This post originally appeared on Ben’s old blog, Running From the Physio.
When my wife discovered that there would be a 10k on the Isle of Man, over Easter, with part of the route going along the road past her parent’s back garden, it would have been rude not to take part. After all, we were already booked to go to the Isle of Man, over Easter, to visit her parents. It was ideal!
|The views were pretty good – not that there’s much time for sightseeing during a 10k!|
A little bit more research did reveal some slightly less ideal statistics: the race route included nearly 400 ft of elevation: maybe not a huge amount, but given that Taunton is pretty flat, and on a normal 6 mile run, I would possibly do about 150 ft of elevation, it was a significant increase to what I’m used to. Secondly, looking through the results from the past few years revealed that this was a race that traditionally had a very fast field. My personal best 10k time of 47:25 placed me 111 of 324 during the 2013 Stoke Stampede; it would have placed me 183 of 254 in the 2013 Easter Festival. It didn’t take much research to determine that this was due to the large number of university clubs that came over for the Festival.
Still, despite being slightly daunted by the hills and my fellow runners, I decided that I wanted to do it anyway. The Festival also includes a 5 mile hill climb on the Saturday, and a 5km relay on the Sunday, but I opted not to do these, as it would probably disrupt our holiday too much. Oh, and the whole hill thing.
We arrived on the island on Wednesday, after a full day’s travelling, and the following morning I went for a quick reccy around the Port Erin half of the course, getting an idea of how bad the hills really were. And actually.. they weren’t too bad at all. In fact, I actually ended up running the reccy, which was meant to be doubling up as a pre-race recovery run, in 7:39 min/mile.
Race day itself presented me with another new challenge: the race was on Good Friday evening. Although I typically train in the evenings, I’d never raced in the evening before, and so I was a little unsure about my preparation. I opted for taking it easy, having a decent, but not too big lunch, and then a top up of some toast mid-to-late afternoon. My wife and her family had arranged that they would sit and cheer me from the back wall, but just as I was about to leave, I realised I had a small issue: although it wasn’t too cold, I didn’t want to be standing around at the start line in just my vest. A short deliberation later, and it was arranged that I would wear my wife’s university hoodie, and my father-in-law would accompany me to the start to take it away again. It turns out that mostly everyone else just decided to stow their bags and layers in and around the boats on the harbour front.
Given the hills, and my result a couple of weeks earlier in Bridgwater, my race plan had been to start off around 8 min/mile, and see how I was doing halfway through. However, my pre-race run had given me some more confidence, and I’d done a little bit of maths and decided to go for 7:40 min/mile, which would put me on pace for somewhere around my PB. But my main focus, after flying off too fast in Bridgwater, was to pace my start.
Knowing that the field was likely to be pretty fast, I placed myself basically at the back for the start. This had the intended result, and I was pretty much bang on pace as I hit the first kilometre marker. Up until this point, the course had run along the lower promenade, and the first, sharp, incline followed, taking the route up to the upper promenade. Amazingly, I climbed it without a problem, and I might have even managed to smile for my father-in-law, who was halfway up with his camera. (I don’t recall actually seeing the result – but I might have done?)
|The side glance at the camera doesn’t work, does it?|
The course remained reasonably flat for the next couple of kilometres, before dropping back to the sea on the opposite coast, on the aptly named “Shore Road”. In fact, during the race I ran along roads called “The Promenade”, “Shore Road” and “Bay View Road” in both Port Erin and Gansey/Port St Mary – imagination is clearly not a Manx trait. After a short scenic run along the coastal path around Gansey Point, I passed a chap dressed in a tiger onesie who was clearly struggling with the heat, and then tackled the second sharp incline on the route, once again taking from me a lower to an upper promenade. I felt this climb much more, coming around around 6 kilometres into the race, and I spent the next couple of hundred metres catching my breath back.
The run then weaved its way through the middle of Port St Mary (I think?) and I ran this part of the route alongside a chap who must have been a local, because everybody, and I mean everybody, that we passed greeted him by name. It was quite surreal! I pushed on away from him as we started to climb up towards the back of Port Erin once more. This part of the course had been in my reccy run, and so I knew what to expect from the long drag up past the back of my parents-in-law’s house. Along this stretch I fell into running-synch with a fellow runner, which really helped me with my pacing towards the end.
|My sprint finish – followed more closely than I realised by my “pacemaker”!|
After receiving the boost of seeing my wife, daughter and in-laws, all that remained was the last kilometre, which featured a drop back to the shore. I upped my pace to keep up with my own personal pacemaker – even though she didn’t realise that was what she was! The hill down to the shore was a little steep, and actually forced me to consciously slow my pace in order to stop myself being a bloody mess at the bottom! We reached the bottom (one of the two “Shore Road”s), and I started to push the pace myself, accelerating away from my “pacemaker”. Unfortunately, what I had forgotten at this stage was that the finish line was further along the coast than the start line had been, and so my sprint finish had been a little premature. I slowed somewhat as we climbed a short hill, but pushed on again when I could see the finish line: the digital clock tantalisingly displayed 46:5? as I approached: it would certainly be a PB, but could I crack 47 minutes?
I thought so.
The provisional results revealed I was wrong. I was timed at 47:00.0 – dead one, even to the nearest tenth of a second, to 47 minutes. Couldn’t the timer have pressed their watch that tiniest bit earlier, for a 46:59.9? But no, sub-47 is yet to be cracked.
Still, this was by far the best race that I’ve taken part in. The course itself was a delight to run, my fear of the hills was completely unfounded. The scenery was amazing, with stunning sea views of both coasts. We were admittedly blessed with lovely weather, but this race is already in my diary for next Easter. And you know what… so are the hill climb and the 5 km.