Saturday 15 November 2014

Gravesend Floodlit Series 10k - November 2014

I first heard about the midweek Gravesend Floodlit Series of races, which are held at the Cyclopark (Gravesend, Kent), last year (2013/14 series) and I had always intended to enter one. In the end I never managed to build up the enthusiasm to leave the warm house to run in the cold, wind and rain on a dark Thursday evening.

the runners forming at the start [photo:dani]

By the time the weather had started to improve, the series came to an end and I had missed that season’s opportunities. So I made a note to make an extra effort to attend when the 2014/15 series came around. This series started in October 2014 and as I was a little bit injured, I sensibly sat out the first one of the series. By the week of race two, I was fit enough to run. So a few days before the race, I put my entry in via the runbritain website and paid the affiliated entry fee of £8 (unaffiliated was £10 in advance). The series features two different race distance options; the 5k or the 10k. As I have run 5k around the track on many occasions, I decided to go for the 10k.

On the night, I arrived at the Cyclopark and parked in the onsite car park (£1) and continued into the Cyclocafe to pick up my race number and meet up with the rest of my So Let’s Go Running (SLGR) team mates. A lot of runners had been delayed by the terrible traffic jams caused by a number of incidents on the roads around Dartford throughout the day, so some of the runners that had intended to run the 5k (7pm start) had gone for the 10k (7.30pm start) instead – while some other delayed runners had run 5k but started at the 10k start time. So at 7.28-ish the 72 10k (and a few 5k) runners formed on the start line – the big difference with this race to any other that I had done here was that we were running anti-clockwise; in the past I had only ever run it clockwise, so as well as running a new distance on the track, it was also like running a completely different course.

arty 01 [photo:dani]

I had lined up a few rows back from the front of the grid and after a few brief words from the Race Director, Martin Burke (of Nice Work), we were sent on our way. The 10k race consisted of four laps of the track and although my fitness was a bit off what it had been a few months earlier, I decided to approach the race with an optimistic attitude and set my sights on running under forty minutes. Another thing I had never done at the track was run on it in the dark.

The main start/finish area is very well lit and this continued down and into the first couple of bends, however when reaching the extremities of the course, the lighting was not quite the same – at best we were guided by some small beacons at the edge of the track. Fortunately I had been pre-warned of this darkness and I had brought a torch with me. Admittedly, it wasn't very bright but it threw out just enough light to help me to see the edges of the track where they border the grass.

arty 02 - it is me btw [photo:dani]

The weather conditions were good for November, but the Cyclopark suffers from being in quite a windy spot and it was blowing quite a bit at some points on the course. I ran lap one with a few other runners in close contact, however by the end of the lap it had dwindled down to just two of us and we passed the start/finish line in 9.43. The SLGR club chairman, Brian Page, was at the start/finish area to give all of the #TeamSLGR runners a boost every 2.5 kilometres and as I passed he also advised me that I was in sixth position.

I stayed tucked in behind the other runner until we reached the hardest of the inclines where I moved into fifth position and began to pull away. By the end of lap two I was running alone, but had somehow let the pace slip a little (I wonder if I had got caught up in running at the other runner’s pace rather than my own during our time together) and went past the start/finish in 19.53. I was still just within the window for a sub-40 finish, but my speed had dropped below the required pace. From this point the only other runners I encountered were the ones I had begun to lap.

arty 03 [photo:dani]

I came back around to the start/finish at the end of lap 3 with the clock showing exactly 30 minutes. I was still in fifth position and there was around a 40 second gap between myself and the runner in front of me, and the runner behind me was over a minute adrift. So I knew my finishing position was secure. This just left my own personal goal, I had completed the first three laps in 9.43, 10.10, and 10.07 but I now needed a sub-10 minute final lap to get a 39.xx time.

I got my head down and throughout the last lap caught up with more and more of the slower runners and had to weave through them (sometimes taking the corners a little wider than I would have liked). I came around the last hairpin bend and had about 200 metres left to go, soon after, the timing clock came into sight. I was running as hard as I possibly could at this point and as I reached the crest of the final incline I felt the course profile change to a slight downhill and I continued, now sprinting towards the ticking clock; 39.55, 39.56, 39.57… I was giving it all I had at this point. I crossed the line and as it was downhill I carried on for another 20 metres or so before I could break my momentum and stop. The clock was showing either 39.59 or 40.00 as I passed it, but I didn't know exactly which one it was as the last few metres were a blur.

some of the slgr runners that ran and our club chairman [photo:from dawn annett's camera]

Once all of the runners had finished, we headed into the Cyclocafe for the prize giving ceremony. We had a good turnout of SLGR runners (10 in the 5k and 6 in the 10k) and one of our team (co-founder of SLGR, Dawn Annett) won one of the women’s prizes (a bottle of wine), she looked very thrilled when she heard the news and it was great to see one of our club come away with a prize. The official results were online very soon after the prize ceremony and my official time was 40.00. Not the sub-40 that I was hoping to run, but still respectable and it has given me a short term goal to focus on before the next race!
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