So with the big Autumn race goal of the Manchester Half out of the way, I’ve been in off-season mode. This has meant only running when I felt like it (although this doesn’t necessarily mean not running tough sessions if I want to), and having more ice cream and beer than is normally recommended for an athletes diet. However there was one last appointment on the calendar, before winter training for the spring 2017 marathon and cross country season begins. The Bradford City Runs 10K was in my race schedule to gain points in my running club’s internal competition.
I’d done very little preparation for the race – in terms of proper structured training, checking out the race route and elevation, or preparing the night before – pre-race evening hydration was half a bottle of wine. The Bradford City Runs event had 5K, 10K and half marathon distances on offer, and a mile race for kids. The race course consisted of a 5K circuit, going out from Bradford town centre, looping around to the west, coming back past the town centre and then looping around to the east before coming back to complete the circuit. The 10K route was formed for two the 5K loops before heading for the finish, with the half marathon route being four laps, but with a small out and back at the start to make up the distance.
My plan for the race was just to run hard. This sounds fairly obvious, but I’m not very good at being able to turn up to a race and just ‘take it easy’. So that’s why, on even a race that I wasn’t targeting, I found myself nudging up to line up in the first row or two.
The 5K and 10K races were set off together after the half marathon, giving the majority of runners the chance to complete the out and back to complete the additional distance. As soon as the race started I was in a lead group – apart from two kids and a big kid who thought it would be a good idea to sprint off the front for all of a couple of hundred metres before the lead group (a Saltaire Strider and myself) came past. It wasn’t until we were heading up the first hill of the course that I looked at his vest and realised that the colour of his number showed that he was taking on the 5K, and not taking part in the 10K race. I wasn’t too disappointed by this – it meant I was now leading and I had someone good to judge the pace by, although it would mean I had no idea where the competition behind me was.
The race route was a lot tougher than I expected. The second half of the loop contained another series of hills, and at some point I dropped the other member of the little lead group, and I was running on my own. Throughout the race I hardly spent any time looking at my watch – the racing was purely on feel, managing how hard it was up the hills with how easy to take it at other points to recover. So by the time I came back past the town centre for the start of the second lap and past other Hyde Park Harrier spectators cheering us on, I had nominally (but not really) won the 5K, and I was still in the lead.
Leading the race was a bit surreal. Apart from two Parkrun wins, the only time I’ve ever been leading a race previously was the Kirklees 10K, where I was overtaken a mile and a bit before the finish to be second man over the line. I kept on expecting the bubble to burst, but as I slogged around the second lap of the tough course the distance kept on ticking down and I was still leading. By now I had a lead bicycle rider marking me out as the head of the 10K race, which felt like a really unusual luxury.
With a mile to go, through the twisty hilly section of the second half of the loop, the first lady came past me. To be honest I was pretty cream crackered, and didn’t have much left to come back with. Maybe if it was another man and the ‘first male’ title was at stake I might have kicked a bit harder. That isn’t to knock her achievement at all, and it’s easy to re-analyse thing afterwards, but I just wanted to hold on to what I had having no idea who might be coming up behind me.
Winning (the men’s race) – in an official 37:16 – was simply a great feeling, especially seeing other members of the club who were helping with race organisation as soon as I crossed the line, and then seeing that my closest competitor turned out to be one of my training buddies. It wasn’t my fastest time ever, but on a tough course and during ‘off season’, I’m taking that.
As an event, the Bradford City Runs was not without it’s flaws. The starting loop for the half marathon seemed to bottleneck slightly as it came through a narrow gap past the start line, especially when one of the half marathon wheelchairs went through. There were also a few other parts of the course with tight, twisty right angled corners, and when I came through to start my second lap the sign to mark the difference between the finish gantry and back out on to the course wasn’t up yet – luckily I had my lead bike marshal to keep me straight.
I have to admit that I did have some concerns before the race about the lapped nature of the course, and whether this would cause problems with crowds and going past people on the second lap. In reality there were very few problems, and the course was a fun challenging one – it was interesting to skirt around the ‘race village’ half way through the lap, and the urban hilly nature of the course was something I’ve never really experienced in a race before.
Of course I’ll have to be back next year to defend my men’s title, but even if it weren’t for that I’d probably be back again. For £16 race entry, it’s good value too – especially taking into account my £40 running shop voucher win for first place!