Sunday marked the return of the hotly anticipated Market Drayton 10k. This race is renowned on the 10k race circuit; it has been voted ‘Best 10k in the UK’ by Runners World for the past three years and this year did not disappoint.
I started the day with my usual pre-race fare of honey on toast, black coffee and a banana. A quick decision between t-shirt or vest and I was on the way. I arrived early, lucky enough to be chauffeured by a fellow Stoke F.I.Ttie’s husband, leaving us to chat and relax, rather than worry about the route or parking. There was a park and ride system in place for anyone who wished to use it and I was assured by many runners that it was really quick, easy and reliable.
Once there, we noted many spectator-friendly activities and a carnival atmosphere soon started to build up. I hadn’t taken any supporters with me, it’s a habit I have come to adopt as it can be cold and miserable for those standing around at some races. Not so here and I will definitely encourage my family to come along next time as there is so much to keep them entertained, especially since it was a dry day.
Our race numbers had arrived in the post, so we were already bibbed up and ready to go. A quick trip to the sports hall and we had our technical t-shirts in hand. We couldn’t believe how well organised this was, which was to become a recurrent theme for the day. Out of thousands who would go to collect their tops, we had ours in minutes.
It was then time to check out the portaloo situation, which was way above par – there were dozens of loos and a couple of trips throughout the morning greeted us with plenty of tissue and hand gel – unheard of usually at an outdoor event with this many people involved.
There was a complimentary bag drop which I made use of, and the luggage label detached from the race bibs, which was pretty handy. Again, this was well organised. There was a ten minute or so queue post race to collect your bags, but it was a small price to pay.
There were over 70 runners representing Stoke F.I.T – we were literally everywhere you looked! We had some fun trying to organise ourselves for a team photo and then it was soon time to warm up.
The race “village” including the start and finish is on a school playing field, so there was ample room for us to go for a warm up jog, completing a lap or two. It was then time for the race to start. The organised called runners forward according to their predicted finish times. This is where I fell foul of not having a clearer idea in my mind. I would certainly encourage anyone taking part to not be shy and go forward at the right time, even a time band ahead of where you want to finish. I ended up at the very back from dilly dallying around; it was only when the race photos came out that I realised just how far back I was.
Never the less, we were off! This was my first time running in a race with anything over 500 runners, so one of my main goals for the day was to get a feel for this and at least I had already learned an important lesion – start where you want to be placed! We started off with a lap of the field and were soon out onto the roads, which were all fully closed for the occasion. It didn’t take long to get through the melee and for the pace to get going, which was pleasing. I, like anyone, am usually swept along in the first mile, running too quick, but I was only 10 seconds ahead of my target pace for the first km so I could live with that.
The atmosphere was electric, the route was lined throughout with spectators all cheering and encouraging us, it was absolutely brilliant. The first 4k passed in the blink of an eye, I was comfortable with my pace and having a great time. I’ve been suffering with some niggling injuries for the past few months so had adjusted my original expectations of a sub 60 minute finish and went with the attitude of getting round and enjoying myself; I certainly did that. I’d only managed an average of 10k a week on the flat for the previous months training, with a mile swim and a gym session thrown in here and there, so I was pretty nervous before the start on how the run would pan out. I shouldn’t have worried, because the atmosphere got me round and soon I was feeling good and started to get my race-mode on, overtaking to get back to where I should have been from the start.
The weather was exceedingly muggy and we were praying for some rain to cool us down. The water station mid way through was more than welcome and the majority of it went down the back of my shirt and over my arms to bring my body temperature down. I can’t begin to put the route in order, I never notice when I am running, but I can say that at one point we went up the high street which was packed out and a steel drum band kept our pace elevated, which was fantastic. Overall the course was pretty flat with a couple of hills near the end.
It was then time to turn the corner and head back around the field where I was met by Frank Murphy, who encouraged me to keep it going. By that point I was almost sprinting for my life and wondering when that finish would be close enough to give it all I had. It was soon in sight and Frank gave me a target of who to overtake, some 10 runners in front. I stepped on the gas and sailed past them all, leaving me feeling absolutely shattered but delighted. I was bang on my recent training pace of 6.35 minute km’s, so I couldn’t argue with that after the patchy training and injuries.
It was then time for the hotly anticipated goody bag, which didn’t disappoint and contained a lovely medal, yogurts, mars bar, gingerbread man and other bits and bobs, including a voucher for free beer, which we made the most of later on. I staggered to collect my bag from the bag drop, at this point I was hobbling, but it was all worth it.
We then heard that our last runner was shortly due down on the field so we charged across to meet her and ran her home as a pack, in true Stoke F.I.T style! I already can’t wait for next year’s race!