My Leigh 10k Experience

My Leigh 10k Experience by Diane Hill

Sunday 13th August, 6:30 am Alarm Call can only mean one thing – Race Day. For me it wasn’t just any Race Day, it was my first as a Wigan Harrier, my first 10k since Wigan 10k 2014; it was a big day for me.

I don’t normally take on food before running, but I wanted to give myself the best opportunity to run my best time. So, wholemeal bread toasted with Peanut Butter (organic Meridian) with a Banana would be a good choice.

7:30am soon came around and it was time to hit the road, dressed ready to go – Harriers Vest proudly worn, my husband took control of the driving and off we set. Arriving in Leigh at just after 8am, the venue was in full swing setting up and the registration tent was open. I nervously went over to collect my race pack, number 215 took pride of place on my vest, timing chip placed around my ankle, off I set in search of fellow Harriers and a friendly face to try and calm my nerves.

First faces spotted – Sam, Tony, Lynne & Stephen, all offering wise words on how best to manage the race. I had it set in my head that I needed to achieve less than 1 Hour. Telling myself that 59:59 would make me happy. I’ve done 3 10k’s, times getting worse, first 1 Hour 4, second 1 Hour 8 and final one 1 Hour 12, so to set myself under 1 Hour was a big ask.

9:10 am – Lynne suggested we start making our way over to the start and do a brief warm up. Off we went, Tony encouraging us to do a brief run to warm up the legs – I’m glad we did, sound advice. In the back ground could hear Luke Marsden (ex Big Brother contestant) doing his bit on Stage for Wish FM to rally the troops up to the start. I had decided to set myself amongst the 55 Min marker to give me a chance (sound advice from Sam).

9:30 am – Count Down begins and boom off we go. Three laps of Leigh, 10k, 6.2 Miles and we’re off. The first lap was a short lap, no hills – traffic management was obviously going to be an issue as some motorist already complaining to the marshals with 541 runners coming at them. It also became apparent that the sun beaming down was getting warmer. The support around the course was great, the leighers giving their encouragement. Lap 1 completed, it was then onto the longer 2nd lap. At this stage the 5k marker couldn’t come soon enough – water was definitely needed. The sun was getting warmer and my mouth was really beginning to dry out. Water station in sight, bottle was grabbed and water taken on. Just further up, I could hear familiar voices, Jayne and Dave cheering on, this spurred me on – just what I needed to give me the boost to get me moving again, I asked Jayne if the 55 min marker was still behind me in case I missed him passing me, he was which gave me hope that under an hour was still possible. Shortly after, the crowd at the start came into sight for the 2nd time and it was on to the final lap. Within seconds of passing, I heard Luke’s voice announcing the first runner was about to cross the finish line….. My stomach dropped, first runner back and I’m just starting the 3rd lap and my hope disappeared as the 55 minute marker passes me. At this stage I felt I had gone out to quick in the first few miles. My in-experience was starting to show. Positive thoughts needed to get me through the last few miles. I just thought, get to the water station, take on some water and nail the last part of the race. Water station in sight, unfortunately no water, not what I wanted to see. Anyway – just a little further up, the support from Jayne and Dave gave me the much needed boost yet again and I had the knowledge knowing the finish line was in sight. A quick glimpse of my watch gave me hope that my sub 60 minute 10k was still in reach, I then remembered something Jayne said at one of the Tuesday night Haigh sessions – it’s not your body that says you can’t do this, it’s your head. So I gave myself a good talking too and knuckled down. Eventually the finish line came into the view, the crowd clapping and cheering. Adrenalin kicked in and my stride instantly picked up – I heard a member of the crowd shout go on girl, good strong finish – this spurred me on and boom – finish line, crossed, watch stopped!

First Harrier I saw was Sam and he asked how I did, I looked at the time when I crossed the finish line and hoped for 57-58 minutes. All the other Harriers where very supportive and asked how I felt it had gone. I was feeling great, extremely warm, a litre of much needed water was consumed. Then, a proud moment – a group picture.

I couldn’t wait to get home and connected my watch to see what Strava had recorded. I was completely floored with the 56:10 it flashed before my eyes. I thought can’t be right, I doubted myself. Official Chip time appeared – 56:11.

All the months of training, encouragement from Jayne and all the other Harriers have paid off. Now to improve – Wigan 10k next and looking to go for 55 Minutes (or under).

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Lakeland 50…. a few big hills.

With just a month’s recovery from Mont Blanc, we headed to Coniston for the 10th Anniversary of the Lakeland 50 / 100. It was the 3rd time I’d been here but the 1st time as a competitor, so this time I was more nervous than ever. We had brought my mum (Ann) and her husband (Nigel) along as our support crew and also to provide us with a lift from Coniston to the start at Dalemain.

We arrived in Coniston mid afternoon on the Friday and checked into the Black Bull pub. We headed straight for registration which involved kit check, tagging and a body weight check. I was glad that others looked as apprehensive as me and there was lots of moaning and grumbling about the weather. Warren kept telling me not to listen as the weather was perfect, if the rain held off and it stayed overcast it was far better than racing in the blazing sun. He’s not wrong, the sun was so hot at Mont Blanc by mid day and I certainly didn’t fancy those conditions for almost a double marathon distance. We kept up with tradition having a meal on the Friday night at the Steam Bistro which is a must for anyone staying in Coniston, but you do have to book and remember to take your own ale. Then it was back to the Black Bull for a night cap, a double Bushmills Whiskey each (again a tradition) before getting an early night.

Race morning brought an 8:30am to 9am briefing and Marc was on top form as usual expelling any nerves that all us competitors may have had. It was then a quick breakfast before Ann and Nigel transported us to the start at the Dalemain Estate, which is the 50 mile point of the Lakeland 100. With about 15 minutes to go everyone begins to move into the start pen, dibbing in as they enter. We did our usual manoeuvre to the front and with a brief countdown we were off. As it’s actually just 46 miles from the start to the finish line the 50 mile race has to start with a 4 mile loop of the Estate, which at this point was in the rain. We had put our waterproof jackets on just before the start and before we had finished the loop, the jackets off and back in our packs. From that point on we never needed to get them out again as the weather stayed overcast which made perfect running conditions throughout.

There was some pretty quick runnable miles at the start, with a few inclines but nothing major before the first checkpoint at Howtown Bobbin Mill. Just as we approached the first checkpoint Warren felt the need to point out our first climb. I don’t think my face looked too impressed which resulted in a quick reassuring response. I was not ready to kill him just yet!

The climb up Fusedale was relentless and over a mile in long. Once at the top Warren exclaimed “you did it’” he also informed me that none of the climbs to come would be that bad. Yes climbs to come, because Warren has always made sure I’m prepared for a race and that I never underestimate what I’m about to take on. He had the experience and the knowledge and so I was well aware that there is a climb out of everyone of the 6 checkpoints of the Lakeland 50. At the top of Fusedale is High Cop which was a very boggy run along the top. Given the fact that it had been raining for near enough the last 48 hours, most of the Lakeland 50 course was wet and boggy under foot.

From High Cop the course descends through some high bracken down to Haweswater Reservoir and even on an overcast day you can feel the temperature rising. The high bracken made the descent difficult as we couldn’t see the ground in front of us and this is were I took my first tumble. 16 miles in and I fall head first and manage to roll over off the track in a somersault manner and disappear into the bracken. Warren had to come and rescue me and pull me back onto my feet. To be fair for any of you that have read my previous off road race blogs, 16 miles before I fall is a bloody good achievement, as I can fall in a 5 mile fell race. I had a few more stumbles along the way to Mardalehead but nothing that caused me to hit the deck again. However just before checkpoint 2 it was Warren’s turn, going up to his waist in a bog that I had somehow managed to avoid. He ended up with mud all over his head and a cut to is finger, that I never heard the last of for next 30 miles, so you can guess how many times it was brought up.

Out of checkpoint 2 at Mardalehead is a further climb up Gatescarth Pass and then a decent at which point we were 22 miles in. Here I had my first and thankfully for Warren my last head wobble and it was a big one. I know that I was whinging a lot at this point and I thought that I was going a lot slower than I actually was. I felt that I was letting Warren down, I knew he had said before that we could do this race in 12 and 1/2 hours but I wasn’t feeling that this was possible. I was not going to give up but just didn’t think the goal was achievable. Warren gave me a BIG HUG and told me that we were smashing it and doing brilliantly and just needed to keep going, so I took a few seconds, composed myself and we had another jog. Then there was another climb just before the Kentemere checkpoint which Warren had apparently forgotten about. I can assure everyone it’s not something I will ever forget about.

Checkpoint 3 at Kentmere was time for the port-a-loo and time to take off and empty my right shoe of a stone that had been irritating me for miles. Drinks bottles filled again and yet more cheese sandwiches as we were now on our way to Ambleside. On the way we spoke to another competitor and he said “this is a nasty little climb,” ahh yes check point equals climb and I think I muttered something under my breathe along the lines of “when is there not a bloody climb.” Eventually we got to checkpoint 4 at Ambleside. From here I knew the way, having recced this part of the course for the last 3 years and yes I’m a lunatic, I’ve recced the course when I wasn’t even doing the event. No, but seriously though, I love the route from Ambleside to Coniston and I think anyone who wants to do a long trail run should give it a go. It’s not easy but the scenery along the way is marvellous. Once I had got to Ambleside I said to Warren, “now I know I can finish this race.”

We headed out of Ambleside upwards, obviously and then back down to Skelwith Bridge, along to Elterwater and onto Chapel Stile checkpoint. Once at checkpoint 5 it was time for yes you may have guessed it already, more cheese sandwiches and cola. From Chapel Stile the route is runnable along a track and across 3 fields before a steep nasty little climb up to the top of Side Pike Pass. Then it’s a lovely run across the road and down past Blea Tarn. Here it becomes more technical, as we navigated our way past Blea Moor by keeping the high ground and bypassing the bogs. At this point I found myself leading a group of about 6 runners who weren’t all that sure but I was determined to get across to the unmanned Wrynose dibing point before it went dark.

The decent on the road down Wrynose Pass is quite steep and thigh shattering after the previous 45 miles. Then at the bottom the route goes right and back off road for more climbing during which the head torches needed to come out. As we hit near the top of the climb I was unnerved to look up and see bulls at each side of the path, so much so I almost stopped dead in my tracks but carried on when Warren went past me. The route then goes down to a farm and along the road to the final checkpoint at Tilberthwaite. Yes you’ve guessed it to my sheer delight and thrill, more cheese sandwiches and cola.

On leaving Tilberthwaite there is the smallest but most definitely the steepest climb of the day, were at points you are literally scrambling. however it then becomes runnable along the top until we reached The Tree – the one that comes out of the rocks and at which, Warren and I stop at every time we do a reccy. We have a number of photos at this tree. No time for photos this time, just time to push on up the last steady incline before the final descent into Coniston.

We rounded the corner to see the Black Bull and to my amazement the pub was still open and people were still gathered outside. Even better, Ann and Nigel were hanging out of their window cheering us on over the last few hundred meters. When we had planned this race I had told them that we would be back in the early hours of the morning and that they could go to bed and we would see them at breakfast. I was so elated to know that they had seen me finish. At this point Warren said we needed to put it in as we could run sub 11:45 and spared on by the support of Ann, Nigel and everyone else still out in Coniston I pushed for the finish.

We dibbed in at the finish line at John Ruskin School in 11:43:36 and were instructed that we could get something to eat and drink. I believe my words were “please, no more cheese or cola for as long as I live,” but thankfully they were not on offer. We collected our medals and t-shirts and sat down for some chilli and rice before heading back and collapsing in bed.

This was the hardest and longest day I have ever done in a pair of running shoes. My feet were wet from start to finish and I have never eaten so many sandwiches or consumed so much sugar in one day, but I would not change a single thing. We passed so many 100 runners during this race and every time we gave them a cheer because I take my hat off to them. I now know how hard the 50 race is and the 100 is something I don’t think I could do and after seeing them nor would I want to do it. They say that the back 50 miles of the 100 race is the easiest part and I think I would be happy never experiencing the hard part. I swore never again and asked that Warren not even mention the Lakeland 50, however, this did not last long as it took just 5 days before we booked the Black Bull for next year and I cant wait!