Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PB’s

Surely now established as the best night in the domestic running calendar? This event has grown into a huge spectacle over recent years & it is already a must do/see day of distance running with thousands attending & many more streaming it live.

After a (very) slow start to the year as I struggled to get back on top of my glute/hamstring issue I quite early on decided to focus on this race as my spring target before pushing on towards another significant PB at Berlin in September. My weekly blogs track progress to the 20th May & after a good couple of weeks in Torrevieja I was able to train consistently throughout with few if any sessions missed. The only issues I’ve had have been lack of sleep, but sometimes life gets in the way…

So to the race itself! Seedings were released on the Monday evening & I was pleased to see I was in a high quality Men’s B Race with some familiar names, & some not so familiar. That meant the atmosphere would really be pumping by the time we ran & there would be no problem getting up for this one.

We got to the track just in time to see the D & C races, so they both helped to get in the mood! There was then an hour gap between races for a seminar with guests Wendy Sly, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Seb Coe & Paula Radcliffe so while that was on I went through my usual warm up routine & by the time I was back on track the atmosphere was building again as the crowds again moved back to lane 3 to cheer us on – & the crowds were now huge!

Save reading the rest by simply watching the race via Vinco

Alex Yee was the pacemaker, due to go through in 71/72 second laps for halfway somewhere around 14:50. Perfect. Starting on the outside everything felt quite calm & as we merged at 100m we were towards the front of the field which certainly hadn’t been my plan given the blustery conditions! I quickly settled in 2-3 places back & going through 1K just inside 3 minutes felt very comfortable. Unfortunately we were already some way down on the lead runner who had followed Alex & given conditions nobody was looking to move up to close that gap. Kojo Kyereme put his nose into the wind early on but the main man keeping the pace on course was John Gilbert who relentlessly ticked off the early laps & maintained the pace into the strong wind blowing down the finishing straight. Given the conditions it was understandable there was reluctance to move up but as the pace was already drifting outside the 30 minutes that the majority of the field were targeting it I certainly hadn’t travelled 100+ miles to play it safe towards the back of the bunch…

Still, through 3K just about on pace & still feeling very comfortable. 4K passed & again we were holding pace with a bit more movement from the bunch now. But I quickly went from feeling great & like it was little more than tempo effort to treading water! With nobody moving up I put my nose in the wind for a couple of laps & bang – the legs went completely. I’m not sure what caused that so early in the race (other than hitting the wind a couple of times) but from 5K in ~15:05 I was barely able to muster what felt like marathon pace!

Unable to hold on to the main lead group I drifted back quickly & looked to hold on to the next runner passing, but each time a gap opened & I lost further ground. The support was amazing throughout & as I struggled big time between 6K – 8K the specific support for me was a huge boost to help me remain focussed as my target became more distant lap after lap!

I caught some respite as the second group passed but was pretty much ploughing a lone furrow to tick the laps off by this point! 8 laps = ~2 miles = <10 minutes – surely I would pick things up? It seemed my legs had other ideas as despite my best efforts to get things moving again I simply didn’t have anything & my legs felt like lead weights! No idea of time now I was very much just running for pride & to put in a reasonable marker to start the season.

I just about managed to pick the pace back up to something like 72 second laps for the last 2K & with 3 laps left felt like I was at last able to get some pace back. One last lap through the beer tunnels & the huge cheers, a mad dash for the line down the finishing straight with a few other stragglers & I managed to sneak inside 31 minutes at least with a final time of 30:56:01. So a 10 second track PB but over 30 seconds off my road PB which was set the day after a 20 mile run!!

Only one runner ran inside 30 minutes from the B race so conditions certainly played their part & although impossible to put a value on what the wind was worth I certainly wasn’t too downbeat in the immediate aftermath! I went to run inside 30 minutes knowing that I am currently in low 30 shape. This is a huge event & with the amazing atmosphere I wanted to give it a go. I saw little point in building up to these two 10K target races to then back down & run a conservative race with even splits of 15:20 due to conditions. Instead I committed to the pace required & with a reluctance to sit towards the back early on due to the slower pace ultimately paid the price! But I gave it a go.

For anybody interested in athletics/running at any level I can’t recommend Highgate Night of the 10,000m PB’s enough! This is definitely a ‘must’ on the athletic calendar now, be it running, supporting or just watching the live stream. Ben Pochee & team have really created something special & it’s great to see. A whole afternoon/night of high quality domestic racing – 175 laps to cheer without moving more than a couple of meters! It also remains free to spectators, something really brought home to me the next day when we were charged £5 to park in a muddy field to support the Outlaw half ironman where participants had already shelled out £150+ for their entry fee! Admittedly triathlon operate in their own bubble & athletics could learn from some of the good things they do, but with the history of the sport events like Highgate are essential to keep the competition alive. A whole day of competing rather than completing – perfect if you ask me!

I have also taken great consolation of how I felt early on & retain the belief in my current fitness to mean I can head to London 10K next Monday & have another go! Although the course isn’t the fastest there is always a good quality elite field so there will be plenty of company again. This time it’s on the road, so back where I’m more familiar & it will be a case of ticking off 3 minute K’s instead of 72 second 400’s. I ran 16 seconds quicker in London than at Highgate last year, & given conditions were far from ideal on Saturday I certainly believe I will run <30:30 & have the aerobic base to still do that off a 15 minute first 5K to give myself a chance at <30! The races come thick & fast over the next 3-4 weeks so if this served as a rust-buster June could be a good month before turning attention to Berlin.

Now back to nursing my tight calves that seem to have taken particular exception to my ‘punishment’ 19 mile tempo yesterday morning…


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