This is a running blog… and FINALLY I have a running event to write about!
Restrictions on outdoor sport were lifted six days ago and I’ve certainly made the most of it with two trips to Victoria Dock for swimming, one to Charlton Lido, and two to Mile End track (one to run and one for an outdoor class). But the most exciting thing by far was taking part in an actual real RACE!
The St Albans 10k was the first non-elite race to take place in England this year and Rob and I had just happened to sign up a while ago, possibly on the basis that various people we know live round there and were likely to enter (none of them did). It was a bit of a random one for the first one back, but a race is a race and so off to St Albans it was. I was very pleased with the efforts that the race organiser, Active Training World, had made to make the event safe. I’m not worried about catching or passing on the corona myself any more (two vaccines, two positive antibody tests nine months apart) but I am still very twitchy when I see other people behaving dangerously and still follow rules that I probably don’t need to now more to set an example than anything else. I’m not entirely sure I could cope with another wave like the last. Anyway, none of this was a worry at the race – everyone was distancing nicely, there was sanitiser everywhere, people wore masks at registration and most people didn’t hang around afterwards. The route was the same as when I did it two years ago (how was that two years ago?) – an out and back on a disused railway with a loop on footpaths alongside a dual carriageway and an awkward bit on a residential street where you aren’t quite sure if you are supposed to run on the pavement or the road. There’s also a bit of unmade road and grass right at the beginning/end. It seems flat, but it’s deceptive – the Alban Way is actually a gentle slope which makes you think you’re doing better than you really are on the way out and turns into Mount Finsbury Park on the way back. There was actually 10 metres of elevation in kilometre nine, and I think that slow, draining uphills are actually harder than doing all in one big steep go.
The downside to all this social distancing palaver is that Rob’s wave started a whole 1.25 hours before mine and by the time it was time to go I actually couldn’t feel my feet (or my hands, or my legs, or any enthusiasm for anything other than finding a hot water bottle). It took me a whole kilometre to warm up and for once my first km was the slowest of the whole race, even slower than the uphill one. Since I buggered up my knee doing overenthusiastic Les Millsing and running every day in January I’ve not been running as much and unsurprisingly have got a bit slower as a result but I finished comfortably in 1:13:03 which isn’t a terrible time and is three minutes faster than my time two years ago when I was a bit less fat and not full of angst over a worldwide plague and general apocalyse. Hopefully a training plan that consists of fewer injuries and fewer doughnuts will have me hitting some PBs by the autumn. The race announcer person took great delight in telling the word that I had recorded the 531st fastest 10k in England for 2021. There’s one for the running CV. Just omit the fact that at the time, there had only been 531 10k finishers this year.
On the way home we met up with some friends who live in St Albans and sat on some church steps like teenagers because everything is closed. There were engineering works and we had to take a rail replacement bus which seemed like a monumental pain in the arse but actually seeing a part of London that isn’t Bow was like a massively exciting day out. A big road! A park! Shops! People! Tube stations! Everything is exciting and new. This will probably wear off very quickly.
I’m even more excited for my next race, which will be the RunThrough Chase the Sun at the Olympic Park in 10 days time. I absolutely love RunThrough and CTS in particular for its summertime party in the park feel. (Also I nearly always get a decent time on this course). I can’t wait to see all my RunThrough friends again, it feels like it has been years. I’m only sorry that I won’t need to get on a rail replacement bus to get home.