I hadn't registered in advance for this race, as I didn't think I would be ready to run 10 'undulating' miles, but knew that it would be OK to enter on the day. There are upsides and downsides to running a race so close to home. When you discover that the battery on the car is flat it isn't a major issue as you know that you can walk to the start line, but I think that the journey to the race, and worrying about train times, traffic jams etc. is a good displacement activity! Rather than worrying about missing the train or taking the wrong turning, I worried about whether I could run 10 miles, would I need the loo half way around, would I be stretchered off the road with catastrophic injuries within 2 miles of the start? Should I wear a hat or sunglasses? The weather was strange. We'd had heavy rain all night and it was unclear whether we'd get sunburn or soaked. In the end I settled on a hat as I cannot bear the feel of rain falling on my face!
At the race HQ I registered painlessly and collected my number. At the same time I discovered why my time was listed in the men's results last year - I'd been given a 'male number!' Very odd, as I definitely ticked the 'Female' box and had collected my number in person - I don't think I look quite that androgynous! As I waited to move to the start area I looked around for familiar faces. I saw Tizzy from the wonderful Bottega dei Sapori (possibly the best coffee shop in the country and far and away the best in Alton) warming up gently. I looked in admiration at the 'serious runners' who were running warm up laps of the school's sports field. An old friend from my local gym, who is recovering from injury, was there to help out with the timing tunnel at the finish. Apart from that I saw one other person I know - an ex neighbour there to support a friend. I remember being surprised at how few people I knew at this local race, and this year was no different! Where are all the people I see out running every night of the week?
I got over the start fairly quickly, considering I started near the back in the 85 - 90 minute area. This race is not chip timed, so any time you lose getting over the start after the gun has gone are lost forever! Almost as soon as I passed the start line I spotted a woman about a 100m ahead of me running like Penelope Pitstop (although now I've looked at that video, I think PP is far more graceful and has a much better running style) and decided that I would not be beaten by her. I then totally forgot about her for the next 7 or 8 miles!
It was warmer than I expected and pretty humid too, but nowhere near as hot as it has been recently. I chatted with people as I ran, everyone was very friendly and seemed to be having a good time despite grumbling about the hills! I ran for 3 miles with a bloke from West Wight running club, but he stopped to get water at a drinking station and I carried on. I was making good time! When I got to 6.2miles I realised that I would have clocked a 10k personal best if the race finished there. I knew that there was a long hill ahead - this was my slowest mile, 9.25 minutes uphill all the way - so didn't get too optimistic about my finish time.
At around this time I spotted the Penelope Pitstop runner ahead of me. This would not do! I decided I was going to overtake her, and upped the speed a bit. I passed her at about 8.5 miles and felt very happy with myself! I was passing people right, left and centre at this point. I'd set off a lot more slowly than last year and was benefiting from reserves of energy.
The final mile, back through my village, is always tough psychologically as I have to run past my house and my body seems to think that this is where I should stop, which is logical because it is where we normally stop! My oldest son and a neighbour were at the end of the road to cheer me on and take photos (see above) and managed to snap a sequence that shows me overtaking someone.
I knew now that I would be able to beat my goal time of 1hr 30 mins, I just didn't know by how much (I'd started my Garmin when I'd started running rather than when I'd crossed the line so accurate mental maths was not possibly). I plodded on through the village, dodging parked cars and pushchairs and soon the end was in sight. As one turns up to the finish line, at Eggar's School, the path is suddenly uphill again. It is only a short distance - but it certainly make the last few yards a challenge! The race timing clock was on 1:26:50 as I approached the finish, but I reckon my recorded time will be 1:27 and some seconds. My Garmin has it as 1:27:00. Whatever the final 'official' time is, it will be below 1hr 30mins - so I am very happy with that. There was a lovely touch - the gentleman commentating on the finishers was surrounded by a bevy of ladies with clip boards who looked up the runners' numbers and matched them to names as they ran towards the finish. Lovely to hear 'Come on Victoria!' over the tannoy!
This race is really well organised, and everyone is very friendly. Yes, it is a tough race, with some long hills, but the scenery is beautiful and the atmosphere is lovely.