I signed up for two reasons. Firstly, Dunsfold Park Aerodrome is home to the Top Gear test track, and being a fan of the show I thought it would be great to have the opportunity to visit and run on the track. Secondly, the course is almost pancake flat and all tarmac - so it has massive pb potential providing it's not too windy.
Despite knowing about the race months in advance, I didn't register until the weather forecast covered the date of the race - I might not have entered if strong winds were forecast. Anyway, I tend to set some goals before racing and for this race I decided that there would be only one goal. The goal would be to run a sub-40 10k. I had recently run a personal best of 41.50 over the distance, so in order to be successful I would need to slash that time by about two minutes.
|almost a course map|
The journey to the venue, which is just South of Guildford took us about 90 minutes from Dartford and we arrived in good time to park up and collect my race number. There were no timing chips here, so everyone's times were based on gun time and recorded manually.
The toilets are located within the Jigsaw School building and there was no queue at all (for the gents, at least), which really did make a nice change. Something I thought strange at first was that none of the cubicles had locks on the doors, but thinking about it I imagine this is probably due to health and safety rules in place at the school. It wasn't a problem.
|and we're off (i decided to go with the orange headband)|
The runners assembled over at the start line at about 9.50am for the 10am start. We were lucky to have local resident and 2008 paralympic gold medalist in the handcycle time trial - Rachael Morris in attendance. And after a brief overview of the route and a countdown, we were sent on our way.
The course starts at the end of the main runway and you start off by running the full length of it. It is almost two kilometres in length and feels like it will never end! Anyway, partway down the runway you meet up with the Top Gear test track and you run past some of the well-known sections of the test track. First it's Bacharach, then Bentley which is immediately followed by Chigago. At the end of the runway you reach Hammerhead.
|passing one of the large planes at the start of lap 2|
At Hammerhead you turn left and follow the meandering tarmac road that runs around the edge of the airfield. There's a slight rise and fall during this part of the course, but nothing that requires any real adjustment of pace - I think my kilometre splits that went through this section were about two seconds slower than the pancake flat sections.
At the end of the road you turn back onto the runway and run back towards the start line where you reach the half-way point and water station. A quick 180 degree turn points you in the right direction to start the second lap, which is identical to the first. The good thing about running at an aerodrome is that you get to see some aeroplanes up close, there were plenty dotted around the course - some small and some very large.
|crossing the line and becoming a sub-40 10k runner|
So my goal was to run sub-40. My plan was to reach the half-way point in under 20 minutes (obvious really) and then just do my best to maintain the pace. The first time I glanced at my watch was when I saw a marker for 4 kilometres. The watch said 15.32, which meant that all I had to do was maintain a pace around 4.00 minutes per kilometre and I'd be well within my goal.
At just after the half-way point, I glanced at it again and it said 19.33. After this I didn't really look at it until I reached the 9 kilometre marker. I can't remember the exact time here, but it was somewhere around 35.35-ish. All I had to do was complete the last kilometre in less than four-and-a-half minutes and I would be a sub-40 10k runner.
|we always have the medal shot|
According to my GPS readings, I ran the last kilometre in 3.57. The official results had me in 11th position out of 226 runners in a time of 39.32 (age-grading 69.81%). So I am indeed now a sub-40 minute 10k runner and in the process I knocked two-minutes-and-nineteen-seconds of my previous personal best. Not bad for a morning's work!
After crossing the line, I was handed a goody bag containing a medal, chocolate bar and some leaflets (I hear that unfortunately they ran out of goody bags towards the end of the run, which is a shame). Then me and the little one posed for some photos while watching some of the other runners finish the race.
|our unintentional beatles 'abbey road' pose|
I soon started to feel the cold so we headed back over to the car. Before leaving I thought I'd pop over the toilets before the drive home, but when I arrived I found the door locked with some people trapped inside the building. No idea what happened there but I hope they got out - at least they had access to the toilets!
In summary, from my point of view most things went well. There were things that could have been done better so there'll definitely be lessons learnt and improvements made next year. With the run being completely contained within the airfield, it's not the most scenic of venues. The top reasons for running this race are, to raise funds for the school, to run a fast time, and to run on part of the Top Gear test track.
In the press - getSurrey news article