The Humber Bridge 10K road race is an annual event organized by the City of Hull Athletic Club, which starts from Hessle Rugby Club on the north bank of the Humber estuary, proceeds through the streets for almost 2 km before joining the East pathway of the iconic suspension bridge – the fifth longest in the world. After reaching the far end at Barton, the route then switches to the West pathway for the return leg, and retraces the road route back, to finish at the rugby club. I decided to have a go at it this year as I thought it would be pretty neat to do a 10K which was mainly over water, rather than the usual running around city center streets.
This is the first time I have entered an official race – as opposed to the fun runs organized by parkrun – and there was a great atmosphere when my running partner and I arrived at Hessle rugby club. We got there early (I was out of the house and travelling by 7am) arriving just before 10am. That was good as there was plenty of time for changing and getting warmed up, although I was pretty much dressed to run anyway. I noticed changing rooms, so I’m guessing that they will have been sufficient for the 400+ people running in the two events. There was a Fun Run for kids and parents at 10am, which was…fun!
At 11am the main event was ready to kick off, with 376 runners bunching up at the Start line. Personally, I went and hid near the back, as it was fairly obvious there were a lot of serious club runners in the field. So I reckoned I’d aim for, firstly, surviving the race; secondly, to run the whole course, and not succumb to the temptation to walk for any of it; and thirdly, to do it in under an hour. Of course, with all of these types of events, the start was a fairly hectic affair, with so many people bunched up trying to jockey for position. And it’s easy to lose a bit of time due to this, but luckily, the field spread out fairly quickly as the big guns ran ahead.
As an aside, I had been weather watching since Thursday, the race taking place on Sunday morning, and after a brief spell of very warm weather during the week, things were set to cool down for race day. So I was rather pleased driving to Hessle, that the sky was overcast. Unfortunately, by start time, the sun was beating down, and I was wearing both my compression top and my long sleeve running shirt! I felt a hot and sweaty race was about to unfold.
Winding through the tree-lined streets, mainly uphill, was fun and done at a steady, relaxed pace – perhaps too relaxed. (On several occasions during the race I ended up asking my running partner whether we had gone past the kilometer markers.) Eventually, we were running past the toll-booths and onto the bridge itself. Suddenly it looked like quite a run I’d gotten myself into! What a great and beautiful piece of engineering though; I spent a lot of my time on the outward journey looking upwards at the suspension cables. Over the next few kilometers, we were all buffeted from the left by strong winds, and at one point, almost impossibly, I happened to flick up a small stone which fell into the back of my shoe. So I had to stop and get the shoe off to empty out the rather painful visitor, but managed to catch up.
The 5K mark appeared at the far end of the bridge, and there was a welcome water station there. The field of runners was sufficiently spread out at this halfway point that it was easy to get a bottle of water quickly. Obviously, I made the cardinal error or drinking some, and pouring some over my head to cool down…except I nearly drowned myself! So now I was a fair amount heavier and waterlogged as we trudged up the incline and back onto the other pathway of the bridge. I tend to sprint corners and short inclines as a kind of race tactic (as that’s where lots of people slow down!) and unfortunately lost my running partner at this stage. After slowing down and a few looks over the shoulder, I couldn’t see him, so decided to take off and see how well I could do.
Another tactic I wanted to use was the ‘negative split’ plan, to try and run my second 5K faster than the first. Sadly, I didn’t have my stopwatch with me, having relied on my partner for the early parts of the run. And boy, was there a hell of a headwind on the return journey. In fact, it was incessant for the entire trek. Getting into a rhythm made this leg far easier, and I ended up hopping from one cluster of runners to the next, settling in the pack to recover and then breaking out to bridge the next gap.
As we approached the 9 km marker, my legs were beginning to feel the strain, and there was just one more climb and corner back onto the bridge and past the toll-booths again. Then plain sailing downhill to the finish at the rugby club – possibly the longest kilometer I’ve ever run. Turning right, into the rugby club was great and there were tons of people screaming and cheering us on towards the finish line. That was awesome, and there was lots of support around the course as well, from passers-by on the bridge to cars beeping their horns.
I managed a sprint finish and came home in 259th place out of the 376 runners. Not necessarily a great position, but I had achieved my goals for the race, finishing in 55 min 50 sec. I had only stopped out of necessity to get a boulder out of my shoe, and of course, I had survived the experience. In fact, it was exhilarating, and definitely to be recommended.
The 2011 Humber Bridge 10K was sponsored by Seven Seas so there were some of the younger helpers standing behind the finishing funnel handing out packs of Seven Seas JointCare Sport, and then I passed along to get my finishers shirt, which is pictured at the top of this review. Brooks Running and some other local businesses were also co-sponsors of this event, and I thank them and the organisers and race marshals for all their hard work and support for a really wonderful event. This is a race I might well come back to again next year. For more information, visit the City of Hull AC website and peruse that.
Even though this is a review, I’m not really going to put any markers down in terms of scores, because it was the first event I’ve been to, and having nothing to compare it with. But I will say it was very enjoyable, and there were plenty of friendly people about who were all there to give it a go. And of course, there were enough marshals in the right places that we all knew where we were supposed to be going. So, maybe I’ll see you there next year!