… Into the light! Part 2

a unique race
The Bournemouth Supersonic 10k on Saturday was unique in my running experience to date. Three other members of my family also ran the same race; my sister Cathy, brother in law Rob and stepdad Alan. Cathy has been running for nearly six years and has run distances from the mile through parkruns, 10k, half, full and ultra marathons. Whilst Rob has been running for three years and Alan for only six months, they are in a similar position this being their first race and having completed a little over 20 parkruns between them.

post race heroes

Post race: Myself, my brother in law Rob, sister Cathy and stepdad Alan.

It could be argued that this was a family participation PB equalling event as I have run one parkrun in which three other members of my family also ran, but if anyone were to attempt this argument I would of course immediately point out that parkrun isn’t a race and, though not a disqualifying factor as such, I would also mention that the family members participating at Oak Hill parkrun that day were Cathy, her husband (Skip – a different brother in law) and their son; a single family unit rather than individuals from across the breadth of my family as was the case on Saturday. In any case the most momentous statistic, which epitomised the unique nature of the race to me, was that it was Alan’s 70th birthday in the week before the race. That it was also my 49th AG/birth-day in that week qualifies merely as a footnote*.

Going into the race our targets were:

  • Alan – sub 70 minutes (and to raise £250 for the RNLI)
  • Rob – sub 60 minutes
  • Cathy – sub 48 minutes (a season’s best and all time second best 10k, Cathy opines that her not quite sub 47 minute PB was most likely due to a short course …)
  • myself – 39:29

getting to the start line
This year’s second edition of the Bournemouth Marathon Festival consisted of four races on the Saturday – two junior races over 1.5k at 2pm and 2k at 2:30pm, the Supersonic 10k at 4pm and the Speed of Light 5k at 7pm – plus two races, half marathon and marathon, on the Sunday. Given the title of my post it’s a shame the 10k wasn’t the event run at dusk with LED arm bands provided, but there it is.

At the end of May we agreed as a family to make the race the centre piece of a weekend celebrating Alan’s birthday and signed up to run; Alan had only been running for a couple of months at the time! Meanwhile I was running again and optimistic the 10k would be a race with which to mark the end of a reasonably successful, albeit somewhat truncated, summer of racing. Unfortunately that return proved premature and my summer of racing failed to materialise, but by the weekend of the race I had completed 8 weeks gradually increasing mileage to return to typical training mileage, 3 further weeks of hard training and a taper week. The final three weeks, culminating in race day, included my first runs at race pace; two good parkruns, and I was confident I was in a good place to improve my existing PB of 39:33.

As race start approached we made our way to the start area. There were three starting zones and we were represented in them all; Cathy and I in the white zone, Rob in brown and Alan in blue.

my race
I thought there were around 2500 runners in the race and so attempted to place myself between 125 and 250 runners from the front in line with my typical percentage position within a field. Hearing people beside me discussing being “happy with an hour” I moved forward a little to perhaps 100 runners from the front. At the gun I set off briskly and concentrated on negotiating other runners for the first four or five hundred metres. I knew I had started too fast and so, having established a space to run in, checked how much; 3:47/km – not too serious given my goal pace of 3:57/km. I eased off and completed the first kilometre in 3:54. The course lead East from the start line, doubled back at around 2k to head West to around 7.5k – punctuated midway by a trip to the end of the pier and back – before again doubling back for the final 2.5k to a finish on the pier approach.

Garmin 620 GPS track

The fast course included a trip to the end of the 250 metre pier. And back.

Approaching the Eastern turn around my watch showed 3:56/km average pace and I settled in to hold this average pace thinking that a displayed pace of 3:56/km would likely achieve an actual pace of 3:57/km allowing for running/recording a little over distance as is normal when running a mass event/using a GPS device. Smoothing my turn around the single cone as much as possible and running West for the first time I discovered that the conditions weren’t as still as I had believed to that point; there was a slight, but distinct, headwind for the entire Westward stretch. Working harder than I wanted to be, I heard someone call my name and threw up a hand; I found out later this was Rob passing me on the outward stretch. I passed perhaps four or five runners by the time I returned past the start and approached the pier.

The crowds began to grow in line with my consternation at the effort required to hold my average pace at the 3:58/km now displayed. Approaching the turn out onto the pier at about 4.5k I was spurred on by hearing my wife and, I think, one of my daughters calling out encouragement. The outward 250m on the pier was particularly comfortable both underfoot – a smooth, solid wooden surface with good grip – and, as revealed by contrast when I turned around at the end of the pier, because it was sheltered from the wind. The return along the pier was the most exposed part of the course and it was also at that this point that my right ankle began to ache. I was worried that a problem stemming from my well documented, twice sprained ankle was about to surface. Running off the pier and taking the sharpest turn of the course to resume my Westward heading I took great care not to put my ankle under any unnecessary stress as I cornered.

Thankfully my ankle didn’t progress beyond feeling sore and in any event I was distracted from it by a quite intense discomfort in my left shoulder as I ran kilometre six in 4:06 and seven in 4:07. This discomfort lasted perhaps 5 minutes and the water station also fell within the these two kilometres and, though I made superficial use of it, this too probably contributed to my reduced pace. My displayed average pace was now 4:01/km and I resigned myself to not achieving my pre race target. Two male runners passed me during this phase and I was aware that there was an element of negativity creeping in. I resolved to hold on to the turn around point, from where the wind would again be in my favour, and to press for home as best I could with the aim of recovering to a sub 40 minute finish.

Another single cone turn and heading West again progress definitely got easier, I didn’t check my time for the eighth kilometre, but noted my average pace was holding at 4:01/km. Somewhere in the return journey I acknowledged Cathy passing in the opposite direction and then made a point of looking out for Rob too. Seeing two friendly faces helped my resolve and I completed the ninth kilometre in 3:58. I passed one runner in the process and could see I was catching another who was perhaps 30 metres ahead. Whether these were the same two who had passed me during kilometres six and seven I’m not sure, but I made it my aim to catch the second before the end. I upped my pace drawing on my disappointment from knowing I wasn’t going to achieve my target, morphing it into aggression, and passed him with perhaps 300 or 400 metres remaining. Finishing strongly, I ran through the line.

I passed through the well organised finish funnel – collecting water, technical t-shirt, finisher’s medal and goody bag – and confirmed that my t-shirt was a good fit before returning to my spectating family hoping to see the others finish too. Unfortunately I didn’t see any of them due to the crowds, but met up with my wife and daughters before looking at my watch for the first time. Ah well. We re-grouped en masse at the RNLI tent where Alan was awarded a second medal and photos were taken. Kudos to Rob for being the only one of the four of us to achieve their pre race time target 😉

  • Alan – 73:24 (and over £500 raised for the RNLI!)
  • Rob – 58:22
  • Cathy – 48:02
  • myself – 40:04 (3:56, 3:59, 3:57, 4:03, 4:02, 4:08, 4:08, 4:05, 3:59, 3:47)

* It was also my 49th AG/birth-day in the week before the race. I wondered about a possibility raised by this event recently.



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