I began the new year as I mean to go on, by getting up at the crack of dawn (9am) for my first race of the year – the New Year’s Day 10k organised by Serpentine Running Club.
This is the third time I’ve signed up for the NYD 10k, but only the second time I have bothered to have turn up, as last year the lure of getting a bit drunk then staying in bed proved more appealing. Had I not had the marathon coming up, I certainly would have done the same this year, as race conditions were grim. The morning offered the full triumvirate of runner’s favourites: cold, wind and rain.
The timing and almost guaranteed bad weather means the NYD 10k attracts a different crowd from other races – very few fun runners and slow plodders like me, and lots of Proper Serious Runners with athletic bodies and running club vests. I’d been told to expect a personal worst, but that 90% of the battle was getting to the start line.
This year seemed less well-organised than previously, with long queues for registration and bag drop. They also ran out of safety pins well before the start, leading to a bizarre threat to penalise anyone using more than two pins (!).
I bumped into two people I know around the start, my colleague (and fellow marathoner) Jeanette, and a friend from a running forum, which made me feel a little more at ease.
I made may way to the start line, where all the runners huddled together for warmth like emperor penguins in the face of the cold wind. At this point I wished I’d worn my jacket, but by then it was a bit late. Two people behind me discussed whether they’d break 40 minutes for the last time before they turned 40. I felt like a fat, slow fraud of a runner.
A little after 11am, we were off. The race runs on narrow paths through the park, so for the first 2km or so there’s a lot of jostling to get ahead as people find their space and pace. I started well; I looked at my Pebble and saw I was doing 5.36/km, but I was being overtaken by almost everyone else nonetheless.
The route is a winding one through Hyde Park, doubling back on itself a couple of times and including a loop which has to be run twice. By the time I got to the start of the loop at around km 4 there were people just finishing. One of them stepped in a massive puddle and splashed me from the waist down. In yet another sign that I am being comprehensively beaten at this game, this is the point where I started to feel dreadful and slow down, while the puddle-splasher sped on ahead as if it hadn’t happened.
From here on I slowed down to over 6mins/km for the next 4km. The loop is the worst bit of the course anyway – being lapped by speedy people running it for the second time – but this year was especially bad as there was a strong headwind and at one point I think there was even hail.
The water point here was very welcome, and after that I felt a little better. The 6km mark led me to do a little mental fist-bump at having got halfway, and after that the 8km mark seemed to come around quickly. From there it was the home straight. I glanced at my Pebble and realised that if I gave it some welly I could make it round in under an hour.
I started to power though, and my speed upped a little – did km 8 in 5:53, and the final kilometre in 5:48 as I pushed myself to get over the line before the hour mark.
My chip time was 59:05 – pretty respectable, I thought, and certainly no personal worst. But it was a strong field of Proper Runners so I was 439th of 582 runners to cross the line.
After the finish I got a medal – hopefully the first of several in 2014 – and a t-shirt (not a technical one, but still decent swag given the £17 entry fee).
What made this race great were the volunteers who were up early on New Years Day to make this a great race for everyone and get the running year off to a good start.