Things were coming together. I was pleased overall with my performance in the NEMAA relay and followed that up with the Gordon Smith relays and was buzzing to be part of the 2nd placed Elswick A team.
So confidence was high coming into the Clive Cookson 10k.
My plan was to PB, to hit around 35 minutes and possibly sneak something like 34.53. I felt like I was in shape for a low 35 time and my Gordon Smith 2 mile pointed to that.
So I felt quite absent minded about the whole thing. I was going to race with the Garmin and track pace, ticking off 5.36 per mile. I was adamant I would stick to that pace and not worry about anything else around me. The plan gave me comfort.
But the absent mindedness wasn’t normal and led to a series of mishaps leading up to the race.
I left work too late and my phone GPS sent me into traffic and the Tyne tunnel. So I arrived a lot later than plan. I had to park away from the school. I jogged to pick up my number which was in a brown envelope, jogged back to the car and pinned my number on. I didn’t notice the chip timer tag tucked away in the envelope. Having run a couple of relays with manual timing I didn’t even think of checking for anything other than the number.
Needing a quick toilet break I jogged back to the school and got stuck in the queue. That meant no warm up and it was straight to the start line.
So the pre race routine was missed and unbeknownst to me I was about to run a race that was never going to count.
On top of that I felt not nervous but a bit overawed by the group of lads on the start line. It was a good local field up front and, rather than feeling excited, I felt a bit dead. The start of the course was congested to say the least and I was anxious to get some room but not have to expend energy unnecessarily.
Once we were away things settled and I finally got onto pace around 400m in. Even running on 5.36s probably had me not that far into the top 50 and I had to try really hard to resist not over cooking it.
I didn’t feel any of the drag that would be felt on the second lap at mile 4 and the first mile was ticked off on plan. I wasn’t feeling amazing but I steadied myself and was happy to be already working my way through the field.
The second mile was undoubtedly faster and I allowed myself a 5.28. I remember thinking that I might pay for it later but really it was a genuinely faster mile and in that case it’s important to take the time in the bank.
The 3rd mile was also OK and was again on time and took us back to the start line. At this point I’d been running with a couple of lads one of which was Mark Snowball of Morpeth who I’d met at the Hamsterley Forest 10k in April.
That day he was nowhere to be seen out front and it was obvious that today he wasn’t having the best time of it. But it did benefit me as we were able to work together.
I was also joined at halfway by clubmate Jason Old. Ideally I would have been able to work with Jason throughout the second half. He was obviously running well and feeling good as he managed to speak to me. Unfortunately I wasn’t in a state to talk. Having gone through 5k in maybe 17.15-17.20 I was already struggling and the prospect of another lap felt daunting.
Rather than feel confident that I was bang on plan I was looking down at a mile 4 average pace of 6 minute miles and Jason had pulled away. The legs were sore, I was breathing very hard and feeling very negative mentally.
10k is a tough distance to run. This, being only my 3rd 10k, was proving to be the toughest. Mile 4, a repeat of mile 1, was a slog. I only managed a 6.04 and mentally I was gone.
Somehow I needed to pick up. Mark was still around and I was grateful to him for encouragement. We were still working together and mile 5 was easier than the 4th but I still wasn’t back on target pace.
At that point I lost the ability to work out what I needed to do to pb. A bit of mental maths and I was about 18s down on plan and I was sitting on 5.49 pace mile 5 which would put me 30s behind. This was not only putting my plan in the bin but also eating into the buffer between plan and my current pb of 35.37.
Rather than fight to resurrect things I thought more about quitting the race completely. As always I’m glad I didn’t.
I plugged away. Mile 5 did tick away in 5.49. By this point I wasn’t tracking my pace. I kind of knew I wouldn’t like what I saw and felt it was a waste of energy fearing I couldn’t change it anyway. I was just moving my arms and putting one foot in front of the other as best as possible. But as with Hamsterley my leg turnover was painfully slow and laboured.
In mile 6 I think a couple of lads got pased which was disappointing but I couldn’t respond. Me and Mark were still roughly running the same pace. Coming to the last 400-600m I was able to push passed him and we finished quite strongly but I was no match for a final sprint finish from him.
I crossed the line in 35.42 and only 5s off my Blyth 10k PB! Strava had the 10k at 35.32 which was by the by.
On crossing the line I felt spent like never before. I felt like I could faint. I struggled to walk in a straight line and had to sit down feeling dizzy. Funnily enough Michael Hedley joined me and I noticed his chip timer on his running shoe, hilariously I wondered why he had that on – still not realising the blunder!
About 5 minutes later I attempted an easy warm down with Lee Bennett, Jason Old and Michael. I struggled to jog and my calves were cramping up quite badly.
I managed 20mins quite stop start (with Iain Hardy also joining for company) and eventually got back to the car to drive home.
I got a message from Steven Robertson on the way home to ask whether I’d used the chip timer. I still had the brown envelope and on looking it dawned on me what had happened… No chip, no time, no race result. A DQ…
At first I didn’t feel too bad as I was a little disappointed with the run but later it hit me that I’d given 100% and to not register was a real shame…
Having had a day to reflect I’m pleased with my effort and know I’m just lacking speed endurance which I will be working on over the next few weeks.
And then I can turn my attention to nailing a sub 17 5k.
Thanks for reading and thanks also to Lee Cuthbertson for the great pics.