Breaking the 20-Minute Barrier

I can hardly believe I’m typing these words, but at the Waterbeach Running Festival on the 11th May, I finally ran a sub-20 minute 5k, something I have been trying to do for some time.

I can’t say I had any expectation of doing it on the day. I’ve run the Waterbeach Running Festival twice before, and been lucky enough to come first both times (in the 10k in 2016, and the 5k in 2018 – my memory is so awful I thought I’d competed in 2017!). It’s a small, local event, and an undeniably fast, flat course, and last year I ran the 5k in 20:46. A really great time, but a significant chunk away from the elusive 19:59.

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Waterbeach Running Festival 2018

I remember telling my running buddy Pete that I thought I might be on PB form after I recently paced someone to a 20:52 5k and felt like I still had a decent amount left in the tank. But after a league race 5k on the Thursday night, neither Pete nor I had turned up on the Saturday morning in Waterbeach with particularly fresh legs.

This year was the fourth time the Waterbeach Running Festival had been held. With a 100m toddle (under 5s), a 2k (4+), a 5k (11+) and a 10k (15+) it’s a proper family event, with lots of food stalls and a really lovely vibe. And it’s growing in size every year, as people start to cotton on to what a fast, flat course it is. To give you an idea. here are the women’s winning 5k times since it started:

Year Total no. Runners Winning Time Winner
2016 43 24:24 Sarah Consonni
2017 76 21:20 Yvonne Scarrott
2018 86 20:46 Lauren Thomas
2019 91 19:36 Vicki Moignard

The 2019 winning time is a serious increase on 2016. As for the men’s race, this has been won every year by Tony Bacon, with a course PB of 17:14 set in 2017. Tony has become something of a poster boy for the event as others are encouraged to come along to try and steal his crown. He was still 17 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor this year, but this is a huge improvement on 2016 when he was 3 minutes ahead of second place.

As we all gathered on the start line (as Pete had just finished the 100m toddle with his daughter Ellie and her mum Rachel was gearing up to push her in the running buggy for the 5k – rather her than me!), I looked at the other faces on the startline and had this weird feeling that I wouldn’t even podium this year. There were some fierce looking female athletes with their game faces on, and I decided to just do what I could on the day. Because after all, that’s all we can ever hope for, right?

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My Beloved Running Family

Everyone set off at a blistering pace, and I manage to start my Garmin only to realise that it was set for an indoor cycling session after the spin class I had done the day before. After about 10 seconds of faffing about I thought it was in the right mode and before I knew it I had run the 1st mile in 6:22 (I didn’t know this at the time as I rarely look at my watch when running).

Throughout this first mile, Olivia Baker from Cambridge & Coleridge AC was about 10 metres ahead of me but slowly pulling away. I could also hear keys jangling behind me, and before long Vicki Moignard from Cambridge Tri Club (who came second to me in 2018) was overtaking on my left. I managed to gasp out the words “you can get her!” before I gritted my teeth and did everything I could to just hold on.

And somehow, I did just that. But boy oh boy it was not easy. At about 3.5k in to the race I had to convince myself to keep going as everything in my body from my lungs to my legs were screaming at me to stop, that I couldn’t possibly keep going at this pace. But somehow I did, and I know that it was because of Vicki (now in 1st place) and Olivia ahead of me that I managed it. You can see for a long way in this race, and I know that if I had been in 1st place I would have become complacent and slacked off. But instead, I had these two incredible athletes to chase, and I owe them so much for getting me across the line in the time I did.

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Finish line pain

When I did finally cross the line, driving hard through the last hundred-odd metres to the cheers of a frankly brilliant finish line crowd, I had to stop and bend over double, sucking as much air in to my lungs as humanly possible and trying not to ruin the moment by throwing up. I then glanced at my watch and saw 19:37 and my first though was “wow, I STILL managed to screw up starting my watch properly”. As it turns out, it was spot on. After those 10 seconds I lost at the start trying to get it in to the right mode, I officially finished in 19:48.

I’m not going to lie – there were tears. A LOT of them. But they were deliriously happy ones. I’m not sure I ever really believed I could get a time like that. I then found out that Peter had also achieved a PB (18:59) and Rachel had almost achieved a buggy 5k PB, missing it by 1 second (which she would have smashed if Ellie hadn’t needed emergency Pom-Bears mid-race)! It was just a brilliant day for my favourite running family.

Receiving a trophy for crossing the line as 3rd woman, it was without doubt the proudest moment of my running career. I couldn’t thank Vicki and Olivia enough, and it’s entirely possible that they thought the run had boggled this wide-eyed, pink-haired creature’s mind. Maybe it had. All I know is that for the last week I’ve found myself remembering the moment of reading my official race time and grinning at myself in shock and delight. My age grading from the day was more than 75%. Madness.

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Tony and I – one of us had been crying. Obvious much?!

I genuinely have no idea if I’ll manage a sub 20 again. But there was a time when I thought sub-22 was an impossible goal. All I know for sure is, next time I’m at one of the Kevin Henry League races, I’ll be keeping an eye out for Vicki and Olivia, the best pacers I could have hoped for.

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The Waterbeach Running Festival – My Review

A couple of weeks ago, a mere 6 days after the behemoth (well, for me anyway) run that was the Wings for Life World Run, I found myself heading to the old army barracks at Waterbeach to take part in the 10km race that was being held as part of the inaugural Waterbeach Running Festival. The festival was being held in aid of the Waterbeach Toddler Playgroup, and when my friends Pete and Rach told me that they had signed up, I thought I may as well give it a bash myself.

After the scorching heat of the previous weekend, it was a bit of a shock to the system when we arrived at the barracks to a leaden sky and temperatures that were seriously struggling to reach double figures, as well as a less than helpful wind. The barracks themselves are also a little spooky – a great setting for a horror film for any keen amateur film-makers out there. Despite this, the atmosphere was buzzy and everyone seemed genuinely excited to be the first to take part in a new addition to the Cambridgeshire running calendar.

The festival itself was made up of four events – a 100m toddle for under 5s, a 2km fun run for ages 4+, a 5km run for ages 11+ and then the 10km for ages 15+. I have to say that when I found myself having a major internal battle regarding whether I should run in capris or shorts I did ask the others why we hadn’t signed up for the 5km. Sadly none of us had a sensible answer for that.

After we had grabbed our race numbers (a flawless process), we then ventured outside to do a highly necessary warm up. I did feel a bit sorry for the vendors who had pitched up for the fair, including the awesome Sweet Ally Scoops, because the freezing cold weather meant that ice cream wasn’t high up on people’s snack agenda. I imagine that if the weather had been nicer the whole festival would have had an awesome party vibe.

Once we’d warmed up we headed to the race start, which was about a 2 minute jog from the sports hall where we’d registered (not “miles away” as some worried looking folk were telling us as the start time edged ever nearer)! The race itself was a 2-lap course, set to start 15 minutes after the 5km runners had started. This meant that some of the faster 10km runners would find themselves catching up the 5km tail runners, but the path was so wide that this wouldn’t be an issue. There were around 100 runners taking part in the 10km, and after we had the usual housekeeping chat from the organisers, we were off.

To be honest, if you’re looking for a picturesque race, then this isn’t the one for you. It’s pretty barren, and the layout of the course means you can often see the runners who are way ahead of you, which has the potential to mess with your mojo. Plus I know runners have mixed feeling about 2-lap courses. Personally I don’t mind them (10km is 10km however you look at it), but I get that it can be mentally tough to finish 5km only to think “bloody hell I have to do that again?!” But the positive thing about this race is that it is flat. There is the occasional pothole and the surface is ever so slightly gravelly, but the upshot is that this is a course with serious PB potential.

When I started the race, I got ahead of the other handful of women at the start within about 100m. However, I regretted this pretty quickly as I started panicking that I had gone off too  quickly and I had no idea just how close to me these women were. Were they just drafting behind me, waiting for the perfect moment to strike and zoom past me? At about 7km in, my left leg started to grumble a bit. After the 11 miles in high temperatures from the previous weekend, my legs didn’t really know what had hit them. As someone who averages 10-15 miles a week, after this run I would be at 24 miles in 7 days. That’s a pretty serious increase, and I started to wonder if my leg would hold up. At 8km I had no choice but to walk for about 10 seconds, which annoyed me immensely as I hate it when I don’t manage to run an entire race. On the plus side however, I managed to look over my shoulder and see that there was no other woman in sight. This gave me the mental boost I needed, and I dug deep and completed the race as the first woman, something I’m still in shock about.

Waterbeach 10k Podium

I completed the race in 43:55, which is not a time I’m particularly proud of (my PB being 42:41) but which I suppose wasn’t bad on tired legs. In even more exciting news, both Pete and Rach managed PBs, which considering the windy conditions was blooming awesome. Hopefully these results will put as all in good stead for the season, and put Pete on his way to finally achieving his sub 1:30 half marathon.

Waterbeach 10k Medals

Unfortunately my leg has been grumpy ever since the race. Every time I run, I feel good during the session but the next day it completely seizes up. It’s my own silly fault for upping my mileage so much, but I don’t think it’s muscular as a physio appointment and some epic foam rolling and stretching hasn’t eased it much. I’m seeing my fab osteopath Melissa at Spritely Osteopathy at an ungodly hour on Tuesday morning, so fingers crossed she’ll be able to pinpoint the root cause of the problem. Wish me luck.

As far as the races goes, I can’t recommend the Waterbeach Running Festival enough. It was smoothly run, the organisers and marshals were friendly, encouraging and professional, and the course is ideal for anyone hoping to smash their 5km or 10km PB. Every runner gets a medal, and my trophy is so gorgeous. Fingers crossed this becomes an annual event, and that next year we get ice cream weather.

Waterbeach 10k Trophy