After easing myself back into running and racing in April, May was pretty full on. At Glastonbury I ran better than I had been expecting, while at the really tough Wambrook Waddle I was brought back down to earth a little, although I was still pretty chuffed with my result. My times at the Yeovilton 5k races were coming down, and though not back to my peak times of last year, I wasn’t far off.
With all of this, I was heading to the Wells 10k feeling pretty confident. I hadn’t done the race before, and although I knew there was a hill that we hit twice on the two-lap course, I thought that there was the possibility of getting close to my PB from Langport last year. I had thought that I might end up as the only club member at the race, but in the end there were a few of us, and my parents came up as well, although they spent as much time exploring Wells as watching the race, I think!
We arrived in Wells in plenty of time, and coincidentally met my club-mate Iain in the car park, and so bimbled over to the town hall together to collect our numbers. From this stage on, I pretty much ignored my parents and wife: I’m quite open about the fact that at races I need to do my own thing beforehand, although in this case, it was just chatting to Iain! The collection process was nice and easy, and before long we had our numbers tacked onto our tops… and there was still the better part of an hour before our race started. The weather forecast was for a really hot day, and the morning sun was out in full-force. Iain and I hid in the shadow of the town hall, wondering why everyone else was stood out in the hot sun, dehydrating. Maybe it was just the novelty factor!
After gathering for a club photo, Iain and I trotted off for a warm-up. In keeping with the two-lap nature of the course, this ended up being a two-lap warm-up, as our loop only ended up being about half a mile. While we were warming up and preparing, lots of other races were taking part. I can’t remember them all, but there was certainly a 5k, and a couple of short distances for children too. Lolly found the format great to keep her entertained while she was waiting for our race to start, so I can feel slightly less guilty about ignoring her.
Given the weather and the hill on each lap, added to the fact that I’d spent the last three and a half days off work with vertigo, I was aware that my chances of a PB were pretty slim. Nevertheless, I opted to head out at or around a PB pace and see what happened. Predictably, my first kilometre, which dropped downhill slightly was faster than I intended. The course also very early turned off the road and through a farm-yard, before later picking up a dusty path. While neither could in any honesty be described as “trail”, I had been expecting a road race, and was slightly unsettled. Whether that accounted for my gradual drop in pace of the next couple of kilometres, or whether that was just a reflection of my current state of training, I’m not completely sure.
After the dusty path, the course returned to the road, and there was a short out-and-back section. Oddly, I thought, we turned around a marshal despite there being more cones beyond. Stupidly, I didn’t realise why this was. The course dropped downhill from the out-and-back section, before we hit the hill. As soon as I saw the hill, which was visible in its full glory, I knew that any slim chance I’d had of a PB was gone. This was no mere undulation, nor even a short sharp burst like that at Glastonbury. This was a Hill. I wasn’t particularly cheered up by the older chap who passed me, pleasantly telling me that it was a 30 metre climb. I maintained a gentle run for the first half of the hill, dropping to a walk at the water station, and then mostly running again after.
From the peak of the hill, the course levelled off for a little bit, before dropping down towards the Bishop’s Palace, where we turned onto a path which passed behind it. The path was lined with spectators; a brilliant stretch of support, which reminded me of Longrun Meadow parkrun.
On the second lap, after managing to pick up the pace initially, it slipped back to around 4:30/km from 6 to 8 km. During this stage, it became abundantly clear why the traffic cones had continued beyond the marshal on the out-and-back section on the first lap: the out-and-back was longer on the second lap. This was because the course was the same as the 5 km race on the first lap, and so to make up the distance we cut off by taking the path by the Bishop’s Palace, they had to extend it slightly on the second. I really should have worked it out the first time around, but instead it was just an unpleasant surprise. Still, it did delay hitting the hill for the second time!
Which, despite the garden hose being sprayed across the road to help up keep cool at the bottom of it, was awful again. I pretty much stopped to drink at the drink station, and walked for much longer than I had the first time around. My pace was awful for this kilometre, dropping to 5:05, but all I could hold onto was that very few of those runners around me were doing much better.
My final kilometre, dropping down to the finish, was my quickest of the race, though I demurred from a full sprint- finish. Given that at a few stages, I’d thought that I’d struggle to come in under 45 minutes based on my pace, I was pretty happy with 44:10, all things considered.
So, after a bit of a moan-y, negative post, the question is: Did I enjoy the race? – Yes, on balance I did. Most of the negatives were simply things I wasn’t expecting, and that’s my own fault. I should have properly researched the course, so that I was aware that parts of it strayed off-road, and more importantly, so that I knew how significant the hill was. Most of my annoyance came due to the fact that I’d arrived with whispers in my ear that I could get a PB. That was never going to happen on this course, but that doesn’t make it a bad race!
The medal was pretty basic, and I think I have a few others that are identical, but its better than nothing. The race itself was great value. Would I do it again? Yes. It might not be as high on the list as Glastonbury or Wambrook, but if I was free, I’d certainly give it another go.