Run FatBlog Run (Sandbach)

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Last Sunday morning, I ran the Sandbach 10k for the second time, despite saying at the finish line last year that I would never run another 10k in my life.

Of course, since then I have decided to run ten such races this year, all in aid of my chosen charity (Kidscan), and Sandbach was number seven on the list. The finish line is therefore very much in sight.

Technically, this was supposed to be race number eight, but ever since I had to walk part of the Tatton 10k in May, I have been kicking myself (not literally), because the challenge was to actually run ten races. To me, walking during one of them – even if only for a few minutes – felt like cheating.

So, even though I had the valid excuse of being scared shitless that I would end up in hospital again if I pushed too hard (and, if you don’t know what I mean by that, have a read here: https://middlerageddad.com/2018/04/13/run-fatblog-run-whitchurch/), and despite the fact my wife asked me not to, I have re-entered the Tatton 10k for next month in order to make amends.

As it happens – and rather fortuitously – Tatton is the only event that I can do again (because it is held monthly, whereas the rest of my races are annual); and since the friend who was due to run it with me originally had to pull out due to injury, but has been able to transfer his place, I have an added incentive to try again. Let’s just hope I can run it all (and finish under fifty minutes) this time, otherwise I’ll be tempted to take part in November (and, if necessary, December), until I get it right.

Anyway, last weekend was all about my home town of Sandbach, which is where my hatred of 10k races began last September. Whilst I still despise running, and feel sick in the days leading up to a race, I wasn’t as apprehensive of this particular event for two main reasons:

  1. I have run it before, so I knew the route, and that I was capable of completing it;
  2. For the first time on this challenge (after my mate had to drop out of the Tatton 10k in May) I had a running buddy, as my brother was taking part to support me.

Initially, when he first entered the Sandbach 10k a few months ago, my brother made his intentions very clear – he wanted to beat me. And, after only a month or so of training, having not really run long distances before, it looked very much like he would, as he was completing a few miles at a decent pace. However, when he didn’t run at all in the three months leading up to last Sunday, and confessed his plan was to simply ‘wing it’, I did begin to worry for him slightly.

Then, when the race instructions arrived last week, informing us that the timing chips would be fastened to our laces (rather than our running numbers), his plan apparently changed from finishing faster than me, to simply staying close enough to be able to remove his shoe and launch it past me at the finish line.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my scores:

Time: 48:45 (which, if we ignore Whitchurch – where I ran too fast and collapsed – is a PB)

Position: 90th (out of 368)

Cost: £16.00 – which is not only one of the cheapest events, but very good value bearing in mind what we got for our money.

Course: I don’t know whether it’s because some of the courses since last year’s Sandbach 10k have been horrible, or that my memory has softened over time, but I genuinely remembered the Sandbach route being relatively flat – apart from the railway bridge you encounter twice:

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It’s steeper than it looks

Unfortunately, I was mistaken, because whilst there weren’t too many steep climbs, the course was far more ‘undulating’ (which is seemingly 10k speak for ‘fucking hilly’) than I remembered.

Having said that, the route was all on decent roads (apart from the few potholes the organisers had thoughtfully stuck traffic cones in to warn us); the countryside scenery was pleasant (if a little dull, and, at one point, smelling of shit – which I assure you was the farm we were passing at the time, and not me); and it was a relatively straight-forward circuit..

Each kilometre was clearly marked, there were marshals at key points (although I could have done without every child being offered an annoying cow bell to ring as we went past), and the final straight offered a nice little sprint finish for those with any energy left – 8/10

Weather: Fortunately, the rain which had been forecast for most of the morning (and which was certainly coming down while we registered), stopped just as we headed to the start line, and the entire race – for us at least – was in sunshine. Ok, it was a little windy (again, not me), but otherwise the weather was spot on – 9/10

Organisation: There was no fancy pre-race instruction pack this time, but the e-mail which came through last week contained all of the information we required, and crucially made no reference to banning headphones (which, had the organisers done so, may very well have seen my brother drop out in protest).

Registration on the day was well organised, if a little cramped – which unfortunately led to me losing my timing chip with about ten minutes to go (many naughty words followed, but we located it just in time).

The results were also a little late being posted online, so even though the organisation was generally very good, I’ll mark Sandbach down a little for that (whilst giving an extra point for allowing us to wear headphones) – 8/10

Official Photos: The race photos were again courtesy of Bryan Dale, whose website I am fast becoming familiar with, but unfortunately ‘fast’ doesn’t describe the uploading of them, as they didn’t start appearing until yesterday. Still, they were entirely free to download and keep, without any irritating copyright watermarks printed across them, so I can’t complain. Here are the ones I appeared in:

8/10

I’ll also give credit to my good lady wife, for snapping the following additions (including capturing my sprint finish past three runners just before the line):

Medal: A little plain, and I am (probably irrationally) irked by the splitting of ‘Sandbach’ as though it is two separate words – however it is solid, good quality, and a nice little addition to my ever-growing collection – 7/10

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(This is the organisers photo, I don’t have five medals)

Goody-bag: I’m torn here, because normally when there is a good quality running shirt for all finishers, the goody bag is always minimal (or, in some cases – Birchwood, for example – non-existent).

I should, therefore, be grateful that we were at least given a carrier bag of ‘treats’, but because these were supplied by the two main sponsors, who happened to be a salt company (bag of salt), and bakery (loaf of bread), they weren’t exactly what I fancied having just run six-and-a-bit miles. Salty sandwich, anyone?

In fairness, we also got a chocolate bar, which I would normally be delighted with, but it was a Bounty (and, as everyone knows, Bounty is at the lower end of the chocolate league, along with Lion bars and Double Deckers). I mean, full marks for the gesture, Sandbach, but next year might I suggest sponsorship from a local brewery and chip shop?

Anyway, the shirt – whilst the same colour as the Alderley Edge one – is very nice indeed (despite splitting Sandbach into two words again) – 7/10

Post-race refreshment: This comprised the customary bottle of water, and a banana (which I gave to my niece, as I don’t like bananas). Ok, I could have made myself a salty banana sandwich (which sounds like a euphemism for something kinky), but in the end I decided not to bother – 6/10

Summary:

Course: 8/10

Weather: 9/10

Organisation: 8/10

Photos: 8/10

Medal: 7/10

Goody-bag: 7/10

Refreshments: 6/10

All of which means, we have a new leader:

Sandbach                            53/70                     (76%)

Colshaw Hall                      52/70                     (74%)

Alderley Edge                     51/70                     (73%)

Birchwood                          49/70                     (70%)

Whitchurch:                       49/70                     (70%)

Tatton Park:                        47/70                     (67%)

Oulton Park:                       46/70                     (66%)

Poynton:                              39/70                     (56%)

Sandbach is now my favourite 10k so far (although I use the term ‘favourite’ loosely, since I detest all running), and bearing in mind I only have Tatton – which I have already completed once – Arley Hall and Wilmslow remaining, this score will take some beating.

If you have read and enjoyed this entry, and would care to sponsor me, here is a link to my Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/greg10x10k

(Yes, Isaac is dressed as Santa)

Finally, since I suspect many won’t bother reading this entry to the end (if at all), and as a reward for those who have persevered, I’ll let you into a little (embarrassing) secret….

Once I got home following the run, I went for a shower, and decided to test the fancy ‘post-exercise muscle-cooling’ shower gel that my wife bought for me recently. Without going into too much detail (although I fear I may), by the time I realised the true strength of the gel, I had already applied copious amounts to my body – including my ‘gentleman’s region’.

I regretted my decision almost immediately, as my reaction quickly progressed from ‘Ooh, that’s a bit tingly’, to ‘Jesus Christ, that’s cold’, and finally ‘WHAT IN THE NAME OF HOLY FUCK IS HAPPENING TO MY GENITALS?!’ in a matter of seconds.

For want of a better description, it was like someone had cryogenically (or cryogenitally) frozen my penis from the inside out. It wasn’t painful, as such, but I did fear that the effects may be permanent, and I would be pissing icicles for the rest of my living days. Honestly, it was like I was sporting a Mr Freeze Ice Pop down there.

Fortunately, after a great deal of scrubbing, normal service has been resumed.

wow GIF by Call of Duty World League

And, on that bombshell….

Thanks for reading x

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On Your Marks, Get Set, Blog!

Run Fatboy Run

Last Sunday, I (stupidly) took part in the annual ‘Sandbach 10k’, despite the fact that, not only had I never run a 10k race before, but I had never run 10k before.

When I first signed up for the event a few months ago (following a nudge from my darling wife), the furthest I had managed to run was around three miles. Nevertheless, in a moment of bold impetuousness one morning, I suddenly found myself forking out £16, for the privilege of attempting to run more than twice that distance (10k = 6.2 miles), without embarrassing myself.

So, over the last few months, I have tried to run at least twice a week, gradually increasing my distance on each occasion, whilst honing my physical fitness (from ‘very out of shape’ to ‘mildly out of shape’).

I’d love to paint the picture of a Rocky-esque montage, culminating in me running up some steps and celebrating at the top, but the truth is I spluttered my way through four miles, then four-and-a-half, and finally five miles, before eventually running out of time (excuse the pun).

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Still, I kept telling myself that it was ‘only another mile’, and I slowly began to believe that I could at least complete the distance – the problem was, I had no idea whether I would also achieve a respectable time.

I therefore decided to grade my expectations of the race, by creating a list of possible outcomes – ranging from most pleasing, to most disappointing (whilst all remaining realistic, since there was no point expecting to finish anywhere near the front):

Level Outcome Satisfaction
1 Run it all – under 45 minutes Ecstatic
2 Run it all – under 50 minutes Delighted
3 Run it all – under 55 minutes Pleased
4 Run it all – under an hour Relieved
5 Run it all – over an hour Acceptable
6 Have to stop and walk for a bit Disappointed
7 Get a stitch, walk majority Gutted
8 Fail to finish Devastated
9 Fail to finish and require paramedic Embarrassed
10 Develop stomach cramps, have to ‘Paula Radcliffe’ it by the side of the road, end up stretchered past crowds, crying, covered in own shit Mortified

Before I knew it, race day had arrived.

Feeling incredibly sick with nerves, I collected my running number, delicately attached it to my top (the last thing I needed at this stage, was to reveal my 10k virginity by lancing my nipple with a safety pin), then joined the other three hundred runners at the start.

I decided that, if I (optimistically) wanted to finish in the top one hundred, I should place myself about a third of the way back in the crowd, and then make sure I stayed in roughly the same position throughout the race.

However, as I stood there, two lithe gentlemen to my right began discussing their own personal targets, and when one said he was hoping to finish under forty minutes, and in the top twenty, I realised I was out of my depth. So, whistling under my breath, I took several steps backwards through the crowd, until I overheard a couple of middle-aged ladies discussing how they hoped they wouldn’t throw up. Ah, these were more my people.

When the race started (somewhat haphazardly, because the Mayor couldn’t get the sodding airhorn to work), I set off at what I hoped was a decent pace. After all, I didn’t want to be immediately left behind, but I also didn’t want to exhaust myself, by trying to keep up with the leaders.

Thankfully, the organisers had marked each kilometre with a bright orange sign, so when I got to the ‘1km’ post, I quickly checked my trusty Casio (look, it’s a classic, and a steal at £7) – it was showing a little over four minutes. Shit. I mean, I was pleased with that time, but I was aiming to do each kilometre in around five minutes, and felt pretty certain I couldn’t keep that sort of pace going for another nine kilometres.

Sure enough, by the time I reached 2km, my legs were already hurting, and I was breathing hard. I had fully prepared myself to ‘hit a wall’ at some point (metaphorically speaking), but didn’t expect it to be so pathetically soon. I’d screwed up, and was worried I would have to drop out before I’d even reached half-way.

I slowed down, got my breathing under control, and told myself it was just the initial nerves which were causing me to struggle. Then, shortly before the 3km marker, I was faced with this railway bridge:

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It doesn’t look much now, but when I was already struggling to comprehend running more than three times the distance that had damn-near killed me so far, it looked like bloody Kilimanjaro.

Sure enough, once I had completed it, my breathing was again laboured, and I had to persuade myself to just focus on the music I was listening to, and take it one marker at a time.

When I passed ‘4km’ in around 19 minutes, then ‘5km’ – or half way – in 24 minutes, I started to wonder whether I could possibly keep that pace going after all, particularly since I was beginning to feel slightly better and, at that rate, I could still finish in under 50 minutes. Plus, the route had just taken a long turn to the right, so I knew I was on my way back, and this was a huge psychological boost.

My next challenge (although I felt sure none of my fellow runners would see it as such), was the ‘water stop’ shortly before 6km.

As I approached, I could see a number of volunteers handing out plastic cups, but couldn’t decide whether to take one. I didn’t want to be carrying an empty cup for the remainder of the race, but equally hate littering. More importantly, I wasn’t sure that having water sloshing around inside my already turbulent gut was the best move.

Nevertheless, I was extremely dry-mouthed, so I decided to risk it. After all, what was the worst that could happen?

I therefore approached the volunteer who was also a paramedic (I figured there was no harm in acquainting myself with the medical team now, to save time-consuming introductions later), and went to grab the cup she was holding out.

Unfortunately, I must have grabbed a little too hard (through fear of dropping it), because, well, I crushed it – and soaked her. I tried to apologise as I ran away, and think I heard her shout that she was fine, but I still felt bad. I made a mental note to try and collapse in front of a different paramedic later on.

In the build-up to the race, I had gathered as much advice as I could, and one tip which had stuck with me throughout, was that it can often help to focus on something, to take your mind off the pain.

I don’t think the lady with the nice bottom, who overtook me between 6k and 7k, will perhaps ever know how inspiring (and timely) her derrière was, but by focusing all my attention on its glorious pertness, I managed to struggle my way past the 7k and 8k markers, and by that point I felt confident of at least finishing.

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Bottom watching

In fact, when I reached the 9k milestone, and a cursory glance at my watch informed me that I was still – just about – on course for a sub-50 finish, I suddenly became all (uncharacteristically) confident.

No sooner had I thought this, however, it dawned on me that I still had to go back over the massive bloody railway bridge from earlier (the route having looped around Bradwall, to finish almost back where we started). If I thought the bridge had been daunting from the other direction, now it was positively terrifying:

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Look, it seemed steeper at the time.

All I could think of, as I approached it with my gangly legs of sponge, was the ‘Travelator’ from popular ’90’s show Gladiators, and I just prayed that I wouldn’t face-plant mid-climb, then slide my way back down – as so many contestants had done. When I had compiled my ten-stage list, I had never factored ‘facial road rash’ as a potential hazard. Damn.

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Thankfully, there were some marshals stationed on the bridge, offering words of encouragement, and once I had plodded over the crest, I knew it was a straight run to the finish line – where my family were hopefully waiting to greet me. I didn’t dare risk another glance at my watch, so I just gathered together what little energy I had left, and went for it.

Then, continuing my delirious ‘90s flashback, I started thinking of the film Memphis Belle, and that final scene where John Lithgow (and some other actors I don’t remember), are waiting for the heroes to return, but the longer that time passes with no sign of the plane, the more their hopes dwindle. Would my wife and boys be at the finish line, with binoculars, wondering if I had enough fuel to get me home, slowly accepting with each passing second, that Daddy might never return?

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Then, there I was. There it was. The gloriously camp inflatable finish line (sadly, not the only squidgy yellow monstrosity on display that day), and a crowd of people cheering me home. I couldn’t make out any of my family, but to be honest I was too busy concentrating on not tripping up and making a complete tit of myself in front of a few hundred people.

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I am delighted to confirm (for those who don’t already know), that I finished the race in 81st place, and with a time of 49:16, which puts me very firmly in the ‘Delighted’ category.

I wearily – but gratefully – collected my medal and goodie bag (which bizarrely included a drinks bottle, bandana, and a loaf of bread – no, me neither) and posed for a celebratory photograph with my beaming boys.

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I know many ‘serious’ runners may well scoff at my achievement, and perhaps rightly so, but I am incredibly proud of completing a 10k without any major incident, and in a respectable time to boot. It was exhausting, painful, gruelling, horrible, and I hated every damn second of it.

Which makes it all the more confusing/frustrating, that I quite fancy doing it again.

 

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