AVR Virtual Relay 10K Race Report by Vicky Henderson

And so here we are again, warming up for another virtual race. However, this one is as part of a team, so I really do need to put my best foot forward and not bugger it up. I decided the best approach for the 10K was to pace it, rather than race it hard out from the start. Yes, I’ve been training, but not for the longer stuff, mainly the 5Ks.

In order to try to obtain the best result, I engaged the services of my husband to pace me and I had chosen a suitable route, part of the Chippenham HM (yes again). I was extremely lucky; it had been raining for most of the morning, but now there were signs of blue sky amongst the white clouds. I silently thanked the gods, hoping the rain would stay off, but preparing to race regardless. The wind could become a problem… The two-mile warm up was complete and the necessary pre-race wee was had.

After a couple of hard training sessions, this week, I really had no idea how my legs were going to react; time to find out. My Garmin watch was ready, countdown from three and we were off; sub 7-minute miling was the instruction to Stuart. Of course, we set off too fast, 6.38 pace. Like any good pacer, he advised me to slow, which I did until we hit 6.50. It felt good, almost easy, but I knew it wouldn’t feel like that for the whole 6.21 miles.

Apart from a Chippenham runner in the opposite direction (Frank), I don’t recall seeing any one else out running in that first mile (and it remained like that throughout), despite it being a popular route.

Mile 2 continued in much the same vein, a relatively easy pace to keep at this early stage. Mile three seemed even easier and my pace increased slightly; Stuart did remind me of the pace, but it felt good; so good, I really did want to push on at this point but held back (am I a coward?) going for safety over speed. The views are amazing on this course if you keep your eye out, it’s nice to have the opportunity to have something to take your mind off the pace, stop you wondering if you can keep it going, if you’re strong enough, or if you’ll falter.

My hearing is impeccable, so much so I was able to ensure Stuart moved inside, either in front of behind me when a car approached. Mile 4 is the start of my least favourite mile of this run and toward the end of this section, the cracks are just beginning to show. Comfortably hard, I kept telling myself, that’s how it should feel.

We’re now on mile 5, the terrain has started to deteriorate, the road winds and the wind has picked up, you simply cannot avoid it. However, I just managed to pull a sub-7 out of the bag. Comfortably hard, I remind myself. It might have been physcological or it might have been genuine, but my legs have seriously started to tire. I hate running in the wind, trying to fight it, but I have no ammunition against it, I have nothing to offer. I know I only have 1.21 miles to go but that’s still a long way to go to maintain sub-7.

We are at a point now, where if we had stuck to the main HM route, we would have turned right; however, the decision was made to head back towards Chippenham, hence making a loop and turning left then immediately right. Unfortunately, as soon as the right-hand turn was made, I knew it was a mistake. The wind was as bad as the previous mile and a half and in a split second I made a decision to turn back around. From this point, I really should have then made a left turn to get back onto the HM route and out of the wind, but of course I wasn’t thinking straight and I turned right. I lost terrible seconds here and it will come back to haunt me.

Whilst it wasn’t as windy, there was still a side wind. There was also a slight incline; it’s surprising where you can find inclines on a relatively flat course when you’re running at your absolute peak. Cursing, I tried to pump my arms to get my legs turning over, to no avail; I could feel my legs slowing down and could hear Stuart’s encouraging words, trying to get me to pick my pace up. I knew it had dropped, a quick peak at my watch, but it was just so hard, I really just needed to get to the height of the incline, then I could get going again.

Mile 6 beeped on my watch, a disappointing 7.06. It would have been so easy to give up here, but this is where I rallied. I needed a fast pace now, more than ever to get my average back down to improve my overall pace. Push, push I kept telling myself, only .21 left to go. I glanced at my watch. 6.07, not time to stop yet, keep going; 6.18, OMG, how much further, is this ever going to end!!! This is always the most difficult part of any race/run – that last push when you just want to be over the finish line, it’s in your sights but you’re not there yet!! Stuart pushed ahead and made a line on the road, I ran, checked my watched, saw it at 6.21, stopped the watch and stopped running.

I’d done it, finished, pulling back that last .21 of a mile at 6.39 pace, giving me a watch time of 42.49. Of course, I should have been happy with a 6.54 average, but I’m a runner. Instead of focussing on the positives, the consistency, I focussed on that last mile and was mildly annoyed, to say the least. Asking myself, if I had pushed on when I felt fabulous at the start of my race, would I have achieved a better time, or would I have tired sooner, got a slower last mile and an overall slower time? But we’ll never know the answers to these questions, unless of course there is such a thing as a parallel universe.

Now, to jog the 4 miles back to the car and that’s what we did, JOG!! Special thanks to my lovely hubby, Stuart Henderson for pacing me the day before attempting his own 10K (then he went and actually ran it properly the following week!).