So on Saturday we travelled down to Southampton- I mooched around the shops while Andy went to the football, and then we met up for dinner (Nando’s now do a really nice salad with sweet potato, quinoa, avocado, tomatoes, nuts and seeds).
I got my number ready the night before. I have used the event clips for the last few races, and even thought they have not come undone I did use one emergency safety pin during the marathon, but they don’t budge so just used those this time. I hate leaving safety pin holes in running tops, especially now I have a club vest- I think they are well worth the few pounds that they cost.
The weather had initially said rain, but then changed to showers at 9, but dry before, so I decided to just go for vest and capris- I didn’t want to be too hot.
The 10K started at 8.30am, but our hotel was less than half a mile from the start, so we got up at around 7.30, had a clif bar and some water, and left the hotel at 8am (it was very cold and I wished I had brought another old top to throw away, but at least I only had to be cold for half an hour). This was the first year of the race (there was also a half marathon, not starting until 10am which was mainly why we chose the 10k- enough time to shower after the race before having to check out, although my post-marathon legs were very glad we had made that decision!)- the race village was really well organised, nice and small, but not congested. Your entry included a free t-shirt, which you could collect before the event if you wanted to run wearing it. The village had a bit of a flow, going t-shirt collection- bag drop- other tents- warm up area- start area. There was a token on the bottom of your number (next to the bag drop label) to exchange for your t-shirt which I liked too.
We headed to the start at around 8.20 (after watching the mass warm up), but the race started a little later- not too bad but it was a cold morning and I was very chilly in my vest. One thing I would say is that they had finishing signs for the half marathon in the start area, but no 10k times, so I wasn’t quite sure where I should stand- I ended up overtaking a lot of people (some walked within the first mile) so I think I could have possibly gone further forwards. Only a small thing anyway.
I didn’t have a pacer band or anything- I have not run this distance for months, and comparing my Brighton 10k times was not that useful seeing as that is the flattest possible course, so I decided to aim for between 55 and 60 minutes- I feel fitter than when I was aiming for a sub hour 10k so thought it should be possible, although 5 miles has been the longest run since Brighton and that gave me heavy legs, so mainly I wanted to enjoy it.
Half marathon runners close to the finish- when we were walking back to the car.
I don’t know Southampton that well- we do go down there quite a bit but generally I walk from where we park (somewhere along The Avenue, which was part of the half course) to the town centre, but I quite like it when I don’t know where I am. Andy had warned me we go over a bridge and it would be tough, but I just decided not to think about it. We went up the rod past the hotel, around the park a bit, into the town centre, under the big gate house thing, and then towards the sea.
I looked at my watch a few times, knowing I needed to be as close to 9 min miles as I could for the 55 minutes, but my pace seemed pretty erratic- I think I was weaving in and out for the first couple of miles. I saw a sign saying “Smile if you’re going to show that bridge who’s boss” and I shouted to the lady that I would try. Well, then we came around the corner and saw the bridge. It was a steep one. Steep and long. I was hoping to be off the bridge before the rain started, and luckily it held off, although the wind there made it pretty cold. You had good views from the top (the Saints stadium, a big cruise ship), but also could see the faster runners heading down the other side- yup, you got to do it twice in one race! As I was going down the other side, I saw Andy heading up it on the other side- he was still smiling too. I had hoped we would get a little flat running to recover, but at the very bottom you doubled back and headed back over the bridge again. Luckily that side was not as steep so it didn’t seem so tough. Heading up the bridge I had overtaken a lot of people (some walking, but some just running slower)- heading back down I was being overtaken and my legs were getting heavy. I felt like I was going slowly, but when I looked at my watch my pace was 8.36 or something- no wonder my legs felt tired!
Then the route took you around the stadium (with a second water station- incidentally, loads of people were drinking at the first water station which was 2 miles in- who needs to??????? The water stations had big bags- the kind concrete or something is in- for the water bottles to be thrown in after which helps with the clear up), and then along a busier road before heading back into the town, around the park (again with runners going the other way- I looked out for Andy but I think he must have already passed it at that point), before heading towards the finish. All around the route were timing mats, and just before the finish there were two (we passed that way after about a mile)- I nearly stopped there, thinking it was the finish, before I saw the actual finish line marked along the way on the right!
My watch said 58 something, so I was really happy with that- my official time was 58.26 which I am really pleased with. The only sub 60 min 10k’s I have done before have been in Brighton, and this was not a flat course so not really comparable. I feel like that is more the time I am capable of generally, instead of if everything goes my way if that makes sense.
The finish area was also really organised- a medal was placed around my neck, I was handed a bag (a nice fabric draw string one) with a banana in it, a running guide magazine thing, and some crisps (salt and vinegar, hooray, the only good flavour!), and a space blanket (which was very needed in that cold wind). Andy was there, eating his banana (he finished in 52.12), he had seen me running to the finish but I didn’t spot him. We walked back to the start area (a couple of minutes away) and collected our t-shirts. This again was organised- the sizes were indicated on the side of the tent, and they had one out of a pack so you could judge the size.
By this time it was about a quarter of an hour before the half marathon was due to start, and we knew that Matt LeTissier was running it, and there was a VIP tent right by the start, so we stood by the fence and peered in- yup he was there. This apparently was Andy’s equivalent for my high-fiving Jo Pavey a fortnight ago! He came out of the tent and did an interview over the tannoy, along with Francis Benali (another ex-player who ran 1000 miles between all the Premier League football grounds in 21 days- averaging 46 miles a day- to raise money for Cancer Research UK) and his son. We then decided to walk back before it started, as we wanted to be able to get to our hotel!
Of course I had to have a medal photo, but back at the hotel as neither of us ran with our phones.
I love the t-shirt and medal.
Looking on my phone I realised that I must have signed up for timing alerts, because it had posted on my page that I started, and when I beat the bridge. I heard that the Sheffield half did something similar (a bit like the King of the Hill in the Tour De France)- there were timing mats at either end of the bridge, and when you load up your results you get your chip time, and your “beat the bridge” time too- pretty cool. Mine was 10.59- that is one long bridge!
After a shower we packed up and headed out for some food- seeing the first half marathon finisher follow the lead car on the final stretch. (Incidentally, I loved the humour that on the race information sheet, it had the timings of when the village opened, when each race started, and then at 11.01 it said “First half marathon finisher?”- I love that they were so optimistic of a 61 minute half!
A Pret orange spiced hot chocolate, almond croissant and fruit pot put plenty of energy back in, before we walked back to the car, and headed home.
Cheering on more half marathon runners on our way.
The rain held off the entire time luckily.
All in all, this was a really good event, especially for the inaugural one. So well organised, pretty good route, a few things to look at on the way around (including some impressive cheerleading children), ending with a lovely medal and fab t-shirt.
Then I had the excitement of checking all the updates of the London marathon runners (I taped it too).
Although I love half marathons, I do think a 10K is a better distance for a weekend away, as it didn’t take up too much time and didn’t leave us hobbling about too much.
Would you wear a finisher’s t-shirt for a race?