Saturday, 18 June 2011

Summer Solstice 8k

In April last year I did my first ever running race; a women's only five miler in the familiar Woodford Valley. I was absolutely chuffed to bits to get through it and was even more pleased with a time of 50:01. Five miles at ten-minute mile pace was a massive achievement for me.

Fourteen months later and it was time for my second race at this distance. I actually only heard about this race on Wednesday at running club and I - being the very encourageable girl that I am - was easily talked into signing up.

The race takes place every year at Moors Valley Country Park on the Friday that is closest to the summer solstice. I presume the idea is that you get a nice, long summer evening to race on. Unfortunately the whole 'summer evening' thing didn't really come together. Rain had been coming down for a good few hours and settled nicely into the off-road tracks of Moors Valley.

A lot of friendly faces from Salisbury were also running the race, and I spent a bit of time mentally ranking everybody whilst munching on pre-run jelly babies. Not that I'm overly competitive or anything... but I did have a good idea of who I wanted to try and beat. 

I put myself near the front of the crowd at the start and unsurprisingly, ran the first kilometre way too quickly. I tried to maintain the pace to the second km marker but it was already starting to hurt. I spent this first part of the race being a complete pussy and avoiding all the big puddles, the logic being that dry feet would run faster. This didn't last too long though as some huge, deep, pond-like puddles spanned the thin tracks and the only sensible thing to do was to man up and run straight through.

The undulating route went over a mixture of gravel tracks, muddy forest trails and even sections of sand. As I went on I started to love the muck more and more, to the point where I was purposely jumping straight through every bit of water I could find. I realised it's actually quicker just to keep going straight through any such obstacles rather than waste time tottering around the edges and figuring out where the dry bits might be.

At the halfway point as I was thinking at that if I could maintain the pace I might be able to get a time of around 40 minutes, so I ran straight past the water station not wanting to waste valuable seconds. Less than half a minute later and I started to get a stitch, so the next kilometre involved a very weird, one-armed, shallow-breathing running style. I started to slow a bit and it wasn't until I saw the 6k marker that I got a second wind. A quick glance at my watch and I knew if I hammered the last two kilometres I could still just about manage 40 minutes.

My lungs ached as I kept pushing through, I was getting paranoid that every woman I heard behind me was one of the girls from the club that I wanted to beat but that was the best motivation to keep the legs ticking over. Eventually I saw the sign that said 'sprint finish' so I picked it up as much as I could (which was not very much) and crossed the line in around 39:30. I was about to collapse in a heap on the floor until I spotted the piles of chocolate they were giving to finishers.. turns out I did have a bit of extra energy!

A post-race bit of pub grub followed by an ice cream and custard combo aided the recovery. 

All in all an excellent race, really well organised and with loads of happy volunteers and marshals stood out in the rain. Definitely one to repeat next year, and secretly I'm hoping the sun doesn't come out then either!

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