There’s no better start to a hot and sunny Saturday morning than getting kitted up in running gear and shades and hopping outside to run a 10K race. Last Saturday was a case in point as I took part in one of the friendliest races done so far – the Kirklees 10K Challenge, which was basically an out and back route on the local canal towpath. It was very nice for a change to end up running in the peace and quiet away from roads and the traffic. Not so nice was the fact that it was a humid, sweaty uphill slog for the first 5km, before doing a short loop and rejoining the towpath for the return journey. Here’s my report.
Having been picked up by my running buddy, we got down to the venue with plenty of time to spare, as we had to go and collect our running bib numbers from the registration area. This race was organised by the Huddersfield Christian Fellowship, and everything was planned perfectly, from having a large carpark for competitors to use and several volunteers guiding us to empty parking spaces, to the folks at registration who quickly helped us all sign in and get numbers. They had even laid on some people from Talk Active Zumba to get us all warmed up!
I got my racing gear on in the carpark – just a change of running shoes and racing top – and then pinned on my bib number and started my own warm-ups. Generally I never do those mass routines that are organised to warm up the participants; I’d rather find a quiet spot and do my own thing. Actually for this race, I didn’t need a huge warm-up as it was a warm day even by 9.45am.
With warm-ups out of the way, the race marshals started taking people to the start line in waves. I always get this bit wrong, even in the large races. It usually does not pay to be honest, because a lot of slow people think they are faster than they actually are and end up getting in the way. But anyway, I was honest and said I reckoned I’d do the course in an hour. And there we all were, queued up in order waiting for the klaxon to start us off.
And They’re Off!
At 10am we were under way, and frankly the first part of the course was less than picturesque, with a quick half a kilometer around a dodgy industrial estate – nice! We were soon back onto the main stretch though, leading to the small pathway down onto the canal towpath. Now this bit was picturesque – it was very pleasant running in sunshine next to the water and with virtually no wind to hold me back.
There were a few obstacles to get around though. The first was the humidity, and I was sweating right from the beginning. As we ran under trees, several times I thought I’d been nailed by dirty birdies dropping “you know what” onto me from a great height. But when I looked down, I was still clean; turned out my sunglasses were condensing sweat and it was dripping off at regular intervals – yuk! After humidity there were many bridges – low bridges to duck under – as well as crowds of other runners to overtake on narrow paths next to the water…splash! Actually I didn’t hear of anybody falling in.
Hitting The Wall Early
I was still settled in a small group of runners with my buddy at this point, maybe 2km into the race, and suggested we pick up the pace to catch the next group, who were about 50 yards ahead. So we set off and within ten yards, I realised I was the only one still putting the hammer down on the gas pedal. Of course, the others may have known something I didn’t. By 3km with the sun beating down and large stretches with no shade, I seriously thought about quitting. This is a common feeling for me, and usually happens about 500 yards before I get second wind and settle into a good rhythm for the remainder of the course – I just needed to fight my way through it.
As far as race times were concerned, I knew a hot uphill 5km at the beginning were going to make this a slow one. It didn’t help that the bib numbers were printed on normal (though heavy duty) paper. I sweat if I think too hard, so get me running on an incline, baking hot and in high humidity, and it was really only a matter of time before my number started to transform itself into a flat slab of papier mache. Softened, the number kept falling off as the safety pins had nothing of substance to hold onto. Despite stopping several times to re-pin it, I failed miserably to reattach it, so I just folded it up and stuffed it into my pocket. Nice having an excuse to keep stopping for a breather though!
Most of the outward journey involved looking for small shady spots to run through, just to get a little cooling as we all made our way up and over the locks on the canalside, and it was a relief when I realised we had reached the end of the outbound journey. That relief was short-lived. To turn around for the return leg, we had to get over a bridge which meant a long and ludicrouly steep set of steps – the kind where you can put your hands down to help you crawl up them. I had my second wind and was keen to push on, but these steps were narrow and one of the participants had run out of steam. So that was an unnecessary minute lost dawdling behind her on the way up. Thankfully, there was an even steeper roadway directly afterwards, leading to the water station. I ran this road to stretch out from the rest of the field, who were still getting their breath back from the steps. Then, with a top-up of water for my hip-bottle, it was plain sailing on the way back.
The return journey was new territory for a short while, until re-joining the same canal towpath we had already covered, this time going in the opposite direction. Hurrah! Downhill all the way. I think I made up a lot of time and overtook quite a few people, but having started the race near the back, and then stopped a few times and then getting delayed on the steps, it was always going to be a situation where the competitors were all stretched out – not much chance of catching many of them.
The Final Attack
I did stop again for a quick breather at 9km, before setting off in earnest. It was nice to see the hairpin turn onto the path taking us back up and onto the road. That road however was a very long straight one which seemed to go on forever. And I was on the wrong side of it. By 11am, there was more traffic on the road, so the marshals suggested I stay on the “wrong” side and continue running; I certainly didn’t want to stop my flow just to wait for traffic. Eventually though, I saw a gap a pegged it across the road and even managed a final sprint into the finishing straight.
So that was that. I finished in 57:56 which is a little slow for me, but I was still thankful under the racing conditions that I got home in under an hour. A young lady at the end of the course – one of the marshals – had to grab me and ask me what my number was. And I had managed to keep that sodden ball of brine-soaked paper in my pocket without it falling out en route. My running partner came staggering home about ten minutes later, thoroughly disappointed with not breaking the hour, but also relieved to be in one piece. He told me he had stopped for a while to help as one of the competitors had collapsed on the return leg, and was kind of in and out of consciousness. An ambulance had been called and I hope he’s alright.
So there’s the lesson. If it’s hot, take regular breaks, run at a slower pace and make sure you have access to plenty of water (or in my case electrolytes!) throughout. Be safe in the sun folks! And here’s a quick video from last year’s Kirklees 10K Challenge (2011) just so you can see what parts of the lovely peaceful course look like: