11 of 12: Richard Bennett Felixstowe Coastal 10M

Prelude

Quote from my last blog post

I’ve got the Coastal 10 next, so will need to put a little bit of distance work in before then… let’s get to work!

From Robert Burns’ poem To a Mouse, 1786.

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren’t alone]

In proving foresight may be vain:

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promised joy.

WARNING: Massive Excuse Ahead. I started in a new role recently, and have been focusing like a laser on getting up to speed with that, and this has meant that my focus on running has faded a little bit. Suffice to say that the “best laid schemes” I set out in my last blog post have not been fulfilled. I managed to get to parkrun a few times, and the Liz track session, but I’ve really done zero distance work. It was going to be crucial to put all other factors in my favor.

Saturday morning was the regular ritual of parkrun, but this time with a special twist. Our Weisel visitors were being given a taste of this craze, and so FRR took over the Kesgrave parkrun. This meant a cruise out on the bike to Kesgrave, and then collecting my 35min pacer vest. I picked 35 minutes because I think I’m easily capable of this pace, and it won’t tire me for a decent performance on Sunday. I was really chomping at the bit to go a little faster than the planned pace, but instead of festering over this, I managed to strike up some conversation with other runners who were tagging along on my bus.

One person told me about the stroke they had suffered 2 years ago, and the dramatic weight loss they had then achieved. They were using running to complement their recovery.

Another told be about the cancer they had been fighting, and how they were using running as a form of therapy as well as helping to get fit again.

Yet another discussed the fact that they had only recently had an operation, and so were taking this parkrun a “bit easy” as a way of rehabilitating.

My litany of issues aside, this parkrun really hit home how every person who laces up and runs has a story behind why they are doing it. I could suddenly see small scars or blemishes on some of the runners around me, and realised that each scar had a story. As much as we are made and formed by those stories, we are made of every scar we survive. It seems a little dramatic to write about it, and I think we’ve all understood this, but it really hit home when it’s right in front of you. It was obviously a pleasure to run will all these people, and as a pacer, to know I was in some small way supporting their recovery was a genuine honor.

I came over the line a little early (15 seconds), but the course came up a little short. A few PBs were made, so I’m not complaining… hopefully they aren’t too.

Build-up to the race

After riding home from parkrun, I cooked a ratatouille for the family, and then relaxed by playing some guitar… until I suddenly realised I was losing my sight. I was having an ophthalmic migraine. I get them from time to time, and I have a stash of special medication I can take to nip-it in the bud, which I did. It knocked me out for an hour or so, and by then I could only really feel the warm buzz of the migraine as it faded… phew. A side-effect of the opioid medication I take for migraine relief is quite useful though; it slows down peristalsis quite considerably for about a day. (GBM won’t be visiting me this weekend… phew!) I had a nice big bowl of pasta and some homemade garlic bread for tea, and an early night.

7am, I was awake. I poured myself a nice big bowl of muesli and yoghurt for breakfast, and then got dressed.

A quick kit-check and I was out of the door. This time I was playing taxi. I recently swallowed a truck load of MTFU, and have begun driving a bit. As I stepped outside I knew this was going to be interesting. The weather was looking very favorable; fog! Fog does mean one thing, no wind. Irrespective, Ben (my taxi customer for the morning) wasn’t very optimistic about the race. He was keen to contend, but knew that the likes of Steve Brooks would be egging for him to smear himself out there. As Ben saw it this was to Steve’s advantage as Steve was not running today, but knew that it would tire him for future performances where the two of them were jostling for the limelight.

With my lack of training for distance, I would just be happy with a social plod round.

Once parked up, Ben and I had a gentle jog along the promenade to the Race HQ. After about half a mile though, I needed to back off and walk. My chest pain had returned. Again, nothing serious, but very off-putting. After a little walk, we went back to a slow mn’t before arriving at the military operation that was Race HQ. A massive RTJ truck and trailer was there for the baggage management, alongside a Whitwell Services ATV. This just looked amazing from the outset.

A familiar “Hey JJ!” cry came from the rabble gathered at the FRR gazebo. It was none other than Robin Harper. “You looking forward to this?”, he asked.

“There was quite a headwind when I ran up here. Hopefully that will have died off a bit. You?”

“I see no reason why I can’t win this thing. In fact the headwind will be in our faces on our return to the finish will be to our advantage. It gives us some time to use the tailwind on the major part of the distance, and then push for the drag-race to the finish.”

I raised, one eyebrow.

I collected my number, filled in an essay on the back, dropped my bag, attached my foot-tag and the regular inter-club banter commenced. It was during this banter that my goal for the race was crystallized.

I bumped into Clair Fiddaman, and told her of my plan to just do a social plod. She mirrored this goal, and told me of a troupe who were looking at forming a bus to chug round at about 11:20min/mile pace. “11:20min/mile? That’s slower than the 11:15 pace I plodded out at parkrun for the 35 min bus. I can do better than that.” Claire said her PB for 10Miles was 1h48, but that she’d be happy with 1h50 or there abouts. That was now my goal: Something close to 1h40 if I can snag it. This was going to mean 10:00min/mile which should be very achievable without pasting myself.

I swallowed some painkillers (Thanks Shaun Good for providing the water for this) and I was ready to toe the line with my FRR family.

Pounding tarmac

I’ve chosen to stick with what I know for footwear, and reuse the New Balance shoes I used at Twilight10k. They are good all-rounders, and would cope well with the tarmac and gravel I knew was out on the course.

I jockeyed for a position quite a way back in the crowds, and as is now a universal scientific law, the FRR contingent started to coalesse. The banter continued!

After some rumbles from Mark Ford over the public address system, we were off.

Boy that headwind was relentless. And as we turned off the promenade, my chest pain returned. A slow walk followed. But before we turned towards the Landgard Point, I was already running again. No heroics though, just needed to plod this thing out at a steady pace. I was keen to keep some reserve energy for the distance I hadn’t trained for. A few familiar faces were already on their return north along the promenade, and we managed to get a few shouts of encouragement in between our gasps of breath.

Finally we were heading with the wind. And the sun came out. It was beating down hard. With the air around me basically still, my glasses were steaming up, and was beginning to heat up. I’d rather have them that not. Not many things worse than squinting while you’re running!

It was then that I noticed it again… the scars and blemishes on the bare arms and legs of my fellow competitors. People say that running is a very solitary sport. But out here in the middle of a race I knew that I was not alone. I increased the encouragement I was doling out to both those I passed and those who were passing me.

I’m sure other people use running as therapy, and this race was no exception. My mind began to wander. I began to think about how far I’d come in my rehabilitation. I began to think about the stories of other runners who were fighting their own battles. I settled and was struck by the post Steven King had posted recently on the FRR members group.

I had found a new surge of inspiration out there in Felixstowe today.

After passing race HQ, we carried on along the prom, until we finally hit our first climb of the day. We’re 5 miles in at this point, so really we’ve had it quite easy. But my legs wouldn’t shut up. They were filling with concrete with every pace I took. The beaming face of Tim Finegan on the corner, spurred me on.

As I started on my descent into the dip, I saw a few FRR legends already on their return. Of note was Jason “Gripper” Taylor, who I saw shift his position on the road to smack out a high-five. On his tail was Robin Harper, who called out “I was wrong about the headwind. Enjoy the tailwind while it lasts.” And then I spied joint event sponsor, Luke Whitwell walking. Walking! I delivered some cutting words of encouragement as we passed, as then I continued to cruise down to the bottom of the dip.

Now I was on the stretch towards the ferry through the golf course. Wow! What stunning scenery there is out here. I pushed on, using the tailwind to my advantage, in the knowledge that the turn at 7 miles was shortly upon us. By this time I’d lost any formal pack or peloton; I was running at my own pace, and that’s ok.

Up towards the 7mile turn, and my legs were screaming. Hopefully this headwind won’t be too… oh my God! I was basically having to lean into the wind, as I ran. It can’t be like this all the way can it? Yep!

I ploughed on, and as I reached the top of the climb after the dip, I had Graham Chapplle join me. We jointly encouraged each other side-by-side for a mile or so as we rejoined the promenade. “You’ve obviously got more in you mate. Push on.”, I said with about a mile to go to the finish.

“Why would I do that? I’m enjoying the pace and the company. Let’s bring this in together.”, he replied.

We were cruising, with about 0.66 left on the watch to go, I glanced at the time which was in the late 1h33 zone. This was perfect, and should see us finish just over the 1h40 time, without really having had to plan it at all.

Credit: Acs Creative Photography (https://www.facebook.com/AcsCreativePhotography/)

“Go on Graham. Push on. Get a good time. I’m fine back here.”, I barked as we crossed over into the sprint zone of the last 0.5 miles.

Without a word, he picked up his pace and pushed on.

I crossed the line in about 1h43 (Thanks Courtney Taylor for pointing out that my watch was still running. Schoolboy error!), and was elated with that.

After my persistent complaints about the headwind had settled, I resolved that this was a truly spectacular race. It had tarmac. It had gravel. It had throngs of supporters. It had stunning quiet scenery. It had race-smearing qualities. It had therapeutic peacefulness. It’s a great all round race. The distance can be quite off-putting for the uninitiated. But honestly there’s more to this race than just the distance.

Mark Ford (Race RD) put on a near-perfect race for us all today. Thank you Mark. All your hard work has paid off, and we all get to enjoy and celebrate in your efforts. Thank you too to all the volunteers and marshals (esp Sally Solomon and Amanda Smith) who made sure we were all safe out there today. I fabulous and well respected commitment to the success of this club event.

Oh and the medal… a stroke of genius. Love it!! 😀

Next on the list is the Saxmundham 5 in October. I wonder if I’ll get any training done before then?

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