Until last Sunday I had never run in a 5K race. It seems very odd when I think about it, because most new runners do a 5K as their first proper event, but I didn’t. The first organised run I ever took part in was the For All Events Jane Tomlinson York 10K in 2009. I’ve never yet managed to make it to a Parkrun, which I keep meaning to do but somehow haven’t. Very poor show, no?!
Then a couple of months ago my 15 year old step-daughter, Milly, asked me totally out of the blue whether I’d enter the Cancer UK Race for Life 5K in York so that she and her friend Louisa could take part (you have to register with an adult if you’re under 16). I was really chuffed that she wanted to do it, as she’s never done any running before, secretly hoping I’d inspired her a bit. The two girls enthusiastically embarked upon the Couch to 5K training plan. I have to say their commitment to training did slip somewhat as the weeks went by (well, they are teenage girls after all, with all the associated distractions), but they were still determined to give it their best shot on the day. “This will be great” I thought as Sunday dawned lovely and sunny, “a nice jog round the Knavesmire with the girls. I can set them a gentle pace, carry some water and encourage them along – easy life!”.
However, as Sunday morning progressed I discovered that the girls had other ideas. They wanted to go round the course on their own! I’m not sure whether they thought I’d make them run too fast, or maybe it just isn’t cool to run with old people when you’re 15, but either way I suddenly realised I’d be going round on my own and I hadn’t prepared to race; hadn’t eaten my usual pre-event foods, had a couple of glasses of wine on Friday night, had pancakes and coffee for breakfast on Sunday… oops! But after all, it was only 5K wasn’t it? How hard could it be?!
Living fairly close by we arrived in plenty of time to find the Minster FM roadshow getting everyone pumped up for action. A fabulous lady called Rachel Speight-McGregor, Cancer Research UK’s local volunteer manager, was dressed as a funky pink bumble bee and led a lively warm-up session including the Cancer Slam dance. We then did a quick rendition of Gangnam Style, and to be honest it was the most fun I’ve ever had pre-race! Minster FM filmed it, but thankfully it’s impossible to pick me out from amidst the sea of pink. We loved the pink portaloos, although the queue to use them went on for ever!
At 11 am prompt we were lined up by groups of runners, joggers and walkers for the start. To be honest there were people lining up at the front who were clearly in the wrong place, but hey – it’s supposed to be a fun event, not a serious race!
As we set off it suddenly occurred to me that we were running on grass, which I hadn’t really expected. In fact, the first mile was all on grass, after which runners who were doing the 10K option peeled off to do a different loop and we continued on Tarmac. I hadn’t actually realised there was a 10K option until this point – my husband had done the entry for all of us and never mentioned it! But I wasn’t bothered. In fact my belly was feeling pretty heavy and I realised I’d actually covered the first mile at slower than my marathon pace – not exactly setting the racing world on fire! Away from the start/finish area there wasn’t much support on the course, but it was quite entertaining to check out all the costumes on display. I think the pink nuns were my favourite!
I eventually finished in just over 28 minutes, which is pretty poor considering my PB for 10K, set at last year’s Leeds Abbey Dash, is 51:17. Proof, if it were needed, that a) my forte is definitely stamina rather than speed and b) pre-race nutrition is really important. Or maybe with all the cycling I’ve been doing recently my legs have forgotten how to run! But the main thing was that Milly and Louisa really enjoyed it – although despite my advice to them not to set off too quickly their strategy seemed to be sprint/walk rather than jog. They were pleased to get a shiny medal and a recovery chocolate brioche in the finishing funnel and I was very proud of them for having a go and raising some money for Cancer Research UK. Hopefully it wasn’t a flash in the pan and they’ll be inspired to enter other events.
The Race for Life is a great way to get non-runners into running and the Couch to 5K plan provides the perfect way to train for it. Now, about that Parkrun… think me and the 5K have some unfinished business!