Monday, 16 May 2016

Event Review : Royal Berkshire 10k

It has been two months since I last ran in a race and a little longer than that since I ran a race for myself, rather than as pacer. Add in to the mix an entry that had been deferred from last year, a relatively local, well talked of event and a bunch of lovely ladies to spend the morning with then it really was no wonder that I was excited about the Royal Berkshire / Green Park 10k. The race seems to be suffering a little from identity crisis, having been previously known as the Green Park 10k but now the Royal Parks. Both names were evident around the race village.

The weather looked set to be somewhat less scorching than the previous weekend that played host to the Woodley 10k and Bracknell Half Marathon and I'd heard rumours of the course being particularly fast and flat so although I'd not been putting in any specific 10k training, and certainly hadn't been running with much speed of late, I felt optimistic of a decent time.

I knew many Bracknell Forest Runners, Reading Road Runners, Box Bell Fit-ers and other friends taking part but on this particular occasion I was delighted to be part of the Bracknell RunFitUK group or "Tool Station Posse" as we have dubbed ourselves (we even have a sign to that effect). Charlotte very kindly offered taxi services to me, Nikki and Cathy (our supporter on the day) and we met up with Clare in the race village.
Photo by Clare Payne: Clare, Nikki, Cathy, Me and Charlotte
A message from Charlotte declaring she was on her way at 8am prompted a very hasty scoffing of banana and sultana overnight oats. Nikki got a similar fright and poor Cathy didn't manage to have her toast at all! But thankfully bacon butties were available in the race village, along with coffees, burgers and toasted sandwiches so appetites could be sated. There were two car parks for the race, costing £5 per car, but as we arrived at 8:45am (the race started at 10:30am) I can't comment on whether there was any queueing or difficulty in parking later in the day. 10:30am is rather late for a race start but it allowed for mums and dads to run with their children in the mini marathon earlier in the morning and still run in the main event, which was a thoughtful touch. It did make me apprehensive about whether I'd eaten too early though, and whether I'd suffer for it on the course.

Race village was just a short walk away, the bag drop a breeze (so I'm told) and I didn't have to queue for loos at all so big ticks for organisation pre-start. I had to collect my race pack from the help desk as I'd not had my entry transferred over properly but it was no hassle at all, for which I am thankful. Also in the race village, for a small fee you could get a massage or have sore muscles taped up. Heart FM provided the soundtrack to the day, pacers were on hand and also helped warm up the crowd before the off.
We discussed our targets for the day, exchanged hugs and split up to find our respective spots in the start funnel. We started bang on time under a glorious blue sky, temperature creeping up bit by bit. I tried desperately not to go out too quickly but the crowd's enthusiasm was infectious and all too soon I was at the 2km mark, about to turn out of Green Park to the strains of a percussion band. The entire event is on closed roads and lives up to it's reputation of a flat course with the exception of two or three motorway bridges. Unfortunately it doesn't lend itself well to spectators and there was little cover from the sun that beat down. Being on quite enclosed lanes there was also little breeze so the water station at the 6km mark was welcome. Small bottles with sports caps were handed out, which is probably my preferred choice rather than cups, pouches or normal bottles.
Photo by Cathy Owen
I managed to maintain the pace I was aiming for up to the water station, which is when I started to think that my goal was possible... so determination set in and I started to push a little harder, using any downhill to my advantage. I even started to overtake a few people in the last couple of kilometres. I saw Cathy on the side lines, doing a grand job of cheering everyone past the "200m to go" point. I pushed a little harder. "Dig deep, dig deep" was my mantra. I felt slightly nauseous but was focused by this point. The finish line! Hit the stop button on my Garmin. Glance at it. Grin. A new PB of 55:43! My previous official 10km PB was around the 57 minute mark with an unofficial PB of 55:59 at Equinox24 two years back.
The face of a new PB holder
I collected my (gorgeous) medal, water, soreen mini loaf, water bottle and packet of crisps and waited to see Nikki over the line. The two of us then wandered back to join Cathy cheer everyone else through. We missed Clare but saw Charlotte come through looking really strong to earn herself a new PB too. The collective all through, we meandered back through the race village (we may have snaffled some more crisps on the way) stopping by the ice cream van, as is a tradition of mine. So engrossed were we with chat and iced treats that we almost forgot about collecting bags. Ours were the last in the bag drop - sorry Mr Attendant!!
Raspberry ripple, vanilla and rum & raisin were the flavours of choice
I rarely run with others and it's an even rare occasion that I go to races with others but I now realise what I've been missing. It was brilliant to share our successes with each other, to have the support and friendship. Even better to be able to support these ladies, who I've seen develop in ability and confidence with their running. I feel privileged to be able to call them friends too.
Of course company can often make or break an event but even if I hadn't been in such great company I know I would still be writing a very positive review of this race. I can't think of anything I'd change in the organisation, I enjoyed the course (bar lack of spectators but that can't really be helped) and thought that forgoing traditional goody bags in favour of the edible treats was a good choice, especially as the snacks were exactly the sort of thing that is useful at the end of a run. It was excellent value too, £19 unaffiliated, £17 affiliated and £25 on the day. A technical t-shirt was extra but was available in male and female fit, in a choice of two colours and a range of sizes. I don't say this often but I would definitely enter this again.

Have you ever surprised yourself with a PB? What's one race you would run again without hesitation?

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