10k races, pacers and pb chasers

As readers of this blog will know, the Bristol 10k that took place on Sunday is not the first time that I have run the distance. I have run it quite a few times previously including twice in the fortnight running up to Sunday. Why then, was I so nervous on Sunday morning? Because let me tell you, I was. I was terrified, borderline nausious and my palms were definitely sweating as I ate my porridge and forced down peanut butter on toast. I had had a very clear plan about what to eat and drink in the run up to the big day, but unfortunately, in my past life (ie non healthy and non-running) I ate when I was stressed. From Wednesday of last week I ate A LOT, almost constantly on Friday, but did finally reign it in on Saturday.  My only saving grace probably was that I drank almost as much water as I had eaten, which is critical in a lead up to a race.

Yes I was calling the Bristol 10k a race (not an event) because, for the first time ever, this was how I was viewing it.

I did enjoy being part of the Made in Bristol run up (even if it was very challenging to fit in around an already ridiculously busy job) and I hoped in part that seeing me and my non athletic body might inspire someone off the sofa to give it a go. Hopefully they would find the experience as positive and rewarding as I have, but of course the other thing that Made in Bristol did was that it made my time goals public.

Following “pacergate” (when the race sponsors were unable to provide official pacers for anyone seeking a personal best (PB) time above 70 minutes, and some AMAZING This Mum Runs runners selflessly put themselves forward to help us (me) achieve a faster time) I felt under unbelievable pressure to achieve my desired time of sub 80 minutes – even though the whole scenario was my fault and I had created it. Frankly I had just plucked this number out of the sky (80 minutes) and there was no science behind it’s choice and I really didn’t know if I could manage it, never having got within 90 seconds of it before. However, as always I resolved to do my best. Running Sister (currently out of action and not allowed to run on medical advice) called the day before to talk me down off of the metaphorical ledge that she knew I would be on (I was). Ie self doubt . She assured me that I was bound to run faster than last year and I should give myself a break if I didn’t manage sub 80. I listened, knowing she was right, but also knowing that I would be devastated if I didn’t achieve it.

Husband and I set off for the “Athlete’s Village” just the same as last year. But this year, lots of people greeted me by name as I was walking along, wishing me luck and patting me on the back. One lady shook my hand and wished me luck in getting my sub 80 as I waited to use the toilet for my “pre-race nervous visit” in Wetherspoons and another lady did the same as I left the building. I really berated myself. Why can’t I keep my mouth shut? What if I couldn’t do it?

Husband then had to go as he was in the Orange wave (ie very fast indeed) and so I headed over to the This Mum Runs gazebo. I was greeted like a war hero when I arrived. It was amazing. The encouragement and support from everyone was off the charts. I was nearly in tears already and we hadn’t even started running yet. Captain Mel Bound and her inspirational team scooped me up and I felt a bit better just being with them all. TMR launched in London a couple of weeks ago as Mel does her best to give ladies across the UK a chance of getting what we have already in Bristol and Bath and they had an official gazebo made. It’s quite bright so you can’t really miss it (I suspect it can be seen from space) I had no idea until the day it launched when somebody posted a photo, but something I once said, is on the side of the gazebo.

TMR Gazebo

This is true. Anyone can learn to run.  Anyone. To be a truly great runner (as in fast) I believe that you have to have some natural talent, but anyone can run.

Husband has natural ability in the running department and he himself will admit that he went off too fast on Sunday. His overall finish time was 48.26 but this included 90 seconds sitting on the floor by St Mary Redcliffe after he had pushed himself too far and vomited…more than once.  He realised he had got his race tactics wrong after reaching KM 6 and was overtaken by the 45 minute pacer, his initial plan having been to stay just in front of the 50 minute pacer. A really lovely lady from TMR who recognised him stopped to offer assistance (and contacted me via facebook afterwards to further enquire as to how he was – thank you – the running community is FANTASTIC) but he sat for a bit longer before running the last bit and then throwing up again after crossing the finish line. Frankly I didn’t know whether to be super impressed or horrified when he told me after the race! But he took almost 7 minutes off his time from last year, so it’s impressive. Can he go sub 45? He says he’s not bothered, but this sounds like something I would say too so we’ll see……!

So back to the TMR gazebo.  I had warmed up with Wonder Woman, (yes the real one – I’ll let that sink in a moment) and I had been introduced to the pacers – each adorned with a shiny helium balloon and we were ready to go off to our pen (where we wait to start). The lady that had offered to pace me initially had a gold balloon and she was very friendly, excited and lovely (they all were, just to be absolutely clear – all had paid to run the race themselves, and yet all 4 of them gave up any chance of chasing a PB when they offered to try and help us slower ladies achieve our speed driven goals too) but I did have a natural affection for “Merida” as I’ll call her. She was extremely supportive from the start to the very end and I felt a bit like a small child on a school trip following my teacher when we walked off the pen. The Earmuffed -Extraordinaire was also there and we ran together for the whole race.

As usual, my best laid plans went out the window when we set off and the EE and myself were ahead of the pacers by the turn on the portway. I have to say that we were running really fast but weirdly  it felt quite “trundle-esque” which as I look back on it, must have been adrenaline. All was going well as I knew the second half would be tougher and I thought if we can keep ahead of the pacers we should be ok for the sub 80 goal. But then disaster struck and the sun came out. I literally felt all of my energy melt away as the sun beat down. I had no sunglasses (I am very fair and the sun hurts my eyes) and it was HOT. I was wearing a vest (which is unusual for me) and one thing no-body tells you when you sign up for a running course, is that one day, you’ll find yourself running in the sun being able to smell your own armpits as a vest has no material to soak it up. Disgusting.

I now began to struggle. A LOT. It was here that  Merida really showed us the depths of her fabulousness. She was like Tigger as she bounced alongside, keeping me and the EE going, never once looking cross or disappointed as I chugged along. The Cumberland Road was very tough. I barely spoke on this section of the race for a few reasons.

  • I was in a lot of pain after having gone off so fast and I really had to dig in and frankly speaking was out of the question.
  • When I am in pain and running, I swear A LOT. Hattie, Curly Sue, the LA Blond, EE, and anyone I run with regularly is aware of this, but I didn’t want to create a bad impression on Merida and so thought it best to keep my toxic monologue, more inner than out.
  • Everything was a bit blurry on this section of the race. I mainly kept concentrating on the techniques that Curly Sue had taught me. There are definitely sections of the 10k that I felt I ran with my arms, more than my legs. I kept pumping them and just concentrated on moving forward – all the while Merida being the best cheer leader anyone had ever met.

I have run with Southville Running Club only once before and it was great and I’m sure I’ll go again (they do a run/walk group) and as we approached St Mary Redcliffe, we overtook the run leader. He messaged me afterwards to comment on how fast I was going – but I really feel at this point, I could have stopped had it not been for EE and Merida. I could also see shining balloons in the distance (other pacers) and this definitely gave me the strength to keep going, in the same way that the TMR official cheer station had helped me over the last few metres of the Cumberland Road.

If you’ve never run an official race before, it really is worth it just to experience the euphoria of the cheering crowds. I really felt like they were only cheering me (of course they weren’t) but when people shout out your name (names are on the race numbers), high five you, offer you jelly babies (which you take) there is nothing I can write that adequately describes the feeling accurately enough.

At kilometre 9 I knew I would see my sister and daughters. As we turned the corner, I saw them before they saw me. I was knackered. I could barely even smile but did high 5 youngest daughter and took the jelly baby that she had saved for me as promised. They cheered very loudly and I swelled with pride but I felt sick though at this point and was desperate for water. As I ran away from them, as soon as I was out of sight I had to throw the jelly baby on the floor. I couldn’t risk it. I felt like a terrible Mother though as I knew that Youngest daughter had been saving that jelly baby just for me.

As we turned into the final straight, Merida said we should “go for it”. I wanted to oblige and tried my best, but I had nothing left. We still stormed the finish line like women possessed as I knew that we were still on for sub 80 but Merida had been evasive about the specific details over the final kilometre.


We crossed the line and Merida, EE and myself had the best hug ever and I burst into uncontrollable tears. I am actually crying as I type this now as the emotions still feel very raw and I had been in tears a lot of the last 72 hours. The sense of achievement was immense.

Last year I crossed the line in 93.26 and on Sunday 78.51, not only achieving my desired sub 80 but smashing it.

This blows my mind. I’ve worked hard it’s true, but I really feel it’s a team effort.

Curly Sue should definitely get thanks as she taught me many techniques that saw me survive Sunday, as should EE who danced and smiled her way around, emitting her natural sunshine rays everywhere she went and indeed goes.  Both helped me during dark times (and let me tell you that during some moments of the race I felt quite dark) but also of course to Merida. I know she found the experience emotional and enjoyed it too. But thank you all the same.

I have the Westonbirt 10k in a couple of weeks with Hattie and then long distance training begins ready for the Bristol half marathon later in the year. I’m not going to go for a specific time with this one as it’s my first half marathon. This will be more a “let’s just get round in one piece” race you will be relieved to hear and I am relieved to write.

I ran faster that I ever thought I could on Sunday, but deep down I know that I am a trundler. I love trundling and I love chatting whilst I run. I also like running with ladies who are slower than me or at the beginning of their running journey and encouraging them to keep trying and be the best that we can be. I love this and this is me 95% of the time. However, sometimes, you have to give yourself a target to see if you are progressing (not everyone I understand and to be honest, sometimes I really wish that I wasn’t built this way) and for me this is what the 2017 Bristol 10k became. It didn’t start that way of course. When I signed up after last year’s 10k (2016) I was hoping that having the 2017 race in the diary would be enough to keep me running and perhaps I would be a bit quicker? I never dreamed back then that it would turn into what it did turn into. But there we are…that’s life. You never know what is going to happen and all you can do is embrace it when it does.

Incidentally, yesterday I signed up for 2018 Bristol 10k and who knows what type of run that will be. Maybe I’ll be going for a sub 75 minutes or even 70? Or maybe I’ll be running with my sister Queenie and Hattie in their first Bristol 10k? Maybe I’ll have a shiny balloon myself and will be able to pay it forward? Time will tell, but God willing, I will be there again at the start line.

10k races, medals and targets

Race Day, Bristol 10k day, is nearly here. I’m feeling an interesting mix of calm and confidence, mixed with a healthy dose of panic.

I’m calm because I know I can run 10k. I’ve completed the distance 4 times since Christmas and 3 times since my last blog post and so unlike last year, I know that I can complete the course and still be in one piece at the end. Unfortunately, I like to give myself targets (I work in sales) and with the added bonus of being on TV now, these targets are not secret anymore.

PT SessionBeing profiled on “Made in Bristol” has been quite an interesting experience. The first interview I found terrifying and I was NOT relaxed at all and so the interview seemed very uneasy. By the time I was interviewed earlier today (whilst filming some VT for the show that will broadcast during the actual race itself), I was feeling confident enough to stop the interview at a certain point in order to clarify things as well as crack jokes. The filming involved me having a personal trainer Tom (@protom_fitness on Instagram) put me through my paces whilst I was filmed. Tom was excellent and taught me a couple of stretches I hadn’t seen before. During the interview, I was also able to manoeuvre the conversation around to talk about issues and factors that have been important to me in my running life. I droned on quite a bit and so in case they edit some of it out (!), here is a list of important people/events that have been important to me:

My husband starting running again after a 17 year gap to support me and then discovering that he has quite the talent for it – will he crack sub 49 on Sunday? I expect so.

My Daughters – I haven’t shared this before but 3 years ago, (when I was very heavy and sedentary) my eldest daughter took some flack from a hideous boy in her class who has noted my rotund appearance on the school run and had then decided to tease my daughter about it. She was mortified and stuck up for me but it must have been terrible for her. This will never, ever happen again. It is important for all children to have activity built into their lives and this starts at home.

My Sisters (all 4 of them, I include my sister-in-law) being constantly supportive and my youngest sister Queenie completing couch to 5k and now being a member of the bona fide running community and parkrun attendee. She was profiled on the Wotton Parkrun page a couple of weeks ago and there was a brilliant photo of her running for the finish line with her “never give up face” shining. Running Sister has had to have an operation but I am 100% certain that she will be back pounding the pavement before we all know it.

Curly Sue – what an amazing friend she is to me. Apart from the (extremely important) fact that I like her very much and we are genuinely good friends, she has taught me so much. Technique which helps and is critical to stay injury free as I push for longer distances, but also and possibly more importantly, to try and enjoy each run. Even when I am slogging down the Feeder Road (it’s so boring) I try to look at the canal and imagine what the fish are doing. I try to take in the nature and scenery. This is what Curly Sue has taught me. It really helps. Some runs are about speed (even for me) but as long as you are out there in your trainers, you are 90% there and the rest will largely take care of itself.

This Mum Runs : this is a facebook community that I have been a member of for over a year now and I have met SO MANY amazing ladies through it I cannot begin to tell you. They are always encouraging and supportive to newbie and experienced runners alike. I trained to be a “Run Angel” last Summer and so now can hopefully pay this forward by encouraging newer runners to join in and make friends as I have done. I lead a 30 minute run (as often as my job will allow) and I love it.

I met Hattie through TMR and she has since become my proper running buddy, dare I say, training companion. She isn’t running the Bristol 10k but has signed up for the Bristol half with me and so I’m sure will continue to feature heavily in future blog posts.

There are lots and lots of others too.

When asked on “Made in Bristol” what time I was hoping for in this weekend’s 10k, I said 83 minutes, which would take 10 minutes off my time from last year. I regretted saying this out loud on TV almost as soon as I had left the studio and so knew that I would have to find out if this was possible otherwise would be making a total chump of myself (no change there then). Over the Easter holidays, I had a couple of days off and so took myself for a solo 10k. Hattie was on holiday (I really missed running with her whilst she was away) and so without my run/chat buddy, I really, really pushed myself to see if I could do it. It’s fair to say it was a 10k of two halves. The first 5k was ludicrous. I went like a speeding bullet and was nearly sick at the end of it. I walked then for 60 seconds and then ran/walked 1 kilometre/1 minute for the rest of the run. I am not going to lie it was very, very hard indeed…..but I had run it in 81.05 minutes. I was nothing short of shell shocked and absolutely elated. But I was keen to make sure that it wasn’t a one off.

I’ve been continuing in the gym with the Red Lady on strength training and think these sessions are definitely making me stronger. The 81 minutes seemed to back this up. I love these sessions but I can barely walk for the next couple of days, so haven’t been in the past week, but will return again after the 10k.

The other two 10ks I have run were also very different. The first was an Aspire 10k trail run of which there was also a 5k option. Queenie, keen for her first medal, was there for 5k and I ran the first loop with her and then completed the second loop with Hattie. It was very hot and very tough and genuinely it felt as hard as my very first 10k over a year ago. I felt ill as I sat on my sofa at home afterwards (wearing my medal) and for the first time in a while genuinely questioned my sanity with running. I find running in the heat very, very hard and I was wiped out. However, I felt fine the next day, but didn’t run again until the Thursday of that week, when I ran another 10k. This was a This Mum Runs 10k practice, but was “unofficial” as it was on a Thursday. We ran a double harbour loop and I ran with the LA blond at the back and again I ran it in 81 minutes. So, 80 minutes is so close I can almost taste it.

Husband ran Bristol Half last year in 1.51 and one reason was (apart from being a good runner) he started the race behind an official “pacer”. This is someone who runs at the steady pace required to get you over the finish line at the pre-determined time. He chased the 1.50 pacer all the way and so was pleased with his time.

I wanted to really give the 80 minutes time a bash and so looked up the pacers. I was really quite annoyed to discover that the slowest pacer that is being offered by the run co-ordinators is for 70 minutes. I contacted them and explained that they have profiled this blog on their site, I was on the TV promoting their race and so it seemed a shame not to provide pacers for 75, 80 and 90 minutes, especially as they are “championing” all types of runners, even the slower ones. Sadly they said that this could not be accommodated, although promised to review this for future events. I was gutted. No actually I was angry.

I posted about this on the This Mum Runs facebook page (as I know that I am not the only trundle paced runner and lots of ladies – and I am sure men too – will be aiming for a 70-100+ minute finish) to vent my frustration. I was overwhelmed by what happened next. A lovely lady, whom I’ve never met, immediately offered to pace me for 80 minutes and what has happened since is also amazing as other times will also be paced from within the TMR community. I love this. I am hopeful I can do 80 minutes now, as I will feel a bit guilty if I started all of this and then discover that I can’t actually manage it, but I’m going to give it my absolute best shot. I’m watching the weather like John Kettley expecting a hurricane as the current forecast for next Sunday is for hot sunshine. This is not good news for me but I am hydrating like a camel in preparation. If you’re coming to watch please shout hello and it’s important that you know that jelly babies are always welcome. I’m going to be wearing a navy vest with “This Mum Runs” on the front and I’m sure that I will have other ladies running with me.

The pressure is on. Can I take 13 minutes off my time from last year?…..I guess we’ll find out.