Long slow run report: the first ten-miler

steep slope sign

With exactly 100 days to go until the marathon, it’s time to start upping my distance. I did a nice 13.5k a couple of weeks ago, so on Sunday I did the first ten-miler of my training programme.

I began by reviewing my nutrition strategy. That is, I stayed in bed until half ten wondering if I could justify the rather excellent French toast with bacon and maple syrup from Pickle and Rye. In the end I decided against in favour of a skinny bacon sandwich (medallions on seeded rye bread), which had the edge as it was available in my own kitchen rather than going outside.

After that I spent an hour and a half waiting for my breakfast to go down and hoping it might stop raining. So it was half past one by the time I finally made it out. At least it actually had stopped raining.

I wore my Pebble and Fitbit, one on each wrist. Battery looked a little low on the Pebble, despite having been on charge all evening. Weird, I thought. I slipped my phone in the back pocket of my leggings and headed on out towards Richmond Park.

I was finding it tough right from the start. My Pebble was showing 6.49/km – a full minute slower than my 10k pace just a few days before – only partly accounted for by the slight incline on the road up to the park.

In ten minutes or so I reached Sheen Gate, the entrance to the park. On the plus side, Richmond Park is massive and beautiful, even on a grey January day. On the minus side, it’s hilly. The slight incline on the road up becomes a steady hill pretty quickly. As I headed towards Richmond Gate I started to get even slower.

I’d worn my jacket in case it started raining. I regretted this once I got into the park as it’s relatively mild for January and I was far too hot. At this point Kanye West’s Mercy came on my Spotify shuffle, a song I don’t really like and which goes on for far too long imho. I reached for my Pebble to forward the track on, only to find it had died. That battery indicator wasn’t lying after all. It felt like some kind of sign. I stopped for a drink of water, and as the sweet sound of Kanye West filtered into my ears, I got overtaken by my husband, who’d left 20 minutes after me.

I picked myself up and carried on, from Richmond Gate to Kingston Gate, a nice, gently undulating path along the edge of the park.

Right after Kingston Gate is Dark Hill, or as I call it Big Bastard Hill – a 100m incline over the course of a little under a mile. I haven’t run on hills for so long that I really struggled here; I was so slow I was barely running at all.  Just then, another runner I’d passed earlier on came the opposite way and I got my first hello, which gave me the boost I needed to get the the top of the hill, taking me to km 8 or so.

From there it’s a kilometre or so on the flat, to the point where the path starts heading downhill again. I stopped here to take a picture of the Steep Slope sign, and only then noticed a beautiful group of stags by the side of the path. It’s good, sometimes, so stop and take a look around. I lost a good five minutes here, but it was worth it.

The slope the signs refers to really is steep. Going down it I feel like I’m on wheels, and have to deliberately slow myself down so I don’t trip. This feels like the home straight, although really it’s only a little over halfway. From there it’s all flat, although at one point there was a giant, deep puddle which couldn’t be avoided at all so I did the last 3km with wet feet.

I reached Robin Hood Gate, then Roehampton. From there it’s no distance at all to my almost-end-point Sheen Gate, but I was finding it really hard. I stopped in my tracks, but a jogger coming the opposite way smiled and said “come on! you can do it”!”. I reached the gate, then Sheen high street, adding a little detour on the end to hit my target mileage.

I was a little disappointed to find, when I got home, that Runkeeper made it a touch under ten miles, so after all that I still felt like a bit of a failure.

Slow and hard work, this wasn’t one of my better runs.

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