Having resolved that four half marathons for the spring season was plenty and that I was under no circumstances to enter any more, I promptly set about entering ten mile races, because of course those last three and a bit miles make all the difference. Rob was doing a two-lap 20 mile race in Milton Keynes, and the organisers had kindly thrown in a one-lap 10 mile version much more suitable for my level of ability, so I signed up for that.
I have to say this was one of the oddest races I have ever done. It wasn’t unpleasant, it just didn’t really feel like a race. I think this was mostly because no one really enters a 10 or 20 miler as their goal race, they enter 20 miles as marathon prep or 10 miles as half marathon prep (or because their mate is doing 20 miles) and consequently everyone was treating it like a long slow run. The terrain was also very much what I’m used to for training runs, at times I felt like I was back on Tottenham Marshes and had to remind myself that it was a race and that I had to follow the yellow arrows and not my instincts. I made the error of starting at the back, forgetting that my ten mile race pace would be faster than a lot of people’s 20 mile long slow run pace. This error became very hard to rectify because there were 98315019375 groups of women in unicorn leggings running 4 in a row who needed to be asked to move over let me pass, and one such group who did their best to stop me passing even when I said “excuse me”, and when I eventually managed to squeeze through sped up and overtook me so I had to do it again (this time I didn’t slow down after overtaking them until they were well out of range). I guess it was a race for them if not anyone else.
The first 10k were a pleasant meander through the countryside and I was aware that I was running slightly slower than at my recent halves but wasn’t bothered as the terrain was less suitable, it was hotter and I didn’t have a six year old PB to (not) beat. The scenery in places was beautiful and made me forget that I was in a race, especially when I encountered a reed warbler warbling away in some reeds by a lake. However everything changed with a turn on to the canal path. This was not the type of canal path I was used to – it made the Limehouse Cut look like a firm and even surface and was about as wide as Victoria Beckham’s waist. I couldn’t even run properly, I had to mince along like a tightrope walker. I now understood why the race briefing had included a section on the perils of falling in the water. I was not entirely convinced that I was going the right way, mainly because I couldn’t believe that route planners had deliberately sent 500 people down a five millimetre wide path. At one point the yellow arrow seemed to be sending me directly up a tree. Thinking this was probably a bit much, I assumed it actually wanted me to head up to the road, but when I reached the road there was no indication of which way to go next, so I returned to the path and found another runner with a better geographical knowledge of Milton Keynes who assured me that the correct way forwards was along the ever decreasing canal path.
After what seemed like 91581385096 years (actually about 3km) I saw a marshal pointing me on to a proper path. I wanted to kiss him. The only event of note in the final kilometres was finding some yellow arrows which pointed in two directions at once, manned by a marshal who seemed to think I was cracking a hilarious joke when I told him there was an arrow out of place. I was getting a bit concerned that no one was lapping me and started to think that all the fast runners were up the tree or in the canal. Hopefully they were just all taking it easy and treating it a training run.
I felt really bad for the people I overtook in the last kilometre, who obviously had another lap to do and were looking very forlorn and downtrodden as they trudged through the finish funnel as I sprinted through and stopped. Never in my entire life have I been so glad to have signed up for the shorter version of the race.
Finish time: 2:03:11, technically a 10 mile PB but only because I have only done five 10 mile races and the other four were even more calamitous. Not actually the fastest I have ever run 10 miles, probably not even in the top five.