6:15 alarm, Sunday morning, Eastleigh 10k and PB chasing. The line between running and madness seems blurry at best, but here I am, tucking into porridge and coffee, looking for the 14 seconds I needed to go sub-40 for the first time.
Eastleigh was my second race as a Crusader, having joined the club in November, and whilst I had managed to take 90 seconds off my PB at Stubbington, I’d become obsessed with going quicker than 40:13 (sub-40, sub-40, sub-40). I’d thrown myself into training, doubling my mileage and soaking up all the advice at club nights, as well as some Strava-stalking the ‘quick lads’. I was optimistic that all of the interval, hill, speed and fartlek sessions would pay off, but a few doubts remained and I had a restless night.
An early start and a couple of pints of coffee meant I was tired but wired, so the trip over with follower crusader John Smith was a good chance to distract myself (sub-40, sub-40, sub-40). After an early arrival in Eastleigh, we found the FCRC ‘enclave’ and made the most of some pre-race pep talks with Pete, Mike, Dave and Brian. Overall, it was another great turn-out with 50 Crusaders taking to the course, amazing considering we had representatives at the Jurassic Coast Challenge, Portsmouth Duathlon, Cranleigh 21, New Forest 20, Hampton Court Half, North London Half, Fleet Half and Hastings Half.
After a brief warm-up, 9am came around swiftly. The start line was cramped and buzzing, and the adrenaline was flowing. It was time to trust the training and execute the race plan. I had kept my best case scenario target time under wraps, but standing on the start line, I knew that if I could put it together than I could achieve the time Club Captain Neil Smith suggested, 38:50. This was going to hurt…
As the gun sounded the runners burst out of the traps, and quickly spread out. The elites disappeared into the distance, Pete Abrahams became a speck on the horizon but I managed to resist temptation and stuck to the plan (Mike Gilmour’s words rang in my ears, ‘don’t start too quickly’). Anything around 6:20 was the aim so as I hit the incline at mile 3 at 6:17, I knew I was in good shape. North Hill, Potters and Old Turnpike made it seem like a walk in the park, so I powered up the hill and stayed in decent company with fellow crusaders David Fleet and Mike Harper. Both of these guys are sub-39 runners, this could actually happen!!!
Mile 4 was hard graft. It was my quickest mile and it was where I was going to make or break my target time. The race route had swung back towards the leisure centre (never great to see the finish line with 4k to go) and I’d lost sight of the other Crusaders. My body was starting to hurt. I lent on Captains’ Corner and embraced the pain. Positive thinking kept me on pace through to mile 5, but I was starting to suffer, and as hard as this is to admit, I considered slowing down…
Luckily a familiar face came to rescue, Jon Ellard. A few words, ‘stay focused, concentrate’ were what I needed, and I kicked on. I visualised a Portchester out and back for the last mile and hung off a Lordshill shoulder and the punishing Tuesday night sessions carried me through to the final straight.
As I sprinted for the finish line, I knew I was sub-39 and just needed to find another 100 metres of effort to get the 38:50 the Captain had asked for. Luckily there was something in the tank and I managed to cross the line in 38:43. Pain, relief and elation…
3 months ago I couldn’t run 10k in less than 42 minutes, and I had made virtually no progress in 12 months. I was bored, frustrated and going through the motions, and then I became a Crusader. I have been coached, encouraged, supported and inspired, and I have re-discovered my love of running. I look forward to representing the club in 2016 and beyond.
50 Crusaders crossed the line at Eastleigh. There were some remarkable individual performances with big PBs and top 30 finishes in their category but most importantly, every Crusader – PB or not – ran 10,000 metres. As a club we ran 500,000 metres at one event, which I think is pretty unstoppable.