The writer runs, the runner writes

My medalThis morning was the Ashford & District 10k race. After a last minute course change due to part of the planned route being under a reported 2ft of water, thanks to all the flooding in the area, we were set to run 5k out and 5k back along the same route.

After a restless night spent dreaming of packing bags, rushing to get somewhere and having problems all the way, I woke up early enough for a proper breakfast and plenty of time to get my bag sorted before hubby and I set out.

Parking for the race was about a 10-15 minute walk from the race HQ itself, so we had a pleasant walk along with the stream of other people all heading the same way. On arrival, the first thing I did was join the queue for the portaloos – better safe than sorry! There was a building with food and drink on offer inside and tables inside and out – the building itself was ridiculously crowded, so we stood outside, sheltering from the brief shower that hit us, and watching all the other people around – runners, non-runners, little children – a wide variety of people all gathered there, many engaged in pinning on race numbers and fastening chips to shoes.

One table inside was full of forms for future races, seemingly one each weekend for the next few months – I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to look at it, but I’m sure I can easily find out what’s coming up anyway. The building was so packed that people could hardly move by the time I headed back through to join the people at the start line. There was still plenty of time before the start, so I found myself pondering what a writer was doing running. It felt a little odd – I was experiencing a variety of emotions, but I was also observing those emotions, trying to label them and describe them to myself, and I find that at times of stress my writing can provide a safety valve, as I can detach myself from my feelings and narrate them. I knew that I was nervous, but I also knew that I’d run the distance before, especially having done 9.5k just a few days ago, and so 10k didn’t seem nearly as frightening as it had for my previous race.

The race was big, with maximum of 900 runners, so I found myself standing a fair way back from the start flag, in a large pack of people. By this time I still hadn’t seen anyone I actually knew, although as I waited someone came up to me and said she recognised me from Whitstable parkrun. But then I’m terrible with faces anyway, so there could have been a dozen runners I knew, for all I was aware!

I’d left off the second shirt I’ve been wearing lately over the long sleeved one, although I’d put it in the bag just in case, and that proved a good decision. By the time the race started the sun was out and it was really a very pleasant early spring morning. Because of the large number of runners we had a really slow start, to the point that it must have taken about a minute to reach the start line and only by that time were we starting to do more than shuffle forward. The first k, up a hill, was hard work, but I soon got into my stride, and enjoyed the experience of running in the middle of a large crowd.

It must have been around the 3k mark that we first met the runners who were on their way back – the first runner crossed the line in about 32 minutes! The rest of us kept plodding on, past the marshalls and scouts holding out cups of water (really must practise running and drinking at the same time!) and on through a small village, across a stream with a mill cottage next to it, and steadily onwards to the 5k mark, where we ran around some cones and then headed back again. This was my first opportunity to see how many runners were behind me, and it was a pleasant surprise – in fact I was still passing runners going the other way for quite a distance, and even overtook a couple on the way back.

Going back, after the water station we had to climb the hill that had been so pleasant to run down a little earlier, but although I did slow to a walk for a few strides I soon picked up the pace again and the whole run felt very enjoyable and not too tough at all, with wonderful views of the Kent countryside. The weather remained dry and sunny throughout the run, and partway back I even stripped off my jacket and tied it round my waist for the first time this year – all without breaking stride, of course. I started to check the distances against where I would be on parkrun – at 1.5k out I said a mental hello to the marshall at the bottom of the slope, at 1k out it was the sailing club and for the final run up to the finish I was just extremely thankful that I didn’t have kiosk hill to run up!

The marshalls were helpful and cheerful, and a few people stood at various points on the route cheering us on, waving, and generally encouraging. Especially welcome towards the end was the guy who shouted after us “you’re one of the first!” (which was patently untrue, but encouraging nevertheless!).

As I approached the finish line I knew it would be a much better time than the only other 10k I’d run – that was completed in around 1 hour 18 minutes, while for this one I crossed the line in just under 1 hour 14 mins, and the chip time should be shorter than that, thanks to the slow start.

Medal, water and jaffa cake were all gratefully accepted, then it was arranging next week’s training sessions and the next race (probably a 5 mile run in a couple of weeks), then the walk back to the car and the drive home to relax and feel very pleased with myself.

Many thanks to all who organised today, all those at parkrun who are always so encouraging and so great to run with, and especially Jacky who’s really helped me get out there and train over the past few weeks. And not forgetting hubby, of course, who is there to support me and encourage me.

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  1. Anonymous

     /  February 2, 2014

    Well done on your new PB for this 10K, Linda. It sounds like you had a good run. It’s really hard to get your clothing right for a race, isn’t it?

    BTW You can find listings for races in your area in the Southern Running Guide: (I use the Scottish Running Guide as the main source of info for races in my area)

    • Hi and thanks for the link. Yeah, I normally overdress anyway, so I forced myself to try without the shirt, and in the end even the jacket was too much. It really was an enjoyable run 🙂


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