The Canterbury 10m is traditionally one of the first major road races of the year in Kent, so it’s one I’m very familiar with it, having first run the old 2 lap course based around the city centre back in the Eighties. Sunday shopping meant that course became difficult to use, so the race is now based on the edge of town with the race HQ at Christ Church University sports centre.
After a couple of weeks building up mileage to start the year I’d had an easier week leading up to the race, and day before instead of running Maidstone Parkrun I volunteered to help out, making a start on one of my 2018 goals. It was a damp and grey morning, the sort where I really wished I’d been running rather than having to stand around, but in the end I really enjoyed it. I was asked along with another volunteer to control the traffic heading into the car park (the race venue is also a visitor attraction) as the race route route crosses in front of the entrance with about 200m to go. It did get quite busy with cars arriving for kid’s birthday parties, cars leaving as runners went home and of course 300+ Parkrunners heading for the finish line! Everything went smoothly though and after the last runner had finished I helped clear up before joining the rest of the volunteers for a group photo.
Sunday dawned equally dull and miserable (well, it is January after all) and having parked my car at my Aunt’s house I was glad to be well wrapped up against the cold as I walked the mile or so to race HQ. Having visited the portaloo and collected my number and chip I found the contingent of Harriers in the sports hall and set about getting ready for the race. As usual the race was the first race in both the Kent Road Race Grand Prix and our Club Championships, so there was a good turnout from the club.
Although it’s a big hall it was also very busy and very warm, so before I got too comfortable I headed outside back into the cold for a warm-up. Although it wasn’t as cold as the 2017 race, which was very cold! Warm up run and some dynamic exercises completed I joined the rest of the runners on the start line. I said in my last blog I was hoping to go sub 1:20 so I wanted to get off to a steady start and try to settle into a good pace and rhythm. The first 3/4 mile or so is on quite a wide road but it then narrows and becomes a well-paved but uneven and muddy farm track for the next couple of miles or so, and it makes overtaking a bit tricky, so I knew I would lose some time there.
After 3 miles the course plunges downhill into the village of Bridge. By this stage in a race I have a feel for how the race will go, and at this point I felt OK, still on course for a sub 1:20, but concious that the hardest part of the course was approaching, and as we went through the little village of Patrixbourne we hit the big hill which goes straight up! It’s not long but it’s pretty steep so I concentrated on keeping my breathing and pace steady. At the top there’s a short downhill section and somewhat unexpectedly at that point I found myself settling into a nice comfortable pace and rhythm as we began the steady climb that followed. It felt really good to be able to maintain a decent pace and for it not to feel like a huge effort. Even the appearance of sleet and snow on the high point of the course didn’t put me off and with a long downhill section to come I started to wonder how long I could keep this going.
I was able to really push on down the hill, which was followed by the final climb at Bekesbourne. Get up that and I knew the last 2 and a bit miles were largely down or flat. As with the first climb I felt good off the top and pushed on, although I did find the sneaky little final climb at just past the 9 mile mark was a little tough, but that was followed by a steady descent a then a flat run in to the finish. I knew I was on for something well inside my target, although I was initially a little disappointed to see I’d just missed out on going sub 1:17 by a handful of seconds.
Upon reflection though a little later I realised that I probably lost 30-45 seconds in those first couple of miles when it was a bit congested, so I have to be pleased with that, and with my sub 1:15 target race at Folkestone still 2 months away it was a real confidence booster. It’s good to see some positive performances coming from my training and I still feel motivated even though it’s that time of the year when the initial enthusiasm of the new year can start to fade a little.
Next up for me it’s my final cross country race of the year on a great course at Nurstead Court, near Meopham. I hope everyone’s training is still going well and good luck if you’re racing this weekend.