Standing shivering on the start line of the Herts 10k on Sunday morning, horizontal rain battering my right ear drum, I did wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. It was five months and six days since I had my baby and I’d only decided to run the day before.
With hindsight, it might have been a good idea to get up a bit earlier (I woke up at 8:36 knowing I needed to leave the house by 9:15 latest to get to the start line for the 10:00 gun – and needed to feed the baby before I left); check the weather forecast (cold, wet, windy, utterly miserable); think about what to wear (trail shoes and a lightweight windproof jacket would have been good additions, possibly some clean running tights rather than the ones I’d whipped out of the washing bin that morning); and glance at the course map (peering through the rain, the course appeared to be largely off-road. That was a surprise).
Yes, I think it’s fair to say I have never been less prepared for a race. Oh, and did I mention I hadn’t run 10 kilometres on the same day for over a year?
I was previously vaguely aware the race was happening and was local to us. My brother and some of his friends had entered. I knew I wanted to run a 10k before Christmas, with a view to a half-marathon in the spring, but had arranged to see my best friends and wouldn’t be able to do it. That meet-up got canned at the last minute, just as my brother discovered he had to work unexpectedly, so I relieved him of his race pack the night before and crossed my fingers for a good night’s sleep.
I didn’t get one.
I was up from 2am-5am with the little one, at which point Phil took over and let me go back to sleep. I hadn’t set the alarm either, hence the 8:36 wake-up, and I found Phil asleep sitting up with Baby slumbering across his lap.
And so it was I found myself on the start line less than an hour and a half later, wondering whether it was too late to call Phil to ask him to pick me up and pretend it was all a bad dream.
As races go, it was – thankfully – beautifully organised. We started on time, the marshals were plentiful and cheerful despite the appalling weather, the km markers were in all the right places and there were two water points. It was slow-going in places, going down to single file a couple of times, though much of the congestion was caused by people poncing around the puddles and drawing to an abrupt halt at the flooded sections. After getting caught up in the domino effect a couple of times, I decided to plough through the puddles, discovering when it was too late that they were ankle-deep in places.
I kept to a steady 6 minutes/km pace – slowing up a bit between 3km and 4km, because of a sharpish hill. We continued upwards for another kilometre before the course flattened out a bit. I can’t honestly remember much of the rest of it, other than repeatedly putting one muddy foot in front of the other until I got to the 9km mark. The last stretch went quickly, even though my legs felt like lead – though this may have been the extra weight caused by the clomps of mud attached to my running shoes. I saw the finish line, I saw Phil waving frantically next to the pushchair, and I saw that I’d run inside an hour.
My chip time was 58:45 – much the same as it would have been pre-baby on a bumpy course in those conditions. To say I was a little bit proud of myself would be an under-statement – and it definitely makes a half-marathon achievable early next year.
I might try to be a bit more organised about that one.