Today is race day! I’m running my first race of the year, fourth race in total and second 10K ever. I feel strong and am determined to set a new personal best time. I have a plan, I am well rested, I just need to run the race. Right?
I set my alarm for 8:00 in the morning, got up and fixed myself breakfast: 1 toast, 2 cooked eggs. Time to get ready. My running clothes have been washed yesterday and after I check the weather, I pick out which clothes to wear and for the first time I don’t second-guess the choice I make. A long tight, longsleeve shirt and T-shirt.
Two friends are joining me today: Annemarieke and Sabine. Annemarieke is the friend that joined me for my first 5K last year and Sabine is the cheerleader that finds time after running her own half marathon to cheer me to the finish line during my first 10K.
I’m picking up Sabine at a little before 10:00 and we are meeting Annemarieke near the start of the race. Parking is easy and very close to the start, we take our bags and walk towards the race area where we find Annemarieke. While we get ready, wait in line for the toilets, etc. we talk about our goals. Sabine is aiming for below 1:02, Annemarieke wants to run below 1:10 and I’m going for below 1:15. We wait for the start and figure there is still time for a last-minute selfie.
A loud noise sounds and that’s it, we’re off! As we slowly make it towards the start line I quickly lose both my friends. Annemarieke sprinted off shortly after the start and my brain pushed me to let Sabine go as well, who had a more conservative start as Annemarieke, but still way too fast for me. I know I won’t be seeing them until the finish. From here on, I am on my own.
The plan was to run the first part slow at an average pace of 7:10 – 7:20 min/km and then speed up slowly during the last 15 minutes. As usual I started way too far upfront again and I let myself be lead by the other runners. I’m being passed by pretty much everyone, at least that’s how it feels. My first 1K split is 6:55 min/km. I need to slow down. I slow down a little, but my second 1K split is still 7:04 min/km. I’m still feeling good, but I have no illusions that I’ll be able to hold this pace for 10 kilometers. I finally manage to slow down. I tell myself it doesn’t matter if I finish last as long as I achieve my own goal. Run your own race, your race, your pace, etc.
Somewhere between 1 and 2 km I see a familiar face, Sabine’s husband and daughter are along the course. I have to wave excessively to get their attention, but it works. As the course has a double loop I expect to see them again later on.
I turn up the music in my ears and try to find my ‘zone’, but it’s not working. Every step I’m taking is harder as the last and I know I still have a long way to go. I turn a corner and I’m now running towards my old home. It’s a student apartment complex where I lived for most of my student years. It’s where I started running many years ago. We pass it quickly and a slow down-hill follows where I’m able to pick up my pace a little bit.
At 3,5K I get passed by someone who appears to be flying passed me, that must be the front runner doing his second loop already. It takes a while before the number two passes me, but after that a lot more follow. I’ll be happy when I start my second loop. At 4,5K I take my first walk break and I decide to use that to catch my breath, drink some water and find my pace again. It works a little, but the pace I find is a bit slower as I would like it to be. My fast start is making up for that though, I’m seeing my average pace slowly declining towards my intended pace of 7:10 – 7:20 min/km.
From here on I’m just trying to make it to the finish line. This run is a lot harder as I thought it would be and I’m fighting the urge to give up. I tell myself it’s just 10K, I’ve ran the distance many times already, hey I even ran a 15K race without much trouble not too long ago! The next few kilometers are slower, but I’m still going. Mentally I’m really looking forward to finishing the second loop so I’ll actually be on the way to the finish. It’ll still be over one kilometer from there, but what’s 1K, right? My watch starts beeping, telling me that the first 60 minutes of my run are over and it’s time for the progression part of this run. Slow and steady. The friendly lady in my ear tells me I ran the first 60 minutes at an average pace of 7:29 min/km. That’s not too bad, my goal is still reachable. I just need to accelerate a little bit now. I ran the next 10 minutes at an average pace of 7:22 min/km, going faster now. But where is that finish line? Shouldn’t we be there by now? It’s getting less and less crowded around me, did I miss a turn? Nope, there is another bright and yellow sign telling me to go left. I check my watch and there should be just 500 meters left. It’s time to finish strong. I’m seeing a lot of runners now that have already finished and are walking towards cars, bikes or home. I must be close.
When I finally turn the corner and see the finish line I feel completely empty and don’t even care if I have to crawl over the finish line. Then I see two people jumping and waving right at the finish line. Sabine and Annemarieke are there cheering for me! I did made them promise to take a finish photo for me and as I come closer I see they both have their phones in their hands. I manage to find a final burst of energy and run towards the finish, hands up, I made it!!
I run right past them and for the first few minutes I am barely able to form words. It takes me at least a minute to realize I should probably pause my watch now and a few more minutes to ask them how their races went. They are both complaining about running only 9,9 and it takes me forever to realize what they mean by that and why that’s so annoying. Their runs were clocked at 9,8 and 9,9K. It could be a GPS glitch, it could be the course wasn’t really 10K, or maybe they just took the corners tighter, my watch put me at 10,2K. My time: 1:14:19. Goal reached, a new PR!
My friends both crushed their goals. Annemarieke ran the race in 1:05:24 and Sabine in 59:15!! I feel a little bad now that they had to wait 10 – 15 minutes for me to arrive, but my cheer squad didn’t seem to mind too much. It was great to share this experience with you both!