It was almost perfect conditions for a 10K as I headed to the beautiful south, well Gravesend; it was around 10°C and just a gentle breeze – it couldn’t be better for distance running, well obviously apart from the lack of daylight and the particulates, Nitrogen Dioxide and Sulphur Dioxide undoubtedly wafting in from the adjacent A2.
Gravesend Cyclopark is a great location for running at night – while only parts are lit, the surface is perfect – no utility patching of the tarmac or tree roots causing perforations or undulations – it does take at least a circuit to persuade the brain that it is fine to go almost flat out down a gentle descent in darkness though.
There were a lot more runners than the couple of occasions that I have done the race before – but that is probably because the wind and rain of my previous outings had kept the saner runners indoors. The fair weather racers came more prepared for the darkness than those of us who toiled around the course in December in 20 mph winds and driving rain – there were several with head torches.
I had finished in 47:37 in December and was hoping for something a little quicker, if, for no other reason than the conditions were better. Anything under 47:00 would be a success, although my aspirational target was 46 minutes for the 4 times 2.5k course. I got into a good rhythm straight away, if anything I was a little worried that I had gone off slightly too quickly. The first lap saw the LED finish lap timer at 11:20 and the 5K mark was passed in 22:47. I got a bit of stitch on the third circuit which slowed me down a little – 34:32 at the 3/4 point. Halfway through the final lap I was passed, at some speed, by a group of much younger runners from Rebel Runners Medway who were treating the race as a training run – a slow, for them, 7.5K then flat out for the final lap – foolishly, I tried to stick with them, but was quickly ‘dropped’ and I forced my body reluctantly through the darkness.
I glanced at my watch as I emerged from the obsidian into the fierce bright lights around the start/finish and saw I if I threw every last drop of energy into the closing metres I could dip under 46 minutes.
I had promised to myself that I would try to move on from my accident of 380 days before, my post on the anniversary tried to do that (although knowing the number of days without having to do the maths, probably suggests that I haven’t…). As I crossed the finish line it was abundantly clear that I hadn’t though – initially the adrenaline kicked in, I had beaten my aspirational target for the race – sub-46 minutes by 3 seconds; but as I did my warm down, I briefly burst into tears – I think it was the recognition that I was now within 30 seconds or so of where I was pre-accident.
I suspect that I need to find myself a flat 10K during the spring to and maybe, just maybe, I might pass that final milestone (or kilometre marker), it is close – but I know I am not quite there but almost within touching distance.
The 10K wasn’t the only race at the Cyclopark last night; there was a 5K which started half an hour before – but also a series of youth races on the fantastic looking BMX circuit built in the centre of the Park. It looked brilliant as we ran a few metres away, while the times recorded on the road last night are unlikely to point to the future of British distance running coming from one of our number, maybe the next Shanaze Reade was riding there.