"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Weston Christmas Cracker 10k - December 2018

It seems like ages since I turned up at a road race intending to run flat out. Although I call it a road race, the Weston course has changed over the years and is now around 6k of beach and 4k of road - well, it seems that way at least. To be frank, wet sand was preferable for me to hard road, as I had very little mileage and even less quality mileage behind me when I arrived at the start. My achilles was tender but not likely to flare up - just grumbling as it almost always does. My calves were co-operating and my general fitness was good. I set myself the target of running a NPW - Not my Personal Worst - which meant I would be shooting for anything under 42.30, my ropey time 18 years before in the same race (aged 32).

The crowd was growing as I dropped off some triathlon flyers at race HQ and started my warmup on the prom and then the beach - all in all close to 2000 would start the race which is pretty epic for a town the size of Weston - flat and scenic 10k just before Christmas is clearly a winning formula. Kokila was aiming to walk/jog the race because of her foot injury so her warmup consisted, wisely, of staying in race HQ until the last minute then starting near the back of the pack. I managed 22 minutes of jogging before I lined up directly under the pier, just a few yards back from the timing mat, where I was able to meditate surprisingly deeply amid the swirling noise of hundreds of runners preparing to give everything in 10k of racing.

I came back to my senses as the countdown started from 10 to GO, everyone under the pier joining in with the announcer, noticing that my feet were sinking into the wet sand, then I pulled my usual trick of running too fast for the first KM. I always do this so I suppose you could say the race was going to plan. The sand was wetter than I remembered it from previous races and there was plenty of spray and sand thrown up by the thousands of feet pounding the beach - a wind was blowing in off the sea which was lively, kicking up frothy brown waves in the surf. It was great to be racing.

KM 1 came in 4.05, not a pace I could sustain, so I throttled back a little but I've no idea whether or not I actually slowed down as I'd set my watch up wrongly and couldn't see the total race time on it - only the split. It was too confusing to fix mid race so I ran by feel and it actually worked out OK. After 2 lengths of the beach with a hard run along the prom in between, I came to the half way water station where we hit the road. Instantly solid ground felt faster but at the same time my speed endurance was ebbing away because of the unsustainable speed I'd started out at - probably half way between my 5k pace and 10k pace. The road swung round a bend in the shadow of Uphill Church, perched dramatically on a rock overlooking the course. Then came residential streets where we took any line we wanted through the road or pavement and ran in a long arc that seemed to last for an age. KM markers came and went and in the intensity of the race with time not seeming to move at it's usual speed I struggled to remember to offer gratitude as I passed each one. I couldn't really work out if I was on schedule or not - then I hit the beach for the final push and realised I was on target for my 42-something finish. With the pier in sight I was able to let everything go and run in nicely to a time of 42.10 on the watch / 42.04 chip-to-chip. More than happy with that! I had to concentrate hard in the chute to avoid retching and let the waves of nausea subside, so the effort level at the end was right at least.

Despite the epic fail of my race watch (user error) I don't think I could have paced it better.

Kokila exceeded her expectations - I'd passed her at the half way mark and seen her concentrating intently but she hadn't spotted me - she came in with several hundred runners behind her and a time some minutes faster than she'd hoped for. Pretty awesome for a run/walk on an injured foot - I guess the sandy course worked well for her too.

I was 51st out of 1770 finishers, 7th vet 50+.

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