Those who live outside of East Lancashire and particularly those who grew up in the 80s will have heard of Accrington for one reason and one reason alone.
The town is also the birthplace of former England cricketer turned Sky pundit David “Bumble” Lloyd and European Championship, Commonwealth Games and Boston marathon winner Ron Hill after whom this race is named.
Accrington, like most towns in this
part of the world, is far from flat and having reviewed the course video and route profile pre-race I knew I was in for a challenging middle section of the race with a pretty constant incline for around 2 miles, the weather forecast was also terrible with heavy rain expected.
I arrived in plenty of time and headed to race HQ to collect my number. The lady in front of me got number 13, I got number 413, was someone trying to tell me something? I was also given a timing ankle strap, I’ve never worn one of them before and it made me feel slightly like a crim who’s tagged and has a 9pm curfew!!
I headed back to the car to get my things together and try and decide if I needed my running jacket or if I was going to tough it out. The sky was slate grey (nothing new) but no signs of rain so I decided to brave it and went off back to race HQ to use the facilities and keep warm until gun time.
There were around 500 starters, lots of runners sporting the colours of various local running clubs, so I decided to err on the side of caution and start dead last (apart from the man in the hi-viz 10k Sweeper jacket whose job it was to bring up the rear). I hoped to give myself a bit of a buffer on the pack and it’s always a confidence boost to pass people rather than be passed. As the race wasn’t entirely on closed roads headphones had been banned, I totally agree with that from a safety point of view, but I always train with headphones in and use the music to give me a rough guide of pace so I found the first part of the race rather strange as I tried to establish a comfortable pace.
We set off down a nice wide closed road that gave everyone plenty of chance to fan out and gave me the opportunity to start moving up the field. After a mile or so we then turned onto a path along the side of the railway line and out the back end of town. A couple of twists and turns later and we picked up the start of the woodland path that marked the start of the hill section. To be honest it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, the incline was steady but the problem was that the path wasn’t particularly wide and along both sides was a combination of mud and mulched leaves so if you wanted to pass anyone you needed to move off the racing line and into the brown stuff! It had also started to rain gently at this point and that added to the deluges of the last couple of days made the mulch somewhat slippy!!!
After seeing a 2k marker before we started on the path I realised after a while that I hadn’t seen another marker for what felt like quite a while, the absence of music didn’t help me here either as I had no idea how far I’d gone and how long I’d been running for (and it did feel like I was running rather than advanced jogging today). It wasn’t far though until I noticed 5k marked in yellow spray paint on the path which gave me a boost.
A few kilometres further and somewhat muddier we came off the track and back out into civilisation. This section was nice and flat and although the road was open the pavement was wide enough and the field spread out enough for it not to be a problem.
Finally at about 2k to go the much anticipated downhill section started. As mentioned in my post Eyes On The Prize I actually find going downhill quite difficult in terms of getting my stride pattern correct and this was the only time I remember being passed by a couple of other runners. We then hit the flat again before another sharp descent and turn into the finishing straight. I had no idea at this point what my time was but I felt I’d done a decent, consistent pace throughout. The clock was to the left of the finish line rather than above it, as I have experienced in the past, so I only actually glimpsed it as I crossed the line and I managed to pick out 47.
I was hopeful I’d done well and as I crossed the line I saw Ben from our IT team at work. Ben is someone I’d define as a “serious runner”, he finished 12th in just over 38 minutes! It was nice to see a friendly face but still no idea of time. I collected my goodie bag and set off for home.
I only live about a 15 minute drive away and so it wasn’t long until I was back and could log on and access the results section. A quick search showed me in 81st place in 46mins 28secs, a massive personal best, for context I’d done my previous 10k last June in 54 mins 49 secs!!!
Whilst I was chuffed with the time I felt rough. I don’t usually run in the mornings and had only eaten a banana for breakfast. As this was about helping me to bag some preparation ahead of my marathon in October I think this morning provided a great learning experience, not only in terms of running in a field of other people but also in terms of fuelling and my future training schedule. I need to do more morning runs and I need to get my fuelling right or I’m going to be wrecked before I even get anywhere near half distance on the big day.
All in all a good morning’s work. Delighted with my time, challenging course overcome, well organised race, learned lots and nice to get out among a great bunch of people in this amazing running community. Now to rest up, refuel and get back on it next week.