On Saturday I ran my first race of 2015, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K. I signed up on New Years Eve knowing that if I didn’t pre-register and commit to the race, I might betray my recently restored enthusiasm for training and stay in bed. After all, 50 minutes of lactic acid-induced nausea is not how most people plan to rid themselves of those pesky festive pounds, is it?
So on Saturday, pre-registered and committed, I woke at 6.30am, made a flask of coffee, ate a big ass bowl of muesli, and walked to the train station to travel to my first race of 2015. I was getting the Overground, a London train line prone to weekend engineering works. But knowing that the Overground was the quickest way to the Olympic Park in East London I had diligently checked that my trains were running and left the house in plenty of time for the 9.30am race start. All my preparation could not have prepared for a “trespasser on the tracks” in Hackney though. After 5 minutes of sitting on a stationary train at Dalston Kingsland station that showed no sign of moving, I decided to try the buses. My Citymapper travel app told me that a bus would leave in 3 minutes from outside the station. I leaned towards a pair of passengers, who looked suspiciously like they were dressed to run and were making panicked phone calls to a friend/relative. “Are you running in the Olympic Park this morning?” I asked. They nodded and followed me to the bus stop.
So on Saturday morning, anxious and nervous, I sat on a London bus, sipped coffee from a thermos, and wondered if the discombobulated route that the bus took through London’s East End would get to the Olympic Park in time for the 10K race that I had hauled my festively plump ass out of bed for. The bus stopped just outside the Olympic Park and we crossed one of the canals into the main park, weaving our way along the many paths and cursing the building work in the Olympic stadium that got in the way of Google Map’s most direct route. At 9.10am I arrived at the race HQ, collected my number, dropped my bag in, wished my travel buddies a good run, and finally put my mind to the task at hand – my first race of 2015, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K.
I usually claim that 10K is my favourite race distance. After running a fair few half marathons and getting used to a ‘long run’ being at least 10 miles, the 6.2 miles involved seem manageable. More than manageable in fact. You no longer question whether or not you will complete the distance – you know you can cover it. Instead the question is that of speed – how fast can you run it? Over the years I have become accustomed to the pattern of pain endured during a 10K and like to think that, armed with this knowledge, I can be strategic and really race this distance.
During kilometres 1-3 I will feel steady, but pacey, light on my feet and excitable. My breathing is normally pretty relaxed during the first couple of kilometres, but between 3 and 4 it will have become quite rhythmic. My body seems to fall into this slightly uncomfortable, but rhythmically satisfying pace by the 4km marker, and I find it quite hypnotic. By the halfway mark though I inevitably begin to feel a touch of nausea as I run towards my lactic threshold. I check my form, try and lift my legs which are now inevitably heavy from the weight of my reluctant glutes, and ignore the nauseous niggles, knowing that I can keep it at bay until at least 8km in.
The last couple of kilometres are normally a blur. My legs keep turning, as I coax my arms and torso into an action that will maybe, just maybe, assist my tiring lower limbs. Hips, tits, knees, arms, I chant to myself, pointing my body forwards and imagining my boobs carving out a glorious path towards the finish line.
The stand out memory of running my 10K PB back in 2012 was feeling like I was going to throw up for the last kilometre. My legs hurt like hell, don’t get me wrong, but I felt strong, strong enough to keep coaxing those legs up. But it was the nausea that was toughest to push through, forcing myself to keep breathing in and out, in and out, still rhythmically, but now very consciously.
However I have not run a 10K so fast I felt sick since then. And, not surprisingly, I haven’t run anywhere near my PB time since either.
On Saturday, as I ran the 3-lap course my legs felt so, so heavy. My glutes seemed to be insisting on going for a jog and it took every ounce of enthusiasm that hadn’t already been sapped by the London Overground and Olympic Park building work to lift my knees and muster a running pace. My breasts did not seem to lead me home, instead weighing me down and edging closer to my tummy with each stride as my torso slouched through the last lap. My hips did not want to face forward, instead swivelling worryingly from side to side as I heaved my heavy legs into something vaguely resembling a run. Instead I called on the only bit of my body that felt like it had any strength left – my arms. Newly buff from learning to swim, I utilised my shoulders and arms, imaging a rope along the path and pulling myself along it. I was playing imaginary tug-of-war with the asphalt, but it worked: I crossed the line in 48:12, not a PB, but faster than the 10K time trial I ran before starting half marathon training back in 2012. And that was the training cycle that eventually saw me run my PB time. Maybe, just maybe, the half marathon training that I began today will take me back to those nauseating heights of athleticism…
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K series is held on the first Saturday of the month October-March. The next race is on Saturday 7th February. The races are a right proper bargain at £17 (£15 if you run with a UKA affilliated club), are impeccably organised and buzzing with positive vibes. Full details, results and photographs can be found on their website: www.qeopraces.com