Saturday, March 2, 2019

Hillingdon 10km Race

Hillingdon Half Marathon & 10km 2019

Hillingdon 10k 2019
Photo by Mark Easton

Sunday 24th February

I was looking forward to this race because not only is it a local one for me, but it was the first time I'd be running a race for the second time. I ran this in 2018 just a couple of months after joining a running club and at that time ran it in 49:01, breaking 50 minutes for the first time. 12 months later, I was keen to do a bit of comparison and see what improvements had been made.

Despite the weather forecast looking good, it was actually only just above freezing when I left the house! The great thing about this race is that they make use of the sports centre at Brunel University, so there's a big space indoors for waiting around, sorting numbers and warming up without having to deal with the cold outside. 

The half marathon got underway at 9am and then the 10km set off timed so that the lead runners of both races would join together so there was one lead bike for both. I was quite nervous in the moments leading up to the start because I was feeling the pressure I'd put on myself to make this a good run. 

Last year my 49 minutes had been enough to earn sixth place, but pretty much as soon as we started I realised that this year there were a lot of fast women and that I certainly wasn't going to be in any position to challenge for a top five finish. 

I set off at a pace that felt fast, but is about in keeping with what I've run in the first mile for my two fastest 10km's to date. That 6:40 first mile was great, but it quickly became obvious that I wasn't going to be able to hold that. Could I, should I have held back a little more for that start? Maybe...

My second mile was 7:07 - not a disaster, but a little bit disappointing not to have run consecutive sub-7 miles. Then at around 2.5 miles I started to get a stitch, not ideal as shortly after this the course starts on a long, gradual incline. This was also the part when mentally it got tough. For me the 10k distance is a real love-hate thing. If I'm running well, able to keep an even pace and have people around me it can be a brilliant distance. But when my pace is dropping, it hurts and there's clear space all around me I find it a real battle and that's where I found myself this time. I kept reminding myself that pretty much whatever happens, I'll get a course PB and that this is not my goal race but part of the bigger picture of marathon training. Not easy though, and because this isn't a race that attracts spectators it was only me to motivate myself.

I was pleased to reach the halfway point and know that it was only 5km to go. At this point it really was just all about getting home. My third and fourth miles were 7:39 and 7:40 which was further disheartening, but when I later checked the elevation and compared with how I paced the race last year I realised I'd been massively underestimating just how significant the hills were to me in this race. 

For a lot of the race I just remember feeling like I was working hard, willing my legs to go faster but the pace just wasn't coming. Not surprising really when I think about all the running I've been doing lately with the marathon training - I might have reduced the mileage a bit in the last few days, but I wasn't exactly racing on fresh legs. Also, I simply haven't run that hard for that length of time in quite a while. I've done interval sessions, and I've done a couple of 5km tempo runs, but I wouldn't have said I was in prime shape for a 10km.

Towards the end of the race is a lovely long downhill (which unsurprisingly was the only bit of the course I could recall from last year!) and I tried to use this to regain some momentum and make up a bit of time. I didn't want to over-do it though, because I knew there was still a little bit more upwards to get to the end.

The final mile of the race is in the grounds of the university - another bit of the course I'd erased from my memory apparently. I actually saw the finish line but still had to loop around the roads and car parks before I could get there - so close but yet so far! I was feeling really tired by this point and realised that whatever happened at least I would know that I genuinely couldn't have given more to this race. The last stretch of road, slightly uphill, before turning into the finish straight felt like it was going on forever but the finish line did eventually come back into sight. Usually I'm able to find a last little burst of speed when I spot it, but there was nothing left - it was tough enough to just keep running!

I finished in 45:38 and eighth lady. I was a bit disappointed not to go under 45 minutes, but it just wasn't meant to be at this race. I'm also aware that I sound quite negative about this race - but I do realise that my time is not one to be ashamed of at all! I ran hard, didn't give up even when I felt like I was struggling from quite early on, and achieved a huge improvement on my time from a year ago. Maybe I'll just have to come back again next year?!

Hillingdon Half and 10k finisher's medal and t-shirt


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