How was your Sunday morning run? I ran the 2014 Fit Magazine City Series 10K in 43 minutes and 55 seconds – a faster time than I had expected.
(Update: Was the 5K course too short? The 10K course was around 200 metres longer than twice the 5K course, as the map shows.)
The setting and weather were perfect – a mild spring morning in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Those of us who race regularly in the Park enjoyed the familiar pre-race buzz around the Furze Road, the traditional hub for running events there, without being battered by cold, swirling winds for the first time in ages.
With only two weeks of training done, after a month of illness and injury, my race goal was modest – to beat the 47 minutes I did for the first 10K of the Dublin Marathon, back when I was in peak condition but pacing myself for the rest of the race. Under 50 minutes was my conservative B goal. At the back of my mind, I was hoping that if all went better than expected I could go close to 45 minutes.
Warming up with a light jog on grass near the start area, I felt a little stiff in my left calf. I’ve never had problems in my left leg – all my physio visits have concerned the right leg. The warm-up helped relax the muscle but I was mindful of paying attention to it during the race. This slight concern added to my muted feeling before the start – I didn’t feel my usual pre-race buzz.
The 5K field started first, and then twenty minutes later, after some exhausting-looking warm-up exercises that I metaphorically sat out, we 10K competitors set off – runners to the left of the road and joggers to the right, as per the race instructions.
The route was the same as for the Aware Christmas Run I did in December – two laps of a 5K loop up Chesterfield Avenue, past the Ordnance Survey, then down and up the scenic lakeside Glen Road before finishing on the Furze Road, that stretch of tarmac where down the years runners of all abilities and goals have stormed home in triumph or shuffled home in exhaustion.
The first lap went well. The field stretched out enough to give everyone plenty of running room. I didn’t over-exert myself and I covered the first five kilometres in around 22 minutes. My lungs and legs were holding up fine.
Turning into Chesterfield Avenue to start the second lap, that left calf muscle felt tight again and I could feel it pulling on my knee. I resolved to put it out of my mind, and sure enough a few hundred metres later I had forgotten about it. But that slight incident had made me lose concentration and drift a little bit off a sub-45 pace.
Luckily, I could draw on race experience to stay calm and think my way back on track. With three kilometres left I needed to average 4:20 for each kilometre if I were to get under 45 minutes. Kilometre 8 had a downhill half where I would be able to relax and pick up some time; kilometre 9 began with about 200 metres of a steady climb before flattening out for some tree-lined S-bends, and then the last kilometre was the kick for the finish line.
The first two of those three kilometres went to plan – I bounced along the downhill stretch and used that momentum to take me most of the way up the climb.
That last kilometre was hard for me, though. By now, having finished on the Furze Road so many times, I’ve conditioned myself to kick for home from the bend where the Furze Road meets the Ordnance Survey Road. I did the same again today – but soon I felt short of breath and had to cough a few times. I was pressing up against the limits of my recent chest infections and my lack of training.
I saw the finishing line up ahead and kept up a strong closing-out pace, but I started to feel light-headed. For the first time ever in a race, including all my marathons, I had a brief moment of fear that I would pass out.
Just like with my tight calf muscle earlier in the race, I put it out of my mind as best I could. The road ahead of me was relatively clear of runners, so my way to the line was clear apart from having to circumnavigate a splash of horse dung right in the centre of the road. (There are riding schools in the Phoenix Park on weekend mornings.)
And so I ran in for a finishing time well under 45 minutes and even under 44 minutes – much faster than what I had thought myself capable of doing with so little training.
Fortunately I got my breath back quickly and felt fine again while passing through the finish area. Tonight the legs feel a bit stiff – the familiar and satisfying ache of a job well done.
Next up for me is another 10K race – the Great Ireland Run on Sunday 6 April, also in the Phoenix Park but with a different one-lap course. Today’s race and result gives me a good basis for a month of solid training with the objective of improving on my 10K personal best. Any lingering remnants of my chest infection should have cleared up by then, and I’ll treat that left calf muscle with some foam rolling.
Bring on the Great Ireland Run!