Isle of Man Easter Festival of Running 10k (2015): race report

This post originally appeared on Ben’s old blog, Running From the Physio.
Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to rest and be done
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and run!
It’s time to try
Defying injury
I think I’ll try
Defying injury
And you can’t stop me now!

Roughly a year ago, I completed the 10k element of the Isle of Man Easter Festival of Running, and this year I had been looking forward to taking part in the full festival, including the hill race and the 5k as well. But this hasn’t really been my year for running: prior to travelling to the island, I had completed 35 miles total since 5 January, when I picked up my knee injury. Normally, that would be perhaps a week and a half of training.

So, the ummm-ing and ahhh-ing started. I scheduled in a 5 mile run for the weekend before the race: my longest single run since the injury. It went well, but I still had doubts. After all, 35 miles hardly seems sufficient training for a 10k race. Especially not in such a stop-start fashion. On the other hand, I’d signed up for the Chard Flyer on 1 January, and had to DNS. I’d signed up for the Humdinger Half in February, and had to DNS. I’d signed up for the Bath Half in March, and had to DNS. And those were just the races I had actually signed up for. There were a few others that I’d pencilled in too – you get the idea.

I came to the following conclusions:

  • I wanted to run the 10k race.
  • Running the 10k race off 35 miles training was foolhardy.
  • But I wanted to run it, dammit!
  • Okay, well maybe just running the 10k race would be okay, if I took it reasonably easy.
  • Hmmm… how about the hill race and 5k?
  • Don’t push it, stop being an idiot. Look, there are plenty of races in the next few months you can do with proper training.
  • But they’re ages away. Strop.

I decided to defer the decision yet further, and base it upon a short run once I’d arrived on the island. Coming the day after over twelve hours of travelling, that run went awfully, giving me the indication that perhaps I should follow my head rather than my heart, and give the whole thing a miss. Needless to say, the next day, my head was given significantly less of a say in the matter. At lunchtime I had that well known pre-race favourite: a burger and a beer. An hour before the race, I was still undecided, causing all sorts of strife for my in-laws, who were trying to work out when dinner should be. Sorry about that.

Inevitably, ten minutes before the race started, I turned up. Which was about the same time as four students from Leeds University. They had been scheduled to come over on the ferry, which had been due to arrive at 14:00. Various problems and delays meant that at 17:00, it was still in Liverpool. By this stage, the students had made a dash to the airport, and caught a last-minute flight over to make the race in time, the plane landing less than 45 minutes before the start of the race!

Race plan, mile one: Take it easy, particularly up the hill.
Race summary, mile one: Stood at the back of the pack for the start. Got stuck behind a group of slow runners. Sped up to get around slow runners. Decided I liked speed, kept going. Got to hill, remembered that I like sprinting up hills. Did so, passing lots of runners. Remembered that I liked passing runners. Watch beeped, 7:46 minute mile. Well that’s okay, that isn’t too fast.

Just under a mile completed, not looking too bad yet. Credit: Dave Kneen.

Race plan, mile two: Actually take it easy, don’t get carried away.
Race summary, mile two: Okay, this is the last real chance to drop out and just go back home. That wouldn’t go well with the wife and in-laws who have adjusted evening plans for race. Feel fine anyway. Keep going. Still passing people; maybe I should have started a bit earlier in the pack. Watch beeped, 7:34 minute mile. Hmm…

Race plan, miles three and four: Start taking it easy, it’s been fine so far, but don’t push it.
Race summary, mile three and four: Long gradual downhill stretch to reach the sea. Downhills are fun too, they are easier, and faster! Might as well let my legs free a bit along this stretch as it is downhill. Course then follows the coastal path for a while. Hmm… three miles is about as far as I’ve run hard lately. Water station: manned by only two people, who only have time to refill plastic cups, not able to hand cups to people. Grab cup, knocking most of water out of it, try to drink the rest of the water from cup, but mostly swallow air. Decide I would have been better without it. Prepare myself for uphill, but discover the course change from last year means that it doesn’t happen. Worry about when it will. Watch beeps, 7:20, 7:24 minute miles. Sod it, I wonder if I can beat my time from last year. Hmm… I wonder what my time was last year.

Looking less fresh running along the coast in Port St Mary. Credit: Murray Lambden.

Race plan, mile five: A bit of climbing, definitely time to take it easy, let’s just get to the end.
Race summary, five five: Oh God, my calves! Breathing fine, heart rate okay, legs leaden. Every step is a preceded by a small argument between legs and rest of body. Pace drops, but still passing people, including some of the university runners, which is a boost. Try not to be too silly, don’t want the embarrassment of watching them all pass me again in a mile. Watch beeped, 7:50 minute mile; slowest of the race, but still far better than I expected at all.

Turning back to home, a rare decent race pic!
Credit: Bill Dale.

Race plan, miles six point two one: Sod it, whatever.
Race summary, miles six point two one: Okay, all downhill from here. Well, except that uphill bit at the end. Damn that uphill bit at the end. Oh, that’s my father-in-law in his back garden. Oh, and my wife. (At this point, I think I went a little delusional: I seemed to come to the conclusion that because I was pretty much guaranteed to finish, I didn’t have to put any more effort in.) I cruised down the final descent to Port Erin bay. Just the curve around the bay left, time to put in a bit more effort. Can’t really be bothered. Don’t really have any effort to put in anyway. Just keep running. People in front getting away, being passed. Don’t like being passed. Should try to keep up. Too hard. Never mind. Get to finish, 47:07. Still don’t remember what I got last year.

Eugh, shouldn’t have turned down the offer from my father-in-law to bring me a hoodie at the end, it’s cold. Thankfully, my amazing wife soon appeared with the hoodie, and even better, we then headed to the Chinese for a takeaway: clearly the best recovery food known to any runner.

Race analysis: Once home, I checked Strava, and discovered that my time last year was 47:00. I’d done that about a month after a half marathon for which I’d trained pretty extensively. Whereas this year, I was seven seconds slower, despite pretty much no training because of injury. So from that point of view, I can take a massive positive in my “base fitness” being significantly better than this time last year. Another positive was simply being able to complete 10k; it was a risk doing the run, and I’d genuinely started unsure as to whether I would finish. On the other hand, I do remain injured: when I’m running it’s fine, but when I’m walking, or even just sitting down, my knee is sore. I’m planning a number of 10k races in the early summer after a few weeks of training, and hopefully that training will work as rehabilitation for my knee. Hopefully.

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