyone. At 3K I was really struggling and my inner monologue was constantly updating my targets and expectations. I wanted to run at least 5K as that would be a similar distance to the Comic Relief 3 Miler I ran in march and which nearly killed me. 4K to 5K was really difficult - a long uphill straight with no-one in sight and by now the race winners had finished and they were starting to let cars back on the roads. When I hit 5K the psychology changed completely - every step I took now was bringing me nearer home (instead of further away). I thought, "OK - I'll try and run for an hour and see where that gets me." That got me to 6K and I was actually starting to feel relaxed, increasing my stride length and thought I could run for ever. At this point, the ambulance which had been tailing me for the last 20 minutes got an emergency call and had to move off - not without giving me a bottle of water fortunately. Luckily for me the "Sweep Car" was still behind me. This took me right back to my school cross country days where the PE teacher, Mr Milner, would follow us around in his car barking our speeds at us and challenging us to speed up.
7K arrived and suddenly there was only 3K to go. 3K is easy. I've run it loads of times. "I'm sorted," I thought and so picked up the pace even more. This turned out to be a mistake. More hills intervened and not even a cyclist going the other way shouting, "Only two and a half K to go," helped. At 8K I turned on to a long uphill straight - this really isn't fair. I had to stare at the road in front of me so I couldn't see how far I still had to run (and that was only until the next bend) - my confidence at 6K had all evaporated by now but there was no way I was going to stop running. Not even for the procession of cars building up behind who didn't seem to be able to pass a fat man running at 5.5 - 6 kph without running him onto the grass (which is considerably harder to run on). One of them even honked his horn at me - although I'm being generous and assuming that was in encouragement.
A right turn and a downhill bit soon brought up the 9K sign and I now thought "there's no bloody way I'm not finishing this" and kicked on again. I hadn't had any throngs of spectators applauding me on (they'd all gone home assuming it had finished) but here there were a few more marshals and ambulance crew to clap and shout out encouragement; it really does make a difference although it can be counterproductive if it forces you to start running a bit quicker.
I was met at 9.75K by a friend with a bottle of water (thanks Scott) and soon turned in to the finish straight. I did try a sprint finish but having seen the video playback it was clearly very rubbish. The announcer proclaimed "the very last man." Thanks for that. I was given a medal and a banana and that was it. A full 10K ran. I've only got to go twice as far and I'm there. Easy.