With a brand new pair of toxic yellow racing shoes on I headed for Preston full of optimism for a new 10 mile PB. It wasnt just the couple of ounces saved in my lightweight New Balance that fuelled this confidence, but also the fact that I had set my current time over 2 years ago on this very course. The 1:23:30 I set back then was good at the time, but after training with the Harriers over the intevening period it would have been very dissapointing not to knock a good few minutes off.
The Preston 10 was apparently once known locally as the Preston 9 n half due to the number of people who ran a PB on its fast 2 lap course. This also fuelled rumours that it was a short course. When I last ran it in 2010 a cock up with the marshalling on the first lap had it most definitely long. After being robbed of a sub 1:40 time a couple of weeks ago by a similar cock up at the Guild Half, I felt the town of Preston owed me a couple of hundred metres anyway!
The threatened cold front hadn’t materialised by Sunday morning and clear sunsine soon melted the early frosts. After a brief warm up I ditched the thermal layers and went for the full “man-suit” kit of shorts and Harriers vest only. The race had chip timing this year which alleviated the usual fretting about how far up the pack to be positioned before the start. Even so, I could probably have pushed a bit further up as the first few hundred metres suffered from a little congestion. This years 10 miler had been incorporated into the Guild Series of 5k, 10k, Half/full Marathon so that runners who completed all 4 events were awarded with a special T-shirt and medal. No doubt this had added a few numbers to an already popular race so that over 600 hundred set off.
I found myself passing quite a few runners in the first mile or so, and steadily moved up the field as the race wore on. My target pace was 7:30min miling pace to bring me home in 1:15. This was an quite optimistic target roughly based on doubling the 5 mile time recorded during my recent 10k pb. It was failry ambitious to plan on matching my 10k time and carrying on for another 4 miles at the same pace, and I would have been fairly happy with 1:16ish.
I struggled to find a consistent speed oer the first few miles and seemed to be most comfortable at about 7:15 pace. I worried for the first 5 miles if I would be able to maintain this speed given it was faster than 10k pb miling. With the first lap over I decided to ignore the Garmin and just run as hard as I felt I could sustain.
This course is about as flat as you will find in this part of the world, although it does have a few gentle undulations. On the first lap these are barely noticeble, but on lap 2 you do begin to feel the pull uphill to the start of the 2 mile dual carriageway stretch. On largely open roads we were relying on the marsahlls to keep the flow of the race going, and they did a superb job of keeping us race-focussed runners safe at the few places where cars need to cross our path.
By 7 miles a number of people had started coming back to me, and I found myself catching up with and tucking in behind a pack of about 5 club vests. Suddenly it became a race rather than a time trial! We all seemed to be pushing ourselves at around the same pace and so I indulged in a bit of drafting for half a mile or so before a guy in a red top made a break for it and opened up a gap. I thought about going with him but his sudden increase in speed was too fast for me. At about 8 miles another runner made his move and this time I went with him and we steadily dropped the group.
Half a mile later he seemd to run out of steam and I drifted past him. The guy in the red top began coming back to me too, and we were soon side by side when he asked what time I was aiming for. I had no breath left for a chat, glimpsed at my watch and just shook my head as I realised I hadn’t set it to show me the elapsed time. I knew I had to be on course for my A target but had no idea how close it was.
Into the final mile and Imade my move. I used a tactic I’d read in Charlies Speddings’ book about speeding up at water stations, and chose a point where the course turns sharp left to put in a surge and break away from the guy in red, (thanks for the loan of the book Kev!). It worked, and with a final surge I was running alone up the last incline and trying desperately to find some kind of sprint finish as we turned towards the school.
The crumbly concrete on the last 150 metres is cruel to tired legs and I felt myself wobble a bit as I ran for the line; there was no sprint left in me, and I didnt even have the energy for my usual “celebrate like you won it”. I caught a glimpse of the clock as I crossed the line but it seemed to be broken. It was just ticking past 1:12:37. Oddly enough this was the same time my Garmin said. I took a few moments of wondering how they could both have gone wrong before it filtered into my head that I had slightly smashed my target time. Thats when the “celebrate like I won it” silliness began!
The official results pinned up in the school later confirmed a chip time of 1:12:27 and 132nd place overall from 659 finishers. The last two races in Preston have granted me 2 PBs this past month. I was beginning to regret not signing up to the whole Guild series, particularly when I spotted the quite snazzy medal handed out to those who ran all 4 races, (I do like a nice medal). The only problem I have now is how to top that at the Guys 10 in a couple of weeks!