The chart said NO! It was not possible to break 41 minutes at the Dewsbury 10km road race.
Based on my recent performances over 3,000m and 5,000m, the chart thought I was capable of running 41.15.
This would have been a three second PB, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. Deep down, I’d wanted to break that 41 minute barrier.
I felt a bit disappointed. Perhaps the chart was wrong. Perhaps it had mixed up the numbers, added on a few seconds. But the chart doesn’t lie. It’s realistic. There’s a formula behind it.
‘Don’t worry,’ my friend Dave said. ‘You’ve not had the build up. Just enjoy it, see where you’re at.’
Dave talks sense. I’d not had the build up. I’d spent Christmas on the Prosecco, celebrating my engagement to Chris. Then there was the training group Christmas party, where I had a few too many drinks, danced the night away, had a few shots of Sambuca, fell and bruised my backside.
I headed to Dewsbury feeling more relaxed than normal. Yes, a sub 41 would be nice, but more than anything I wanted to use it as a test of my current fitness.
I stood next to Dave on the start line feeling a little bit excited that my road racing year was about to start. I’m always a bit slow off the mark, so I was relatively pleased with my first mile of 6.36, even though Sarah from Barnsley Harriers and Beth from Barnsley Athletic Club passed me.
The problem was that they started pulling away. I was struggling to get my legs moving. I couldn’t keep up. It was only a slight incline, but it felt like I was climbing a mountain. When your rivals (and friends) are disappearing up the hill into the distance, other than keep calm and carry on, there’s not much you can do.
So, I carried on running, but I got slower and slower. My second mile was 6.42, followed by a 6.49 third mile. I was feeling a bit despondent. By half way, I was way off PB pace. I just wasn’t in the shape to run a PB, never mind have hopes of a sub 41.
The thing is, I really wanted a PB. I didn’t want to go home without one. I had two options. I could carry on struggling, feeling like it wasn’t possible, or I could give the last few miles everything I’d got. I got my head down and worked. I thought about my nan and granddad. If they’d still been alive, they would not have wanted me to go home feeling disappointed. I didn’t want to be disappointed.
I pushed on.
When I looked up, there was a glimmer of Harriers orange and AC blue. I could see Sarah and Beth, battling it out to be the first Barnsley female runner home. This gave me something to focus on. And then came the realisation. I was catching them. If I could catch them, perhaps I could pass them.
The last 800m was a battle. Beth and Sarah are brilliant runners, and just would not give up. We turned the corner. We could see the finish line. Out of 1,500 runners, three Barnsley ladies were racing to be first Barnsley runner home. It was exciting stuff. If I’d been watching, I’d have been on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately, I was running! Gasping, arms flailing, I sprinted for the line. Beth and I were shoulder to shoulder. Then right at the last minute. I found a little bit extra, and I crossed the line before her. I couldn’t stop, of course, and ran straight into the back of an unsuspecting chap who’d just crossed the line before me.
I looked at my watch. 40.31. Had I missed a mile out? I didn’t think so. The chart had got it wrong! I’d got my sub 41. I’d got a huge PB. I’d run 19.53 for a 5km en route. I’d had the race of my life.
I wasn’t alone. Sarah also had the race of her life, looking strong, fit and fast, knocking about ten minutes off her PB.
And the good thing was that we were both winners. I’d beaten Sarah across the line, but she’d beaten me on chip time by two seconds. We couldn’t have hoped for a better result.
I was excited. Sarah was excited. Here we are looking very excited.
It was a fantastic race, one that I will always remember.
Later that night, when the excitement had subsided, I consulted the chart. Would it be possible to run six seconds a mile quicker? Would it be possible to break 40 minutes for a 10km race? The chart said no, but maybe, just maybe, I can.