Sunday was the twenty-third Chichester Priory 10K Road Race and my first ever 10K race. Having only completed the distance three times in training, I was a little bit nervous about the whole thing – not least of all because of the weather forecast. While the prediction was that the rain would ease off for the big day, we were still expecting winds of around 30 mph with gusts of over 50 mph – great if it’s behind you, but the chances were that it would be hitting us head on for the final 3K – not fun!
Still, despite the weather forecast, I was pretty excited about the whole thing as I headed off to Chichester on Saturday evening. I had decided to get the train the day before and stay in a hotel over night as, for some bizarre reason, there were to be no trains between Hove and Chichester on Sunday and I didn’t want to rely on the replacement bus service getting me there on time in the morning. Also though, I kind of liked the idea of being able to relax and chill out in the hotel the night before.
As soon as I got off the train though, the heavens opened. The short walk to the hotel was wet, windy and downright miserable. And, to top it all off, I managed to do something to my ankle while trying to open the door while juggling my key card and an arm full of snacks from the vending machine. It wasn’t good, but at least I’d brought my ankle support that I’d been using since my Achilles injury.
Despite the wind and rain, I had a really good night’s sleep and woke up early feeling refreshed and excited (although still nervous) about the race ahead. I occupied myself with a light breakfast, some stretching and tried not to think too much about my race plan.Yes, I had a race plan! Well, sort of. The idea was to go out slow, keep my pace over 7 minutes per kilometre for the first half of the race and then go for negative splits for the final 5K. But, of course, it didn’t quite work out like that.
The meeting point for the start of the race was only about a five minute walk from the hotel, so I arrived slightly earlier than the recommended hour before the race. It was nice just milling around for a while, but in hindsight an hour was way too much time to be hanging around in the cold. Luckily, I did bring an old hoody with me, which I was able to get rid of before the start of the race.
At about 10:15, people were starting to get in line for the race itself. There were local cadets holding signs to show you where to line up according to your predicted race time. I knew I was going to be slower than most so it wasn’t hard to find the sign that read over 50 minutes. It would have been nice if they’d had one that read over 60 minutes or under one hour ten minutes, as this didn’t do much for my confidence, but there did seem to be rather a lot of people like myself who were trying to get as far back as possible so as not to slow down or trip up the faster runners.
Once in line, we all made our way to the start line. I didn’t actually see the start of the race, being amongst the last fifty runners out of around 1,600, so as soon as I saw people ahead start running, I guessed that we had started and turned on my Garmin. As it turned out, I was about a minute and a half early as we hadn’t actually crossed the start line, which was marked by two bright blue mats which I assume were used to read our timing chips.
Once we got going, the crowd started to thin out a bit and I overtook a few runners until I found myself running at a nice comfortable pace. The route itself was very flat and I did laugh when one of the marshals kept calling out, with more than a hint of irony in her voice, watch the speed bumps!
As we ran through the Chichester countryside, I realised that I was glad in a way that I wasn’t going very fast. It was nice just jogging along enjoying the view and the fresh country air. Even the sun had decided to make an appearance and the wind wasn’t causing too many problems – in fact, it was quite nice having some cold air blowing to cool me down a little bit.
Most of the roads had been closed off for the first few kilometres and drivers were very considerate as they slowed down and gave way to us as we jogged along trying to keep close to the kerb while avoiding the puddles from the recent downpours.
As we found ourselves running in single file along these stretches, I decided to pick up the pace a little bit and try to overtake a few people in front of me. It was a lot of fun trying to pass people, especially on the inclines (I love inclines now – as long as they’re not too long or steep!), and didn’t mind when they whizzed past me on the flatter sections. Well, it was a race after all!
As my competitive edge had started to kick in, I decided to forego 5K water stop and just keep going. To be honest, I never bothered with water during my training runs so I didn’t see the point. I knew I could do 10K without it and I kind of needed to pee a little bit so I figured I had enough water in my system to keep me going.
The second half of the race went pretty much like the first half. I tried to keep the pace going and I thought back to my fartlek training as I used short bursts to kick it up a notch and get past other runners, and even though by the eighth kilometre I was starting to feel pretty tired, I kept pushing on.
By the final 100 metres or so though, I was feeling pretty much done and I really struggled to keep the pace going on the final part of the descent to the car park. But, as I turned the corner and saw the finish line was within reach, I gave it one more final effort, picked it up as much as I could and got myself across the line. I was completely exhausted but very happy knowing that I had given it everything and, as I found out later, my chip time gave me a new PB of 1:08:00.
If you live in the area and haven’t done the Chichester 10K Road Race, I’d definitely recommend it. As my first 10K race, it was a great experience and, despite the absence of a medal at the finish line (we got a mug!), it was well worth the effort!