Surprise! A race report that’s not from Ben. Well, not much of a surprise if you read Ben’s training update a few weeks ago, but still. It’s a bit of an understatement to say I haven’t been racing lately. My last race was in fact the Stoke Stampede, way back in December 2015. Rest assured, though, that not everything has changed. I mean, it’s taken me the best part of 4 weeks to write this one up.
I picked the Isle of Man Easter Festival of Running to be my race return way back near the start of 2017, while still pregnant. I’d never run it before (although Ben had in both 2014 and 2015), the route is right near my parents’ house, and the timing worked at just under a year after my due date. While I entered other races (although ultimately gave up my place for both), this was always my target.
The question being, then, what was my target? The first, and most important, target that I set myself was to finish the race with a smile on my face. I’d love to say I was happy to leave it at that, but like many runners I wanted a time goal. The obvious goal was to beat my time from the British 10k, which was my first post-natal race last time round. But my dream was to under an hour.
A month before the race, I headed to Burnham and Highbridge parkrun for a benchmark 5k. Clinging to my dream, despite all my training indicating I wasn’t fast enough, to me sub-30 was crucial. I crossed the line in 28:44.
But then it all went wrong. Between low energy levels (I’ve been on and off iron tablets for anaemia) and bad weather (snow in Taunton? seriously?) my next run wasn’t until 3 weeks later at Minehead parkrun. By the time I made it to the Isle of Man my confidence was low. And by the morning of the race (which is in the evening) I was also tired and unsure if I’d even take part.
Happily for this post, I did indeed decide to take part. Ben walked me down to by the start, where the feeling of being part of a race instead of on the sidelines felt surreal. After the customary queue for the ladies loos, I had a chat to a few people before handing Ben my outer layers. The atmosphere at the start was great, which helped relieve a few nerves.
I’d mentally broken the race down into 5 parts: Port Erin, connecting roads, coast, climbing and home stretch. The course starts by heading out and then all the way back along the prom, before climbing up to the upper prom and through the village. I’d practised this section a few days before and was pleasantly surprised how much quicker it seemed to go with other runners and a supportive crowd.
Despite vaguely targeting my British 10k time, I decided to only look at my watch at each mile beep. Having felt run down earlier in the day, I was wary of pushing myself too hard. Mile 1’s pace of 9:42 was not only significantly faster than expected, it was only fractionally slower than 1 hour pace. Not great for my chances of thinking straight about my fitness levels!
Heading out of Port Erin, I started the section I’d written off as ‘filler’ miles. Once actually running, though, I realised how I would normally go out of my way to run along ‘country’ roads like these. (Ok, it’s technically an A road, but it was still nice). Around this point I found myself running near someone else with Tikiboo leggings, which was a nice extra focus. My watch beeped to tell me that mile 2 had been almost identical to mile 1.
I took the turn onto what can definitely be described as a country road, and started to get excited. As well as being a generally nice road to run on, glimpses of the sea started to appear. Yes, the race had started by the sea in Port Erin, but this was the bit I was really looking forward to.
As I crossed over to the pavement by the sea, I told myself to just enjoy the views. I’m kind of surprised I didn’t get a cricked neck from all the time I spent looking to the left. The weather was just perfect for lighting up the coastline. The route continues along the coast path as it splits from the road, and shortly after this was the 5k clock. I passed this at somewhere around 29:40; my second fastest 5k of the year and on a much tougher course. The only niggle being that I had another 5k to go. With a teeny tiny hill.
Happily, before that hill was more coast path. And a drinks station. More neck cricking commenced, as I ran past Port St May beach. The metal bridge-path known as The Catwalk followed. Perhaps strangely, this is one of my favourite places to run. Whether it was fatigue or simply enjoying the view, my pace for mile 4 had slipped. With the climb up still to come, there was realistically no chance that I would finish in under an hour. This realisation actually calmed the last nerves I had and steadied me for the effort.
The climb up through Port St Mary and out the other side lasts for just under a mile. To start with, the incline is reasonably gradual, as the route follows the high street. I was definitely starting to get tired, but kept plodding along. The turn off onto the back road to Port Erin brings the steepest part of the climb. It’s a section of road I know well, and an early decision to walk the very top as it rounded the corner was probably the only reason I kept running until then.
With the bulk of ascent completed, it was time to settle into a tired rhythm. The beep for 5 miles brought with it a new determination. My pace for the mile had been 10:50, but my overall pace was still just around 10 minute/miles. New race goal set.
At the perfect time for a motivation boost, my family were just along the road. A power-up high five from my daughter (a junior parkrun staple) set me nicely on my way to the end of the road. Turning the corner it all went downhill. Literally. Which is pretty nice 5 and a half miles into a 10k. Sadly I’m not all that confident at letting momentum take control of my running, but I managed to let go a little.
Back on the prom things were a bit chaotic. Nice evening weather on a bank holiday weekend had brought a fair few people out. And faster runners (which, let’s face it, most of the field were compared to me) were running up and down the road on cool downs. It was a bit of an obstacle course trying to get through.
Passing the start, there was just a small incline before the finish was in sight. I’d promised myself that I’d push for a fast finish even if no one was in sight. As it happens, I managed an overtake just before the end. The perfect finish to a very enjoyable and well organised race.
For the vast majority of us, running is all about personal achievement. And so in that spirit, I present my 10k time of 1:01:34 (9:54 min/mile). My personal best 10k as a mum-of-two, and my personal best returning-to-racing 10k.
And I finished the race with a smile on my face.