This Sunday I was up bright and early to drive up to Milton Keynes for the Women’s Running 10K race. I did it last year, and really enjoyed it (despite not being sure if I would like a women’s only race- and yes I know I have now joined a women’s running club but they are the only running club in my town, and also I love them).
Last year Andy dropped me off, as it was a Saturday and he was off to watch the qualifying at Silverstone. I got a taxi to the shops after (I had illusions of walking the 1.5 miles, but realised I would get hopelessly lost, and it was raining, and I was tired…)- by the time he picked me up I was a bit grumpy- shops on a Saturday are not my thing, and especially not lugging around my stinky running clothes. Anyway, back to this week.
The race had moved to a Sunday after their feedback from last year- so I drove myself as Andy had no idea when the race would end, plus after last year I didn’t want to hang around too much.
I listened to Marathon talk in my car (oh, I am loving the novelty of being able to play podcasts through the stereo system), and arrived with about 45 minutes to spare.
I had a walk to the lake, and to the real toilets in the park (they did have port-a-loos but there was a big queue and I would rather wait until the end of the race than use one), and then headed to the bag drop, where I came across my lovely OH ladies run leader- I knew she was marshaling but didn’t expect to see her there!
I joined in with the warm up, which was actually pretty good, led by a runner (she worked for the WR magazine and had run distances from 5K up to ultras, so she knew her stuff)- no leisure centre aerobic warm-ups here.
This year they had introduced a 5K option at each race (and if you wanted to swap from 10 to 5 on the day, you could, you just had to get a new number), and so the 5K was one lap, and the 10K was two laps of the lake. Everyone started together, but they only had pacers for the 10K times, so they were saying if you were aiming for a 30 minute 5K, go with the 60 minute pacer etc.
I decided to aim for an hour, and keep with the 60 minute pacer. It was cloudy, but very muggy so I didn’t know how I would cope in the heat. I thought that if I was feeling OK I would try to speed up a bit in the second lap.
The course is really good- it is all on footpaths around the lake. I saw some geese and their goslings, and lots of people were out supporting. The final part of the lap is lovely as it goes through some woods. I kept behind the 60 minute pacer for the first lap, along with a big crowd of other women. The pacer was lovely- really encouraging, and even reminding us to keep tall as we ran up inclines (it is flat, but every now and then you run up and down sort of bridge things- they go over storm drains into the lake or something- basically like running down and up an underpass). I looked at my watch a few times and saw 9.30ish pace, so I knew I was OK for around the hour. There were marshals at very frequent points, and I liked to think I knew the parkrunners as they all said “thank you marshal” to each one. I saw lots of Redway Runners, and realised the reason for their name at long last- Redways are paths around Milton Keynes. I have seen them (the runners, not the paths) at local races before but never worked out the reason for the name!
I got a bit of a stitch around the 4.5K mark, but managed to run on- and I saw my run leader as I passed the half way point so that gave me a boost. I was feeling OK, and although it was muggy there seemed to be a bit of a breeze on the second lap. The big group of runners diminished a bit as some of them were doing the 5K, but it was still a bit congested so I went a bit ahead of the 60 minute pacer then. I could still hear her behind me and it was nice to hear her encouragement still.
At the 5 mile point my watch beeped and I had been running for 47 minutes, so I knew that even if I slowed down a lot I should manage the sub 60, although sometimes this does not help as then I get a bit of an adrenaline rush. I got a stitch at the 9.5K point too- no idea why as that was a flat part through the woods.
I really like the two lap route, and the second lap always feels faster because you know exactly where you are going, so the finish line seemed to appear suddenly, and by that point there were loads of people out supporting. A few people put on mega sprints to pass me with a few metres to go, but I was happy to finish strong. The announcer was calling everyone’s names as they came up to the finish which was a nice touch.
My run leader was handing out bottles of water, so I had a quick chat before collecting my goody bag, t-shirt, drink and ice cream, and sitting down on the grass to stretch for a bit, and rest.
The marshals had lovely purple technical t-shirts, and I was hoping for one of those, but ours were white. Still nice, The protein ice cream was disgusting though! I was given banoffee flavour, and I am not a fan of banana flavoured things, but this just tasted almost bitter it was so artificial. And with a very weird texture too. I won’t be having that again! Ice cream should be a nice treat I think and should not contain whey protein isolate or xylitol.
The goody bag was pretty good- (ha ha, like the name)- two magazines, dried mango, teapigs tea, foot lotion, gel, rehydration tabs, a hairband, crackers and popchips (I ate those in the shopping centre). No banana through 🙁 I got someone friendly to take my photo on the stage.
I had packed a nuun tab, so I had that in my water right away. As well as the mouthful of gross fake ice cream, I had a sip of the soya drink they were also handing out, but again it wasn’t good. After cheering some runners over the line, I went back to the real toilets to change- I always feel a million times better after a face-wipe and change of clothes.
I chatted a bit more to my run leader- there were still people finishing (this was around 100 minutes after the start time) so she was still handing out water. I had some malt loaf in my bag so had that as my post race snack as I didn’t fancy any of the bits in the bag.
Earlier in the week I was set on driving straight home, but I had taken the postcode for the parking just in case, and was glad I had, as I was quite hungry, thirsty, and needed to get a few end of term presents.
After getting a bit stressed with finding the parking (it is very weird in Milton Keynes- it seems like you park next to offices, and all the roads look the same, and the shopping centre is partially/ mostly hidden from the road, I headed to Starbucks for a sit down.
I ended up shopping for another hour or so- (I was very pleased as I managed to get everything on my list and didn’t get too stressed) by the time I had driven home (another hour) it was late in the afternoon, and we were going to Andy’s parent for dinner so it was too late for lunch. I had a cup of tea after my shower, and that gave me an energy boost for a bit!
The medal is engraved with the date and place on the back, which is a nice touch. Although it was hard to photograph!
I got a text through saying my time was 59.09. I am pleased with that time (a whole 10 seconds faster than last years time) but I think they mean gun time. We did run over a mat at the start, and I didn’t try to be too far forwards as with a chip it doesn’t matter. I pressed my Garmin as I crossed the mat both times- but there is nearly 20 seconds different (plus everyone has the same start time if you look at the results, whereas in fact it would have taken a bit of time to cross)- so I think this must be because the start mats didn’t work. (Strava thinks 58.44 so even quicker). I don’t mind because I still got in under the hour, but I am not sure if the 60 minute pacer would have made the 60 minute gun time, which would be disappointing if that is what you were aiming for.
On the whole this event was really good, and I am glad I went there again this year. Parking is right by the start, the bag drop worked smoothly, the warm up was good, the support was good, the route is nice, the goody bag is good, the medal is pretty, and you get a technical t-shirt.
However, the technical t-shirt is quite short- I might save it for an extra winter layer. They could do with sorting the chip timing, and a changing tent would be good . But those are small things and I would look at another one of their events next year.
What makes a great race for you? I prefer the smaller races, I always love a technical t-shirt, and a pretty route helps too.