Those of you who have been paying attention, will know that I have set myself a challenge for 2018 – to run ten 10k races for my chosen charity, Kidscan (they’re a children’s cancer charity based in Salford, and you should definitely check out the hard work they do here: www.kidscan.org.uk).
Now, my plan is to write a blog entry about each race, but if it gets to the point where I have nothing interesting to say about a particular event, that plan may change. I am only too aware how boring running blogs can be – because proper runners are, by and large, extremely dull people – but I am anything but a proper runner, so we should be fine.
If you’re reading this hoping for an in-depth analysis of a 10k race, with detailed course descriptions, training regimes and meal plans, then jog on (pun intended). If, however, you are the sort of person who revels in another human being’s misery, as he drags his middle-aged carcass around a running circuit, before collapsing in a sweaty broken heap (and I know you are), then by all means proceed.
Fortunately, my first 10k for this challenge was at Oulton Park a couple of weeks ago, and this is not only an interesting setting for a race, but there were a few moments which I feel are worth sharing. That said, I am constantly monitoring the stats for my blog, and if these running entries start to prove unpopular at any point, then… nah, fuck it, I’m writing them anyway.
By dedicating an entry to each event, I am hoping to compare and rate them all, for future generations of out-of-shape sloths to learn from.
For those of you who have never heard of Oulton Park, it is a motor racing circuit in the heart of Cheshire, and, since one lap is approximately two miles long (well, it is if you cut the loop around the lake out – which was the organisers idea, by the way, before you assume I cheated), it lends itself rather well to a 10k event.
By moving the start line a few hundred yards on from the usual motor racing grid, runners can complete just under three laps of the track, before cutting in to the pit lane for a sprint across the finish line. How very exciting. And, by ‘exciting’, I do of course mean ‘dull and exhausting’.
You see, having never been to Oulton Park before, I was under the impression the course would be relatively flat – thanks, in no small part, to the organisers describing the course as ‘relatively flat’. This, to an inexperienced (and not very good) runner, is about the best news you can receive – short of discovering there is a lap dancing tent at the finish line.
What I now know, and what most experienced 10k runners almost certainly know already, is that race organisers are to the running world, what estate agents are to the property market: lying bastards. For example, if an estate agent describes a particular room as ‘compact’, it generally means you would struggle to house the family guinea pig in there. Equally, if an estate agent tells you the house you are viewing is ‘convenient for trains’, it would probably be a good idea to double-check that the proposed HS2 route isn’t going to pass right through your new back garden.
By the time I had completed my first lap, I had formed the opinion that 10k event organisers are most likely estate agents during the week, because it turned out that, when they described the Oulton Park circuit as ‘relatively flat’, with ‘slight undulations’, what they actually meant was ‘there are points on the track where you may want to hire some climbing equipment, and perhaps employ a fucking sherpa’.
For example, there was one particular incline on the circuit (I forget the name), where I swear there was a base camp situated half way up, for those with altitude sickness to get some much-needed medical attention. It was ridiculously steep.
What made matters worse, was that I knew I had to do two more laps of the circuit before crossing the finish line, so I had to psychologically prepare myself to run up the equivalent of Ben Nevis twice more, knowing I would be more and more exhausted each time I faced it.
I suspect, if I hadn’t set myself a series of targets for this challenge, and if I were not doing this for charity, I may very well have walked some of the Oulton Park 10k; but I was determined not to let anyone down. My targets – other than raising at least £1,000 for Kidscan – are, in decreasing order of importance, as follows:
Target 1: To run all ten events, without stopping or walking at any point;
Target 2: To finish all ten events in under fifty minutes;
Target 3: To finish in the top third of all entrants;
Target 4: To not cry or shit myself.
Targets 1 and 2 are very important to me. I must run all ten events, and I am desperate to do them in under fifty minutes. I would like to finish in the top third each time, but won’t lose any sleep if I don’t. If I cry or shit myself, well, so be it.
Fortunately, I am off to a good start, in that I completed the Oulton Park event without stopping, in a time of 49:11, finishing 65th out of 255 runners (so, for those who struggle with maths, the top third was anything higher than 85th place). Also, I didn’t cry, or – to my knowledge – shit myself.
All in all, a good day at the races (again, pun intended), and even I have to admit the sprint finish down the pit lane, with the crowd cheering all the runners on, was pretty special (although my euphoria was primarily down to the realisation the race was mercifully over).
The Pit Lane
I did say at the start of this entry, however, that I wanted to compare all of the 10k events I am doing this year, in a series of important categories. Therefore, here is my first review:
Position: 65th (out of 255)
Cost: £25.00 (the most expensive event I have entered – so far)
And now for the ratings…
Course: Not as flat as I would have liked (and as promised), and not particularly scenic, but definitely unique, the ground was obviously nice and smooth, and it was impossible to get lost 6/10
Weather: Thankfully dry, but very windy, and freezing cold (around 1°c) 3/10
Organisation: Pretty good. Plenty of pre-race details, well-organised on the day, and my only complaint was the rushed start with little warning 7/10
Official Photos: Plenty of them (even though I look dreadful in most – here’s a selection) 7/10
Medal: Made of metal, solid looking, and stylish. An impressive 8/10
Goody-bag: Well, there wasn’t one really. At the Sandbach 10k last September, we got given drinks bottles and a funny hat thing (one of which leaks, and the other makes me look like a twat), but in place of this we were handed a rather fetching t-shirt, and I would far sooner wear that. Lovely. 8/10
Post-race refreshment: A mixed bag here. On the one hand, I was approached by a lady just after I had finished the race, who offered me a bottle of water and some whey protein powder to put into it.
I was immediately apprehensive, having never tried whey protein before, and when I heard her say there were two flavours, one of which was ‘strawberry’, I decided I would opt for the alternative (even though I hadn’t heard the end of what she said). For some reason, the prospect of strawberry-flavoured protein water made my stomach churn, and I firmly believed the second option must be preferable.
I was wrong.
In case you cannot make that out, the alternative flavour was ‘birthday cake’. Needless to say, the pack remains unopened in our kitchen.
On the other hand, shortly after discovering I was now the proud owner of vomit-inducing birthday cake mixture in a packet, the Oulton Park organisers redeemed themselves with the sort of delights a pretentious pop singer might request in their rider: trays of jaffa cakes and jelly babies. Ok, Isaac stole the three jaffa cakes I grabbed for myself, so I never got to enjoy their orangey-goodness, but fair play, Oulton Park, fair play indeed. 7/10
Course – 6/10
Weather – 3/10
Photos – 7/10
Medal – 8/10
Goody-bag – 8/10
Refreshments – 7/10
All of which gives the Oulton Park 10k a grand total of 46/70 (or 66%, if you prefer).
Not the best of scores, but the weather really let them down. You could argue this wasn’t really their fault, but you have to bear in mind that they chose to organise the event in February, so what did they expect?
Next up, is the Arley Hall 10k tomorrow morning. If you’d like to keep closer track on my progress, or make a little donation, the full details of my challenge are here:
Thanks for reading.