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.