BMAF 5K Race Report by Vicky Henderson

As I’m a 2nd claim member of a couple of running clubs in London, I’ve been quite spoilt by running challenges during lockdown. One of my clubs’ offers a weekly 5K TT challenge and that’s given me some focus other than just running aimlessly (although that’s still been enjoyable). When Stuart mentioned the BMAF virtual race, I thought this could be quite interesting, because it’s for us oldies and it gives us the chance to benchmark ourselves against others in the country that we’re not aware of – and stops us feeling too smug about our own running, in case anyone thinks they’re fast!!

Stuart & I decided that our weekly 5K route would be suitable for the BMAF champs as it does not have too much downhill to warrant it being outside of the rules. We invited Laura to join us too; I felt this would be mutually beneficial as I knew I would be chasing Laura, trying to keep her in my sights (5Ks are not my forte). For Laura, she knew I’d be chasing as hard as I could so good for her too; plus of course, she could make keeping Stuart in sight, her focus.

We explained the route and where there were slight undulations, where the “fast parts” were and potential wind tunnels. So, after our 2-mile warm up, we were ready to go. We were starting from the other side of the railway bridge at Thingley, near the travelers site, where the route would be the third left, to the end, turning left into the main Corsham Road, then at the crossroads, turning left again, over the small railway bridge, to the end, left once again to finish at the crossroads with the road leading to Chippenham.

Watches ready, feet poised; the countdown, three, two, one, go and we were off; unsurprisingly Stuart was first off in the lead, then me, then Laura. Within 50 metres, Laura had taken me and the chase was on. Thankfully, there was little wind but goodness me, was it hot. Still, haven’t got time to worry about the temperature, we had work to do. Because I’ve done this route so many times, I know exactly where the mile splits are (yes I’m old fashioned and still work in Miles, not Ks). The first mile is round the corner, just before the big tree; this can vary in time for me, anything from about 6.55 to 7.07. Imagine my shock when my first mile showed 6.37!! I tired to stay calm and not worry about going so fast that I’d blow up. You see the secret is, I usually get quicker, because the Corsham Road is ever so slightly downhill. So, it was a case of “keep calm and carry on” (I love this so much, I have it on a mug and a t-shirt).

In mile 2 there is a downhill section followed immediately afterwards by a short uphill – time to get the arms pumping to keep the legs turning over in an effort not to lose too much momentum. From there, it’s a short run to the end and left into Corsham Road – which is usually where I’m able to pick up the pace. By this time, Stuart is but a dot in the distance and Laura has certainly put a good space in between us. But I keep chasing; I know this route, I know I can pick up speed. I’m coming to the sharp corner and just beyond is the tree signaling the second mile; the watch beeps and it’s showing 6.37 – again. Still not shabby, by this time although I’m usually a good few seconds faster by now, it’s still a fast second mile, so no need to panic.

And so, just to hold on now. I approach the left turn, which I need to pick up the pace a little, because there is a railway bridge that needs to be navigated with as little decrease in pace as possible, but at least the other side is downhill, so that will help me gather speed again. And this bit of road does wind, so it’s a case of keep looking forward and focusing on Laura. I know once I get to the end of this lane, it’s about a quarter of a mile to the finish. My legs are burning, I’m beginning to get that sick feeling in my stomach, but I haven’t got time to undo all my good work. I turn left now, onto the last leg – and always the hardest. The main aim now is to keep the legs turning and get that white signpost to keep getting closer. My watch beeps for the third mile but I really don’t have time to check, I need to finish now (it was 6.32). Breathing is hard, Stuart is cheering me on, and Laura has finished. A last bit of a sprint (6.34 pace) and I’m done!

I stop the watch, 3.11 so a bit over but better that because Strava sometimes has a nasty habit of changing it down. The time was a season’s best of 20:32. Thrilled was not the word, beaming would more accurately describe me. It was tough, there’s no doubt about it; I was still breathing hard and could not speak but walked slowly towards Laura who was also still catching her breath. 20.14 for her and again, she was thrilled. A personal best of all time. And racing with Laura and I hadn’t done Stuart any harm either – with a fantastically executed 18.38.

It’s fair to say there were three exhausted but high on adrenaline Corsham Running Club runners jogging back to Lacock last Tuesday. (Sorry, we don’t have a photo of Stuart, he had to rush straight back to his work).