Cut to race day and I’m warming up by the race start in 45mph winds, hearing people that have been down to the coastal stretches of the route describing it as impossible to run in, many of them already discounting any attempts at a PB in the conditions.
I hate 10ks, they are far too much like hard work, but I know they are good for me, and given this one was around the corner in Southport and I’m a member of Southport and Waterloo AC I pretty much had to run it. I was feeling pretty good having run sub 20:00 for my first two 5k club runs in previous weeks, and had put a few interval sessions in as preparation, just like proper runners do. I’d even been laying off the marathons for a few weeks so I had no excuses for not giving a good account of myself. I’d told a few people I had an eye on running my first sub 40:00, which spurred me on a bit, given how unlikely it was.
It was weird being around the start and seeing so many familiar faces from the club, normally I arrive at start lines after a couple of hours driving, run for 5 hours on my own and then drive home again, but there was something cool about being there with my club shirt on and knowing there were other people I knew both supporting and running.
They had a separate start for the elites which I wasn’t, so just before the race start I made my way to the front of the line where the rest of the runners were and without much messing about we were off.
The first 500m or so were ok, nice and quick, a nice wide road with plenty of space, and a bit of a cross wind which was annoying, but not too bad at all. Then we made a left turn along the sea front which was like running into a brick wall. The wind was so strong, all of a sudden my effort went up and my speed went right down. Everyone consciously or subconsciously started to form groups to shelter from the wind, and I got stuck in a really slow one straight away. I broke out and all of a sudden felt the full force of the wind, and it was all I could do to make it, gasping, to the next group where I got a brief respite. We were sort of moving about in our group so there was a bit of shelter and we sort of shared the effort into the wind, but it was impossible to get any rhythm going, and the battle for oxygen was constant - slightly ironic given how the wind was doing its best to jam as much air into our faces as possible. I looked down and saw I was running at 4:45/km pace and couldn’t believe it. My legs were hurting and my lungs were screaming and I was barely running marathon pace!
It was like that until around 5km where we turned left, away from the water, and out of the wind. It took me a good few minutes to readjust, get some breath back, and start thinking about the rest of the race. Sub 40:00 was well out of the window, but a PB was still on if I could run a massive negative split, and with the wind now at my back it seemed worth a go. I grabbed a bottle of water shortly after half way, had a sip, and then to make sure I could put it in the bin, accelerated past a couple of guys to my left. The little burst of speed felt really good, and when I looked at my watch shortly after I was running around 3:50/km which felt ok. At around 6k I kicked a little, and passed Keith from SWAC, and at 7k I kicked a little more. I don’t remember much from there other than the relief of seeing the 9km marker and figuring that was as good as the finish line. I gave it everything I had left, turned right back onto the start/finishing straight, and just hoofed it.
I finished in 42:01, saw a few of the SWAC guys and girls at the end which was really cool, and hung around for a few of the other club runners to come in behind me. I was a bit out of it and not especially chatty, but it was great to see so many people that I knew there supporting and racing.
Walking back to the car I was gutted about my time, I really wanted to get at least near 40:00, and a 00:24 PB wasn’t much of a consolation, despite the appalling weather.
I perked up a bit when I got home though. When the results came out I saw that I’d placed 46/1865, which sort of put the conditions in perspective. Only 15 people broke 40:00 on the day, so it was never really on the cards for a plodder like me. I also finished 3rd of the SWAC runners which felt really good, even though it didn’t count for anything club-wise. Also, I ran a massive 5k PB in the second half of the race, albeit wind assisted, of 19:17.
Ultimately I achieved my main objective, which was to inject some decent speed and tempo work into my SDW100 training. I did that in the weeks running up to the Mad Dog, and the race itself was a tougher tempo session than I could have ever given myself.
5km split: 22:44
Second 5k: 19:17
Finish time: 42:01