Yesterday morning I was up bright and early pulling on my fancy dress kit and getting ready for the Plymouth 10k. I attended the first ever running of the event in 2011 and thought that I would head back for another bash at it this year. A lot has happened in the last twelve months and I was looking forward to having a bit of a laugh and running it with my wife. It would be her first ever running race. Read on to find out what the event was like, how we got on and also to pick-up a few 10k tips and see some photos of the event.
Unfortunately my dreams of an easy run were shattered as my wife came down with a virus earlier in the week. Originally we were going to be running as Clark Kent and Lois Lane, but it looked like Clark Kent would be running it solo. A quick message on the Plymouth Triathlon Club Facebook Page and I soon had a few chums to meet up with. The club was well represented with 7 members competing. As I was now running for myself I had my eyes on a new 10K personal best of around 42 minutes. I had no idea of how realistic this would be though as all of my training involves large steep hills on Dartmoor, and I hadn’t done a flat fast run to see whether this had been doing anything for my legs on a short flat(ish) course.
The organisers sent out a nice race day guide along with my combined number/chip a couple of weeks before the race and there was no requirement to register on the day. The run was on closed roads, so it started fairly early, for a 10k, at 0815 on the Sunday morning. This allowed the roads to start reopening for the normal city traffic as it got busier later in the day. I know Plymouth well, so I didn’t leave home at Ivybridge until 7am, collecting my number one supporter (my Mum!) on the way. A parking spot was easy to find and I joined the steady migration of people through the town centre towards the Guild Hall where I could drop my bag off. A quick visit to the portaloo, then I dropped my bag into the very efficient cadets working in the secure bag drop, before a second visit to the portaloo. I kept my coat on. I didn’t look exactly like a runner unless you looked at my shoes. I was wearing a pair of black work trousers, with a white shirt. I had then pinned the shirt open to reveal my Superman T-shirt beneath. It was all finished off with a pair of “nerd” glasses purchased for a few pennies online.
I made my way towards the start where Matt and Caroline from Heart Radio were reading out some instructions and calling people in for the warm up. Incidentally there are some great pics on the Heart FM website, the link is at the bottom of this article. We all shuffled nearer the stage where a couple of fit looking people from Virgin took us through an energetic warm up. It was just what I needed and I’m surprised that more people weren’t leaping about to it. I then saw Tom and Katy from the Plymouth Tri Club and we lined up at the start.
The start was a few minutes late, but all of a sudden we were off. I remembered to start my stopwatch and I was soon charging up Royal Parade. I was desperately trying to keep up with Rich (another one from the Tri Club) and Tom, but they are quite a bit faster than me, so I was simply limiting my losses. The course was fairly straight forward, but was hilly enough to cause your legs some grief at 10k pace. The weather managed to abate for the race and we were treated to blue skies and sunshine for most of it. I held my ground until the turnaround at the far end of the embankment where everyone else seemed to speed up a bit and I could no longer keep up. It felt like I was slowing down, but my pace barely dropped. My marathon trained legs were beginning to suffer at this sort of pace, as they are used to going a bit slower, but for a lot longer. I was within my target and doing 6:30 to 6:50 minute mile pace, so I settled in and didn’t let it get to me. I was briefly distracted chatting to a personal trainer from one of the Plymouth gyms as he came past. He considered the 10k a long event as he was used to 400m and 800m racing on the track. I decided not to try and match his sprint finish.
I love dressing up for this kind of event, particularly as a character that a lot of people will recognise. It takes your mind off of the effort when people are smiling at you and cheering you on by name (Superman/Clark). The young cadets managing the feed stations are always welcoming to a nutter in fancy dress and that picks your pace up a bit too. I’m surprised that more people don’t do it.
Before long I was running back down Royal Parade and up the final hill before rolling across the finish. The guy next to me couldn’t have looked too good as the paramedics at the finish rushed over to make sure that he was ok. He was fine, but they were picking up on his “totally exhausted” body language. I then collected my medal, banana, water and goody bag before wandering off to find my Mum and the other PTC members.
All in all it was hard to find anything to complain about on this race. I didn’t encounter any problems in the slightest. The town provided ample parking, there were loads of marshals, all smiling and cheering you on, and plenty of people watching in the town centre. Avoiding registration on the day worked out really nicely and it gave the whole thing a laid back feel. I had no idea how many people were racing and was surprised to see just how many there were as I passed them all after the turn around point going the other way. The course was great, it broke out mentally into 5 segments, had some great views across the Plym estuary and the rolling hills gave your legs something to do other than plod on. The cadets in the bag drop area were so efficient that they saw me coming on my way into the hall and had my bag on the desk ready before I got to them. I didn’t see too many portaloos for the number of people, however I’m assuming that there were more elsewhere as the queue wasn’t too long for them when I was using them.
Fancy having a go at a race? A 10km (6.25 mile) event is a really good place to start. That sort of distance is achievable by most novice runners and you can simply come along and give it a bash without having to worry too much about the endurance side of things. This distance is relatively new to running, only really coming in during the last two years and it gives people something to get their teeth stuck into before broaching the more daunting prospect of a half marathon.
On the day my usual pre race advice remains the same. Make sure that you eat a good healthy breakfast such as porridge with some fruit/golden syrup to taste. And drink well until the two hours to go mark. Any later than this and the urge to pee while running may ruin your race. Once you get to the event, nice and early of course, visit the portaloo at least a couple of times, often it is a good idea to queue and go even if you don’t really feel that you need to as it gives you something to do other than worry about the race.
10km isn’t really far enough to worry about consuming water or energy food during the run, but if in doubt carry an isotonic gel, but nothing solid. There will usually be a water station on the run, so if necessary you can grab a mouthful of fluid there. Any benefit of consuming water/food over this distance is usually negated by the time you lose in slowing down to grab/open and consume it.
Make sure that you pace yourself. Even the best runner can mess up their 10k time by going too hard at the beginning. It is easy to get lulled into the shorter distance. It always feels better to be able to reach the halfway point and speed up a bit rather than dying on your feet in the last few miles and getting overtaken by several hundred people as you approach the line.
Enjoy the pictures that I took on my GoPro HD Hero 2 camera during the event, they are at the bottom of the article.
Some useful links: