The first race in the East Midlands Grand Prix series was the Silverstone 10k. I had originally intended not to run at Silverstone, due to having a half marathon just four days later, but a recent lack of training due to injury made me change my mind. Given the pains that I was getting mid-run, I was dubious about managing to survive 13.1 miles without doing some long-term damage so I decided to do Silverstone almost as a tester to see how progress was going on my recovery.
Once I had decided to run, the question was how to run it. Again, given the recent lack of weekly mileage, trying to race both the 10k and the half marathon would not be a good idea. But then I didn’t want to take it easy at Silverstone, only to find that the injury was still present and that I wouldn’t be able to run on Sunday. I wanted to race one, but which? In the end I decided to try and run the 10k at half marathon pace, so to not only test the shin and the calf, but to also see if the original goal pace was still in the legs given the recent layoff.
I’ve completed two previous races at Silverstone, and both were clocked at over the race distance. The 2016 half marathon came in at 13.3 miles and last years 10k was actually 10.15km. It might not sound much but it can make a difference if you’re sticking to a particular pace to achieve a specific finish time. I do wonder if this is due to the course, in effect the track, being so wide that if you don’t stay on the ‘racing line’ then the additional distance can easily add up. Maybe not, but many others clock a similar distance so it can’t just be down to a GPS issue with my watch.
Anyway, a target half marathon pace of 7:27 would give me a 10k finish time of 46:20, so I lined myself up suitably in between the 45 and 50 minute pacers. Often at races, you find a lot of people start out of position at the start, positioning themselves further forward than they can realistically achieve. This leads to some hustle and bustle at the start as the faster runners from behind try and make their way past those who have lined themselves up optimistically on the start line. For Silverstone it was quite the opposite, as everyone shot off quicker than I had expected, taking me along with them.
The course takes in two laps of the Bridge Circuit, starting on the start/finish straight and finishing in the pit lane. As we headed off to the first corner (Copse) I was feeling comfortable with the pace. I was pushing harder than what I would consider my natural pace but it didn’t feel forced and I was in a nice rhythm. Looking down at my wrist, expecting to see a pace of around 8:00/mile followed by the need to do some swerved overtaking, I was pleasantly surprised to see around 7:30. Pretty much bang on, but there was of course a long way to go yet. A bit further into the lap the first mile came in a lot quicker than I was expecting – 7:16. At this point I made the conscious decision to slow down, allowing a host of other runners to breeze past in the process. It was hard not to race, particularly as I was feeling good on the pace, but I was on a different plan to everyone else.
The second mile came in at 7:23 as the track then began to climb towards the end of the first lap. In comparison to most other races, and in particularly all of the ones to come in this series, the Silverstone 10k is a relatively flat course, but there are a couple of small inclines towards the end of the lap that are surprisingly noticeable and you really feel them. That being said, mile three came in at 7:21, still under goal HMP and I was still feeling good on the pace. More importantly than the pace, there was no pain, none whatsoever. It was odd. Just a week before I was struggling to walk and each run, around a mile or two in, I would start to get shin pain that would almost see me limping home. It couldn’t solely be down to the new shoes?
As we crossed the half way stage our coach was amongst the small crowd, unfortunately injured otherwise he would have been on track with us, cheering us on as we each passed. I don’t witness it very often as I tend to attend races on my own, without any support, but it does give me a big lift when someone cheers you on as you pass. The urge to race was getting stronger, but I had to stay disciplined. The way the race was going, feeling good on the pace and without any pain, actually achieving my goals for Sunday’s half marathon was feeling more realistic. Rather than speed up I tried to slow it down slightly, although the miles were still coming in at under HMP, with four, five and six clocked at 7:25, 7:23 and 7:31 respectively.
As I passed through the sixth mile, I could see a couple of fellow club runners up ahead and decided to push for a strong finish. I opened my stride and it felt really good, having not done so now for a number of weeks. Unfortunately the course was longer again as the final 0.2 mile sprint turned into 0.37, at a pace of 6:24, finishing in 46:43, just over a minute slower than last year. I felt tired as I crossed the line, but this was the furthest and the fastest that I had ran in a number of weeks, and I did put in somewhat of a big finish.
Being a 31-year old male, I probably race in the strongest category possible. It was no surprise then that I finished 205th in my category, out of 436. 415th out of 1657 total runners. Had I raced it all out, I possibly would have just broken the top 350 in total, and 150 in my category. That just shows the quality of the field in the series.
On a final note, I was impressed with the quality of the medal, along with the small ‘bar’ of Malt Loaf and bottle of water as we crossed the finish, particularly as it was such a cheap event to enter.
In terms of the pre-race goals, it was mission accomplished. 10k ran at slightly quicker than HMP (7:20) and without any pain. Continuing for another seven miles, on undoubtedly a tougher course, on Sunday will be a challenge further, but this race proved to me that it is possible, providing a bit of luck comes my way and the injuries keep at bay. Next up, the Stratford half marathon on Sunday, followed by the second race of the EMGP on Friday 18 May, in Blisworth.