Recently I said in a post that I needed to sign up to an event in order to re-focus my training. It makes you feel that you are working towards something, and a little bit of competition goes a long way, even if it’s only competition against yourself.
Finally, weeks later, I have taken my own advice. I have signed up for the Rutherford Appleton 10k. This is a race that I have done before; in fact, it was last year, and it holds a special place in my memory because it was one of the first results I felt genuinely proud of. I came in at 57 minutes, which remains my 10k PB. It was whilst I was still on a high after this race that I signed up for the Reading Half Marathon, and that led me on to spend most of 2017 training for long distance runs.
This will also be the first time that I have re-visited a race, so the pressure will be on to do it quicker than last year. What follows is my race report from last year’s event.
Rutherford Appleton 5k and 10k
This race started really badly for me when I realised that the organisers were actually serious about enforcing the no headphones rule. Normally, they all say “no headphones” but everyone wears them anyway and the marshals don’t bat an eyelid. But this time around there was a pre-race announcement specifically to tell competitors that anyone wearing headphones will be disqualified.
At the time I was a much less confident runner and I didn’t know if I would be able to cope for such a long distance without music.
So I sulked for the twenty or so minutes before the race started, moaning to anyone that would listen:
“We’re not even crossing many roads. It’s a science park on the weekend. It’s not even busy. What a stupid rule!”
Then eventually the race started, and I shuffled off, somewhere at the back of the pack, still sulking.
The course for this event meanders through several different buildings that all look cool and science-y.
According to the website:
this unique race follows a route through Harwell Oxford Science and Innovation Campus on roads usually out of bounds to the public and offers a close-up view of well-known landmarks such as the Diamond sychrotron radiation facility.
It was this course that started to win me around. I have always been drawn to places that have unusual architecture, or stark industrial beauty. And, possibly because these are normally off-limits roads, it was so quiet. Towards the end of the first loop (it’s one loop for the 5k, two for the 10k, although they give you the same medal for both), I started to fall into this rhythm that was steady and almost meditative, following the sound of my own breathing, and finding it somehow comforting. I’m sure that it was maintaining a steady pace all the way around that carried me to my PB that day as well, as previously my style had been to get over-excited, sprint off like a lunatic, and then burn-out and be forced to slow it down for a bit. And then repeat.
I don’t think it’s a style that many running coaches recommend. And it was probably the result of an erratic playlist, with lots of different tempo songs jammed together.
I even ended up feeling thankful for having been forced to experience running a different way, without music being such a heavy distraction.
Five of us ran that day, and of the five, I think myself and two others enjoyed the course, one was indifferent, and one really hated it. So I know it’s not for everybody, and it is pavement pounding all the way around – definitely not for you if your thing is trail running. I also know that not everyone will share my enthusiasm for the mostly concrete surroundings.
I just liked the retro-futuristic aesthetic, a setting that (ironically) would have been perfectly complemented by a Zombies, Run! narrative playing in my ears.