On Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th September, I took part in the Richmond Run Fest. Pacing Kew Gardens on Saturday and running the Half Marathon on Sunday for me, it was set to be a great weekend. One I was highly nervous about for many reasons!
Kew Gardens 10K – My first experience as a pacer
I’ve always been in awe of pacers. Being able to run a consistent pace throughout a whole race and encouraging others along the way – helping people to achieve PBs. I’ve never ran with a pacer either myself. I’ve seen them at races but always decided to run my own race. Some pacers have gone off too quickly and others have not been close enough in pens to run with.
I know that as a pacer you pick a pace that you feel you can easily run, however, when I signed up for the event I paced, I was a lot fitter than I am now. Or, should I say had more confidence in my ability back then.
If I was to pick a pace to run at for the 10K, ideally I should have chosen 50 minutes, not 45. But I love a challenge and challenge accepted.
45 minutes is around 7:10 – 7:15 pace. I’ve done a half marathon at this pace and a couple more halfs quicker so this should be easy, right?
My current super easy runs are at around 8s so I knew this would be slightly pushing, but in a race environment all should be well.
In the weeks building up to the event, I did various speed sessions at a pace quicker than my target race pace and also a few sessions targeting 7:15s or quicker. I did one session 3 x 2 miles @ 7s with recovery in between. Considering I was feeling full of cold that day, I smashed it, although it didn’t feel super comfortable by the end.
But, I had to stay positive. I ran this race last year with a client and loved the event. A beautiful run through the stunning gardens and I was excited to get a race bib back on after no races the past few months.
I probably over raced last year in 2017 so wanted to ensure this year I didn’t overdo it. With recent calf/Achilles injuries, my training hasn’t been as high in intensity or volume that I would have liked.
The race being in London meant it was an early start.
6am leave the house
8.30 race start
On arrival to Kew we found ourselves a little early, so found the toilets – no queue, bingo. And first to use them, even better.
We then made our way to the Information Tent to collect our race packs, meet the other pacers and get ready with our numbers and flags.
I was pacing with Paul Addicot who is well known for his precision pacing. So although nervous I knew I was in good hands.
A few pictures before heading off to the race start. We lined up in Wave 1 and were announced as pacers over the tannoy. I also got to meet the lovely Susie Chan, who is well known in the ultra scene.
Paul and I spoke to a few people around us asking who would be joining us and also informed them around us of how we planned to pace it. I’d been told by a few people beforehand to let those around you know what your race plan is. Some pacers try to evenly pace and others try to go out a little faster to build some extra time up as a cushion for the end.
What can I say? I loved it! It was a fantastic experience.
We eased into the pace quite nicely, the first mile was a little faster than needed, but with race starts you often get carried away with the pace.
As every km and mile passed, we informed the group of pace and where were in relation to the 45 minute mark.
I hadn’t looked behind me until mile 2 and WOAH, there was a huge group with us. I didn’t realise how many people were with us!!
We passed halfway and Paul asked how I was doing. Very kind, and I felt great. The pace wasn’t super comfortable, but I felt strong. In the week leading up to the race I’d had 2 easier runs on Weds and Fri with 2 clients of mine and a sports massage on Thursday. At some points my legs felt so bouncy. It proves having easier weeks leading up to a race can really make a difference.
4 miles in I got my phone out and asked the group to give me a cheer! Not many did… and that’s how we wanted it. At this point of a 10k you should be finding it a little difficult to hold a full sentence together.
We hit 7km and I told the group to really dig deep. This is the most painful part of a 10K if you’re pushing it. And where you can mentally lose the race.
At 9km we encouraged some of the group to push past us if they had any energy left, and to get under as much under 45 minutes as possible.
On the last stretch Paul and I were encouraging the last few runners past us hoping they could achieve the time we wanted.
We crossed the line in 44:33, not bad for a first time pacer.
It was incredible the amount of runners that came up to us after the race to thank us. It’s a wonderful feeling.
If I had the opportunity I would definitely pace an event again.
We got a goodie bag, medal and T-Shirt as well which was just another perk!
Well done to everyone who ran Kew and hope you all achieved what you wanted from the race.
Day 2 – Richmond Half
Due to our accommodation plans falling through last minute, we travelled to and from London on both days. Considering we live in Milton Keynes, it can be around 2 – 3 hours all together there and back.
Another 5am alarm and we set off at 6.15am.
The journey down was smooth and as the race started at 8.55am today I took my breakfast in the car and had it around 7am, 2 hours before the start.
On arrival, we collected a friends race pack as theirs hadn’t arrived in the post and made our way over to the start line as the Marathon was setting off at 8am.
When I originally booked this race, it was meant to be a target race, aiming to beat my current PB of 1:29:50 which I ran in February this year. Due to Achilles, calf and shin niggles, my training had not gone to plan and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do on the day.
I always like to have a race strategy, it keeps me focused and gives me an aim to work on. If I don’t have one, I become lazy and don’t get the most out of the race.
I had decided in my head I wanted to run a ‘strong’ race. After many conversations with running friends, Andy (FOD Runner), Donato (Running Guru) and Rich (Baze187), they are huge advocates of running by feel.
So I wanted to do myself justice by putting in a good race effort, but also running with what my body was telling me to do.
I knew after the 10K yesterday I was capable of a fairly decent time.
I decided that I would try to run at around 7 minute miles and see what I could do.
We dropped our bags off on the luggage lorries as the finish line was a mile down the road. They would be driven to the end for us to collect there.
We then did a short warm up before getting into the race pens. We were in Wave 1 again and the first runners to be set off.
They counted us down and nerves really started to kick in. But soon we were off…
Let’s break it down mile by mile.
Mile 1 – 6:54
In the first mile I tried to find a steady pace, trying not to get drawn into the fast start. It felt comfortable so I went with it. You ran through Kew Gardens to start off with, but when I concentrate I unfortunately don’t take in too much of the surroundings. The 1:30 pacer flew off and I tried not let this mentally affect me and run strong and my own pace.
Mile 2 – 6:52
Still feeling good and wary this is only a touch slower than PB pace. I did begin to wonder if I’d started off too fast?
Mile 3 – 6:57
Still not too bad, but this area of Kew was quite built up with the trees making you feel a little enclosed. People were starting to find a rhythm and still had quite a few people around me which kept me going. I had no idea how many other females were at front of me at this point, but had spotted one lady who I tried to focus on.
Mile 4 – 7:00
At the end of this mile you head out of Kew Gardens and the first water stop. Water bottles, hallejuah. They had paper cups the day before at the 10K so I was pleasantly surprised. At this stage I told myself to not focus on how much of the race I had left but to run every mile at a time.
Miles 5 – 6 – both 7:04
These two miles took us along the canal and unbeknown to me therefore was gravel pathways with a few patches of uneven surface. Something I had not factored in and I knew this would take it out of my legs and slowed me down a little. I didn’t look at my watch, only ran by feel. First gel at mile 5
Mile 7 – 7:01
We were along the canal now but more concrete pathways and a few groups of crowds which was good for encouragement.
Mile 8 – 7:03
I can’t quite remember the course at this point, but know this is the mental make or break point of the race. I could quit and let my pace drop, or dig deep and fight for it.
My positivity won and I wanted it today! On I pushed.
Mile 9 – 7:05
During this mile you turn back on yourself and know that you’re on the direction to head home. And I knew once we’d got to mile 10, I could count down to the end.
At this point I was starting to tire, but knew I had done pretty well with the pacing.
I went through the 10 mile marker under 70 mins with a few seconds cushion.
Mile 10 – 6:58
I found a second wind and kicked on slightly, may have been a mistake as I clocked a 6:58, nothing had been under 7 since mile 4. But I went with it.
Miles 11 & 12 – 7:04 & & 7:08
We were passing other runners at this point past the river and I tried to stay strong but could feel I was starting to fade. But again I gritted my teeth and got through the mile.
At this stage I also had a guy next to me running very strangely. It’s like he didn’t want me to overtake him, every time I got beside he sprinted off and slowed down again, and I managed to catch him every time but staying at my consistent pace. I actually asked him what he was doing and told him he was wasting more energy with that tactic! (It was quite annoying and I took offence that he obviously did not want a female to overtake him). His response was that it helped him to lift his legs up.
Mile 13 – 7:09
I felt like I’d held a good race until this point. The mind games you experience is unreal.
But now I was starting to hurt, really bad. I looked down at my watch and clocked the distance 12.67 miles. I could feel my face was scrunching up and my legs starting to turn into jelly. We had to run through a gate and under a tunnel before turning right onto a field in Old Deer Park.
Grass at the end of a race is really not cool! I gave everything I could in my last few steps.
Mile 13.1 – the end! 6:41 pace
Mile 13 clocked on my watch and the finish line was still a fair way in the distance. I pushed on and finished in 1 hour 32 minutes and 36 seconds.
I knew I had given it my all and I was a little disorientated and tried to catch my breath back.
The volunteers kindly cut your chip off your shoe and you make your way through the finish area to collect a goodie bag, medal and T-Shirt.
In summary I had to be really pleased with my time, it was my third best half time and according to the results I had made it into the top 10 of ladies finishers. Not a bad result considering training had not gone to plan.
With a little determination, staying strong and running by feel made sure I had a good race!
The course was really flat with one unnecessary steep incline about mile 12 and a mix of terrains. It could be a PB course, but there also could be better due to the pathways. They were quite narrow in places too, so in busier parts of the race could slow you down.
But really well organised and one I would consider doing again.
As an added bonus we also got another medal for doing 2 events! Wooooo.
Thank you Richmond for a great weekend!