I was fortunate enough to pick up a transfer for this race, having missed out on entry when the race became fully subscribed well in advance. Less fortunate was the niggle I’d picked up at the previous weekend’s Winchcombe 10k, a slight strain behind my right knee.
One week, a little rest, a few walks, some stretching and soaking later, the time came to put the suspect leg to the test. I could (and maybe should) have simply chosen not to start the race but, having gone to the trouble of securing a place, I’d have been effectively rubbing salt into those who had been less fortunate in this respect. So, in slight trepidation, I put on my running kit that morning ready to head off to Oldbury.
The forecast did not improve my frame of mind. Heavy rain was expected, quite a contrast from the previous day (in which we had hosted the Meteor Mile). For good measure I included a bin liner which I’d use as a makeshift rainproof.
Arriving at Oldbury and parking in a field (in calf-length grass!) about a five-minute walk from the power station (and Race HQ), we found the rain to be relatively light. Perhaps the weather was holding its own form of warm-up. The skies certainly had that look of summer being over.
As a club race series event it had attracted a number of Almosts, though not as many as I might have expected. We collected our numbers, stripped into running gear, handed in our bags and waited inside for as long as we dared before being called to the start. Even then a few of us loitered underneath a convenient tree.
We were counted down to the 10.30am start and away we went. In my case and, it seemed, several others, at a rather modest pace. My own plan was to simply ensure that my leg would not seize up, and run to the pace that was manageable.
For the first mile or so I was a little more distracted by my bin-liner-come-rain-cover. Whilst it was doing a perfectly acceptable job of keeping my torso dry the – admittedly, slight – breeze was making havoc of my efforts to keep it in reasonable shape. Passing the marshals at the crossroads I ripped it off in what should have been an impressive Hulk / Chippendale / (insert-Hollywood-hunk-here) style but, in reality, reminded me that I’d probably be better off with just carrying a small pair of scissors.
The 10-mile course, by the way, follows an exaggerated figure of eight, off the back of a mile out-and-back from the power station itself. The first loop is just under three miles, the second loop almost six. It consists of mainly quiet country roads and is almost completely flat – a good course for a PB, as long as one is feeling fully fit.
PB was far from my agenda this morning, survival and not straining the leg further being at the top of my mental list. I continued through the initial loop, taking us past the village of Oldbury, at the same modest pace, though I was picking off runners as I continued (probably a result of having started pretty much at the rear of the field).
Approaching the crossroads at the end of the small loop I was aware that the rain, instead of intensifying, was actually easing off. I continued to plod towards four miles, passing Debbie and seeing Jane ahead of me. The leg was holding up rather well and I was feeling a lot more positive about finishing in one piece, so to speak. I caught and passed Jane a little ahead of half-way.
Five miles down and I became aware that I was actually starting to run a little more freely. With some caution, I deliberately upped the pace just a little and passed Claire before we reached the six mile mark. The offending leg did not complain over this and I continued to push on and close down a group of runners I’d had in sight.
Inside I was smiling. Thanks to a slow start I was now running through people and my ego was feeling rather good about it. Through 6, 7, 8 miles I kept pushing on hopefully, upping the pace further, leg still not complaining, still closing down and passing people… Perhaps it’s not the quickest way to complete a race but it is fun!
We approached the crossroads for the final time, signalling the return to the Power Station: just over a mile to the finish. Still feeling that there was more to give I started to run off the front of my feet (having spent most of the race simply rolling from the heel), still chasing down those ahead of me. I almost misjudged things into the final half-mile, pushing on further after thinking that we’d passed race parking, only to see it ahead.
I kept on and finally made it to the finish, with the clock ticking to 1 hour 33 minutes. A long way from my best time – and there were several PBs for Almost Athletes today, as well as individual / category prizes (too many names to mention but congratulations to you all!). Thanks to the slow start, however, I’d managed a sizeable negative split: approximately 50 minutes for the first half and 43 for the second.
Better still, my leg did not feel at all bad (barring the standard post-run stiffness, which I made at least some effort to stave off with lip-service to a warm-down and stretch). Better than that – a large box of flapjack to greet the finishers, alongside the water!
The medal we were given was segment-shaped; I later learned that this is one of three such medals that Thornbury running club – the event hosts – have on offer for each of its events. Complete all three and one completes the ‘medal circle.’ Had I known this at the beginning of the year…
This is the first time I’ve taken part in the Oldbury 10 and I’m pencilling in the date for next year. Flat, fast, (largely) free of traffic, flapjacks… what more would one need from a 10-miler?