Well, on Sunday I finally lined up to start my first 10K race after eight months out due to injury. It was not an easy journey back, and the final week before the Huddersfield 10K was a bit of a roller-coaster. In fact, I was still unsure about whether to take part until the day before. It is worth mentioning that this particular event – kindly organized by the Huddersfield Road Runners Club (BIG thanks to them!) – is one of the toughest road races in the region. So perhaps it was not the ideal start to a season trying to make a comeback from calf injuries. Or to spin it the other way, perhaps it was just the perfect way to test out whether I was fit enough – after all, if I could get around that course, I’ll be able to handle almost any course in the future! Proof of the difficulty can perhaps be gleaned from the fact that 600 places were snapped up, and of these 511 finished. Of course, some, many or all of the ‘dropouts’ may simply have never got to the venue to start the gruelling 10K route, but the hilliness may well also have taken a few victims. I’m just glad I made it all the way around without re-injuring my calf. Here’s my Review.
An Inauspicious Week Before Racing
It turns out I’m not the kind of person who’s normally blessed with tons of good luck. So after several months of physiotherapy to fix a couple of injuries, the main one being a right calf strain, I had just gradually trained myself back up to running 10km. That was a very happy day, knowing I could run the distance again, having failed dismally to do so since last June. The following run on my list was a speed session – in this case, a ‘parkrun’ event down my local park. Half way round, I re-strained the calf. That was a very bad day for me, and I was on the verge of ditching the plan to run the Huddersfield 10K.
Luckily for me, I was able to carry on stretching the muscles, and saw my physio midweek to try and sort things out. He told me the muscle had just tightened due to overtraining, and that I should keep on stretching and icing the calf. As if by magic, as my calf loosened up, I managed to catch a virus, and was laid up in bed fighting that for most of the week. This all meant no training at all until the day before race day, when I went out to see if I could put in a sneaky 1km run without the legs seizing up. That 1km went fine, which set the scene for me to turn up and have a go on race day!
The Huddersfield 10K – A Real Runner’s Route
The race took in some breathtaking Yorkshire scenery, as we trekked from village to village on the outskirts of Huddersfield, both starting and finishing at the Rugby Club in Lockwood. It was only after I had finished that my running partner mentioned that he was surprised at how close we got to Castle Hill (pictured above); I was so immersed in my efforts that I hadn’t even noticed!
I guess if I had bothered to look at the commemorative shirt I had been given at the end of the race, it would have been clear we had been running somewhere near to that particular landmark.
Of course, in my defence, this was one of the most heinous running routes I’ve ever run on. The hills were real leg-bursters and I have to confess that I needed to walk up some of those climbs, as I’m still carrying far too much weight at the moment, after my extended break from running. I fear that most of the other participants knew exactly what they were getting themselves into, and had done the hill-training to prepare properly. Which kind of left me watching an endless stream of folks overtaking me on the way up! Just for comedy effect – or for those of you who confine your running efforts to flat courses or the track – here’s the elevation profile for your closer inspection:
The uphill sections were good places to have a chat with other friendly runners, and it was nice to know I was not alone in my struggle against large parts of this course. It also turned out that I was the guy with the water! I helped out a few other runners who were gasping for a drink at various sections of the trial – but there were no water stations. That’s quite rare in my experience of other races.
The best part apart struggling up a huge incline is that eventually you get to the top and have a nice run down the other side. As a matter of fact, I almost flew so fast down the steepest part of the downhill sections that stopping was a problem; kind of funny, but also insanely dangerous. Thankfully, I just about managed to maintain my balance and stay on my feet.
Here’s some video footage from two points in the race. The initial part is early on during the long first hill-climb. Later in the clip, it cuts to about the halfway mark. Needless to say, the guy at the front, at the beginning of the clip went on to win in a time of 34 mins 12 secs – whereas I, on the other hand, came staggering home (uninjured!) in an hour and five minutes.
I must send out a huge thank you to Huddersfield Road Runners for organizing the event year after year, and the marshals and helpers did a great job on the day. The only thing missing – for some – was water stations on the course. They did give out much needed water at the end though, together with the customary t-shirt, and goodie bag containing something sugary to help us all refuel.