For the third time in four years, I planned to run the Taunton 10k. The difference this year? I didn’t have a chest infection and so, despite having tired legs from my first half marathon the week before, I was actually going to run it.
The Taunton 10k is by far the most local race I’ve ever run, which made it a little strange. I even knew the guy directing us into the car park. Collecting my race number involved bumping into several familiar faces. Oh and there was the big club photo as well.
For the size of race, the start seemed pretty disorganised. I had absolutely no idea where to line up, and so just waited with some other people from the club. As the race started it quickly became apparent that we were way too far back, even before we crossed the start chip mat. So I spent the first section in full-on weaving mode, spotting gaps and darting through.
As the runners started to thin out a little I settled into a steadier pace, and was immediately passed by fellow club member Claire. She’d followed my weaving pattern through and, having actually trained properly, was ready to speed off. But there were plenty of other familiar runners to greet on the way.
The first section of the Taunton 10k is what can only be described as a distance loop. The route leaves Chestnut Drive, goes round a few other roads, and then re-appears to cross Chestnut Drive further along. Along the way is a reasonably busy road with a narrow pavement. Running in the road didn’t feel particularly safe, and overtaking was pretty difficult either way. The curse of starting too far back!
As we approached Chestnut Drive, I could hear more and more people cheering – the pavements were lined with supporters. The loudest group of cheers was coming from a group of our club supporters, and that was before they spotted my top. There’s nothing like an insane volume of “Come on, Running Forever” to get your spirits up. A little further up the road (yes, actually up) Ben, Leila and Ben’s brother were watching and cheering.
So I was feeling pretty good as I started the ‘main’ part of the 10k route, climbing up towards the motorway and over the other side. The road towards Stoke St Mary was hot. It was an art-form balancing the need to stay visible to cars (on a country road) and the need to run in the shade. Still, I was happy with how nicely the kilometres were ticking over – a nice side effect of having recently run a longer race.
Just before Stoke St Mary there was a water station handing out bottles. Before this year I’d have said bottles were essential, but it felt pretty big and awkward compared to cups. Maybe small bottles are the way to go?
The support in Stoke St Mary itself was really good – I suppose if your village is being clogged up with runners then you may as well embrace it. Unfortunately I started to feel a little rough, so I just settled in to a pace and tried to focus. The undulating road back out of Stoke St Mary is exactly the sort of road I love to run on, although it felt quiet after the support.
As we turned onto the road back into Taunton the traffic level increased, meaning that everyone tried to stay a bit closer in to the hedge. Throughout the route there had been little signs from one of the local clubs giving advice on the route ahead, and the sign here said to push. Given we were still a fair way off seeing the 8k marker this seemed a little early.
People were out supporting in the few places where the road widened, including Sandra from our club who was handing out jelly babies (not my thing but nice idea). I was passed by a few people who were kicking on earlier that me. Even so, I felt much stronger on the climb back up to the motorway and very much enjoyed speeding up a little down the other side.
The support heading back onto Chestnut Drive was amazing, almost enough to make me give it my all. Not quite though, as I was acutely aware that the finish line was further than the start line. When I did kick for the final stretch, I found myself running alongside someone else from my club. Rounding the corner into the finish there was a mass of people on either side and then, much to my surprise, a couple of kids appeared in front of us. Having kids run with their parents over the line is sweet, but not ideal for anyone else running nearby.
This space would contain an official photo of me at the finish, if it wasn't far too bad to pay for. (The photo quality was good, my expression not so much)
I crossed the line, stopped my watch, and entered the chaos around me. So many people with not many places to go. I saw some more friends from club and we chatted about how we’d done. My watch showed 55:26, and I was telling the truth when I said I was pleased to have got within about 20 seconds of my PB.
Collecting my t-shirt from the hall was easy enough, although the t-shirt itself is nothing to run home about. I suspect it will be reserved for DIY days (which is what Ben uses his 2014 version for). Given the scale of event it seems a bit of a shame that they don’t do medals, but I knew that when I signed up so can’t complain too much.
Given this is a local event I’m sure I’ll end up running it again at some point. I’ll certainly be using some of the roads in my training runs, and with the added bonus of atmosphere it would seem silly not to enter again. If only that first loop didn’t have to exist.
Back at home we got talking about what my actual 10k PB was, as I wasn’t exactly sure. It turned out to be 55:23, so not that far off what I’d just run. Particularly as I always make sure my watch time is a little long. Then we found the chip results on the website, putting my official Taunton 10k time at… 55:22. And this was how I came to award myself the prize for most embarrassing PB ever.