‘What civil servants [who run] do for fun’?

Some months ago my colleague James though it would be a good idea to challenge all of his colleagues to a 10k. He’d had an email from the Civil Service Sports Club inviting him to the Queen’s Jubilee 10k in Battersea park. Obviously I was happy to offer him some competition, others were less keen, but with a large helping of badgering and goading from James and I, several people finally agreed.

My colleague Mike has been training for it. He’ll be the first to say he’s not a runner and to be fair we’ve probably given him equal measures of encouragement, advice and mickey taking over the course of the last few weeks. He’s taken it all in good spirit and today was the day it all came together.

Given I’m in for the Great Manchester run on Sunday, today is about not getting carried away for me. Plan is to run 7:30’s for 5 miles and if I feel relaxed, push on as fast as I dare for the last mile or so. No records will be set today, it’s just an exercise in self control and runners restraint.

Everyone else has been training for, and looking forward to this. We’ve all taken the afternoon off to be here. It’s chip timed and the weather is beautiful for a park based 10k. What could be better on a Thursday afternoon?

The course is as flat as a mill pond. It’s four laps of part of Battersea park. A nice route. Well organised. With a really good atmosphere.

The field (in the main) look like serious runners. (As it turns out, it was a pretty strong field.) Each Government department can count it’s fastest 12 runners in three teams of four to see which is the fastest department on the day so there’s some desire to be in the top twelve over the line. There are 15 runners from my department so it’s not a given!

Early in my third lap I’m overtaken by the leader. About three minutes later the second and third place runners pass. The leader is so far ahead it’s unbelievable. (I later found he finished the race in about 33 minutes. Amazing pace!)

The course turns out to lend itself very well to my plan. I run 7:30’s for five miles. Five miles happens to tick over just on the sharp bend on my last lap. I turn the corner and take everyone around me by complete surprise as I break into a stride and instantly knock a minute or so off my pace. I’ve felt very comfortable all the way along and so am itching to push on. On the last lap you turn right into the athletics track and run 300m round it to cross the finish line. I’ve always liked running the last bit of a race on a track. I’ve been to a couple of events that have done it. I like the springy feeling of the track as it seems to help you sprint the last stretch. Today was no different. I cross the line at 45:38. Very happy I held back, but feeling suitably stretched by the last mile and a quarter. I take a breath, grab a couple of cups of water and my finisher’s bag and head back out to find my colleagues.

As I leave the track I spot Mike coming round onto his last lap. I run with him for best part of a k before wishing him well and turning round to find everyone else.

As I pass the track entrance again I spot David and James running together. I mention it’s a race and I want to see some racing so off they fly!

A good day all round. Mike finished his first 10k, which, on only about three weeks training is no mean feat! Well done Mike.

Turns out we picked up three of the top twelve places between us too.

Manchester 10k on Sunday then…

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