Great Manchester Run: Good, Bad or Character Building?

May 2010 saw my first race of the year in Manchester and it was certainly going to be a challenge, in fact I had only run 4 times since the Reading Half.  To add to this dirth of training the continued theme of old friends resurfaced and by complete chance we met 7 of my old university friends in the restaurant we picked for lunch. A quick bite to eat evolved into a long chat and a trip out to the sticks for dinner and chat till the small hours.

The race was brilliantly organised and given I was in on of the sloooow waves I grabbed the chance to watch Haile Gebrselassie Cruise across the line looking unflustered at 28:02, absolutely phenomenal.  It was a quick wander up towards the start zone for our mass warm up.  Maybe its my English reservations about "performing" in public, but I'm not really a fan of pre-race mass aerobics. With that impasse traversed all that was left to do was race.

Things started out pretty slow after the usual 9min/mile rush off the line, struggling to hang around the 11 min/mile pace for the first couple of miles.  I think I only have myself to blame though as I made my classic race mistake of being to proud and stupid to take my walk breaks every 10 minutes. Since the beginning I have been doing 9min run/1min walk and have done nearly every training since. So like the fool that I am it was nearly 23 minutes until I took my first walk and the pace had been fading.

My salvation was probably the mental impact of a single workout the week before the race, my first ever real tempo run.  Most of my training before the half marathons had been steady state "easy" runs, but with my newly constructed marathon plan there were a few faster workouts. After a gentle mile warm up, I pushed for a mile a hard as I could and discovered something of great significance. I can hold on at a pace that causes serious effort and pain, despite my lungs burning I had run a 8:29 mile and managed to carry on into the cool down afterwards. If this taught me anything it was that I could go a lot faster and tolerate the pain for quite a distance.

I made it to the 5K mark in 33:32, on pace for my worst ever 10K performance, but the walk break really started to kick in. I was managing to push along at well below 10min/mile pace without slowing down and the race was back on. In fact I managed a big negative split to come in at 1:01:56 (2nd 5K 28:24), my 2nd 5K was actually my PB for that distance. All of which makes me think that there could have been a much better time if I had pushed from the start and been brave enough to walk.

This was in fact my best ever 10K time despite an almost complete absence of training, I was mostly trading on the aerobic base I had built up helping Helen with her marathon training. It still left a bitter taste in my mouth though, I'm more convinced than ever that I can break the hour, and I finished 4 seconds behinds Helen's brother in his first ever 10K. Next time ..................