I was initially under the impression that this was a nine-mile race before being informed that it’s 9k. Actually it’s a generous 9k. Closer to 10k. But not quite. So it’s not a 10k race, and ‘Newent Nine’ has a good ring to it. Plus, if you haven’t taken part in this event before, you’re pretty much guaranteed a PB over 9.7k.
From my perspective, I was likely to set a rather tame benchmark to challenge in subsequent years. I had finally shaken off a rather stubborn virus in the sense that I was feeling perfectly healthy, but my running was nowhere near 100%. Besides finding that I was seemingly unable to ‘push’ myself I was also aware that I’d put on a bit of ‘condition’ – if there is a grey area between pecs and moobs I’m probably at the wrong end of it.
Back to Newent! Arriving at the school, with Jackie and Pinky, I registered, pinned my number and chatted to others, catching back up with those who had recently returned from a week (and marathon / half-marathon) in Las Vegas. One or two previous ‘niners’ gave me the heads-up on the course: rather undulating for the first half, much flatter for the latter portion.
With that in mind I – along with a reasonable-sized crowd of runners – made my way to the start, in the school field. As we were sent on our way, we looped around the field before doubling back along a track taking us onto the road that led away from the school, and town.
Before long we took on the first incline. Whilst my plan was to go easy for the first 5k or so, I was still happily jogging along and passing a few other runners. I continued, still happy with my pace (from a personal feeling perspective, I have no idea what my actual pace is!) as we took on the undulating course on quiet country lanes, occasionally calling out ‘car!’ as the odd vehicle came by.
There was a decent climb towards the halfway point and, knowing that this would most likely represent the last of the undulations, I made a little more of an effort on this. In hindsight, that may not have been the best of ideas I’ve ever had.
Levelling off, we approached the water station. This signalled the start of a long descent towards the 6k mark and what should subsequently be a flat final 3½k or so. Over the previous few minutes I’d had Dave in my sights ahead and hoped that I could draw him in over the final stages. We approached 7k and I made up my mind that I would push on from there.
Nothing. I tried. I died. As we turned off the road and into a housing estate via a short footpath I felt drained of energy. Dave simply disappeared from view and runners from behind started to pass me. I was into ‘marathon’ mode; that oh-please-just-get-me-through-these-last-few-miles feeling. Exiting the estate and turning back towards the town centre I attempted to latch onto a runner as we took on a short incline.
As we descended into the town centre, said runner eased away from me. I focused on keeping up some form of rhythm and made it to the 9k mark where Debs and Greg were there to cheer us into the final stretch. Back onto the road approaching the school, less than a half-mile to go, I started to pump my arms and lift my knees.
It was to no avail. Over the last couple of hundred metres or so, my ‘sprint’ was made a mockery of, others passing me as if I were jogging on the spot. I crossed the finish line, spent. Stopping my watch, I took the measure of my lack of race condition on the basis that I’d need to time travel over an additional 300 metres to put in a respectable 10k time (by my own standards).
A bad race. But a great run. Take away the fact that I ran out of juice over the final third of the course, it was thoroughly enjoyable. As a plus, the medal is very nice; a bespoke and chunky affair. As another plus, I’m sure that I can set a new PB next year! As a further plus, we had a number of category winners: Congratulations to Gemma, Ingrid and Mary. Many thanks to Newent Runners, see you next year!