Coming off the relief & satisfaction of going inside 30 minutes for 10K at Brighton last month it took a couple of weeks to get properly back into the swing of proper training! After a couple of weeks ticking over I was back into building the training back up with a view to ending May racing well at Birmingham & ultimately pushing on to be sharp to attack PB’s through June!
Luckily the return to full training coincided with a couple of weekends in Spain where the weather was incredible & meant a couple of really good sessions (one in 35 degree heat which meant times were slightly adrift but a real confidence booster) & a solid tempo as part of a local 10K. Even better Jo came through strong in the second half to also win. We hadn’t anticipated taking home quite so much as part of our winnings!
Turkey barbecue, followed by turkey & artichoke sandwiches for a month! Usual faultless organisation on what would be a fast course on a still night with great local support.
Despite the time I was confident the form was still there & from this 10K I ticked off several really promising sessions. I put together a fairly intense block of 10-12 days training into Birmingham 10K, progressing through well & just about feeling fit in time for the race.
My first time in an England vest (albeit a masters vest, but given the long wait I was keen to race well on debut) but having managed to prize some limited information from the organisers it was apparent the course wasn’t conducive to fast times & with the London 10K the following day (where we’d normally race) unlikely to be much depth at the sharp end outside of those within the masters race. So everything has been looking towards being fit at the start of June for a block of quality races & a couple more PB’s before a week relaxing in the sun! The plan was therefore to race smart, see who turned up on the day & decide how to approach things.
We saw Notts AC teammate Doug Musson & Graham Rush warming up so knew from then that there were at least a couple of guys who would get things moving from the start on what was a very windy & wet morning!
After standing around by one of the start lines – two starts, facing each other ~20 metres apart – & having confirmed there was nowhere for any strides we made it to the front & fortunately were walked towards the timing mat so we wouldn’t have to contend with the merging runners. A small consolation.
Straight down a sharp hill to New Street, a 90 degree turn on the wet cobbles & then a few hundred metres negotiating curbs, bollards, tram lines etc before another 90 degree turn on shiny tiles to leave the centre & start our rolling run out & back along the A34 to Perry Barr.
Aaron Richmond looked likely to be the main competition within the masters race & sure enough he was straight in behind Doug & Graham as they immediately got a gap on the rest of us having personally taken things very tentatively through the first 1K.
As the front tow continued to push on Aaron dropped slightly off the pace & I got alongside around 3K into the race. The gusting wind & rolling nature of the route made it hard to know when to push for a gap so having ticked off a couple more K’s got things moving a bit more from 6K & sensed I had a bit of a gap – hard to judge given in parts the pace felt like it dropped closer to 6 minute miling than the sub5’s we’d have been expecting!
Given the A34 isn’t the most glamorous spot to spend a Sunday morning support was pretty sparse but fortunately the incredible Spencer/Gower family support had made the journey to see me in my gleaming white England vest – a welcome sight any time but especially on such an otherwise quiet ‘big city race’.
By 7K I knew I had a reasonable gap but needed to continue working given it was around 50m but I was comfortable things were in control. One final underpass, & a climb out of it to see what I thought was one final twist – a 180 degree turn around a cone to get back to the 9K mark. At least that gave me a good opportunity to spot 4th & at that point I knew I was well clear for 3rd overall & 1st in the England / Celtic nations masters race.
Doug had broken clear of Graham at around 6K but the gap to them never got small enough for that to factor into my thoughts. So the last K within the Aston University campus & somehow they had managed to send us on a random loop around the perimeter to include one final climb up to 200m to go & a 20m dash to the finish line round a blind corner.
Incredibly pleased to execute the race as planned, be first England runner to finish & to make the podium closely following two athletes of that calibre home! If I’m within 20 seconds of Graham when we next race a 10K, given his consistency at this level I would expect to have run another big PB!
Representing England was another big running goal ticked off & a very proud day. Having so many family there to support me on the day was huge (first questions after, what race is next then – incredible to have people so excited to support & watch me run up & down the UK chasing largely arbitrary goals) & to see their pride in my running is totally overwhelming, as has been the incredible amount of congratulations etc since the race.
The Birmingham 10K as an event & as a race though was totally underwhelming from (before the) start to finish. The measly prize, confirmed after the event really summed things up but in an attempt to remain positive about the whole experience I’ll leave it there…
I am in good shape & training is planned through the next few weeks with several high quality races coming up!