I may be a pretty rubbish ultra runner but I am an enthusiastic ultra runner and so when the opportunity to run a 10km road race came up I was bit ‘meh’. However, my dad was visiting UltraBaby and seeing as ultra marathons aren’t quite on his agenda at the moment the Medway 10km seemed like an ideal way to kill a couple of hours while at the same time earn another medal for the collection.
I normally research races to the nth degree but this one I had barely looked up the start time and by the time we arrived at the sports centre start line I still had shown a limited amount of interest in racing but parking was easy and there was lots of it and I found lots and lots of runners milling around heading over through the sports centre to the start line.
Being a hot, bright day both my dad and I ‘buffed’ our heads up as we are prone to suffering from the sun – his problems stemming from being a baldy and mine from the sun just fucking me over at every available opportunity.
We queued up to collect our numbers with everyone else (just a few short minutes despite the length of the queue), visited the loo (again just a few short minutes despite the length of the queue) and then went and stood at the side of the starting line (which was located on the local (and very nicely laid) running track. It was about 8.40am and the first of the children’s runs were taking place – one lap round the track – and it was absolutely awesome watching them thunder along the track. Ten minutes later, children’s race 2 and the slightly older children competed over two laps of the track, this was an exceptional race with some brilliant running and my dad and I cheered home those at both the front and the back.
Then it was our turn. Knowing that my dad was no longer the Speedy Gonzalez of his youth we headed to the back of the pack, hiding behind a mother and daughter combo who my dad had become fascinated with the younger of the pairs arse – if only he’d known that they were going to give him a pasting by some 15 minutes! I digress – we set off, pretty much at 9am and we started out round the track, I was going slowly at this point and having a brief chat with my dad, wishing him luck before a short handshake and I was off and not looking back.
It was typical of a track that most of the runners headed onto the inside but in order to make some headway through the crowd I pushed to the outer edge and started to pick runners off. By the time I had made it round to the start line again I had found my pace and was feeling reasonably rhythmic. I bounded up the little hill out of the running ground and onto the course. BOOM.
Here I crossed the road and headed straight over into the park, there was a single track entrance which we had to negotiate and was holding up runners a little but I had the foresight to simply leap the bollards and head up the incline. It was a beautiful day with a hint of wind to make it feel cooler and all around us were fields and blue sky, I was already feeling the love of this one – but also the heat.
As I trundled up to the top of the incline we came across the first of the many sights on the route, just a little lion encrusted monument which I took a moment to photograph before thundering along the gravel track and into the greenery of Gillingham. We were now into a local heritage park and there was a nice summer calmness on the course and being early the local populace wasn’t yet out in force but there was still a nice level of support.
We wound our way round the many twists and turns of the route, in and out of the many local military installations and along nicely maintained paths. By the time I’d hit 4km I as well into my stride and happy with my time but I’d realised that this hilly course was not going to offer a personal best but with my legs feeling lIght I continued to pass people as I headed back up the hill on the reverse to our starting point. The nice thing was that we didn’t just go back the way we came, we passed out along a different and well shaded path and then back onto the incline we had come up. Rather handily the park entrance was also home to the water aid station and here I grabbed a delightfully full cup of water that I splashed both over my head and into my mouth.
5km in – 22.5minutes on the clock – hmmm exciting and interesting given that I was barely over the effect of the Kent Roadrunner marathon the week before and I’d done about 50km of distance since then. This should be a properly slow race, especially given the hills… curious.
We ran along the outside of the track to the rapturous applause and cheers of the supporters and headed out to the other side of Gillingham and past the impressive looking Royal Engineers Museum (looks worth a visit). The real problem was that were were now on a downhill and a steep bitchy hill that I knew we would have to come up again. Again here the support was magnificent from both marshals and people on the street who had come along to wish us well. We dipped off the hill and straight into another incline and a lovely park, as we wended our way through to the maritime university buildings we knew that the end was in sight but that that hill was still to be conquered.
BOOM. Here I started my final quarter assault on a reasonable time. I hit the hill again and hit another gear as I willed my body to what I thought would be a final push. In the distance I could see my dad. I waved at him and he called out ‘I thought this was bloody flat!’ He was doing fine though and although slow he was still moving and more importantly still running and most importantly for him, not last.
I pushed hard up the hill and caught up to a couple of peoples had been keeping my eye on and then thundered along back onto the track but my legs were now a bit wobbly from pushing and I decided to ease off on the track. However, my mind would not let me do it and with more than 250metres left to go I kicked.
The problem was the kid next to me (aged about 20) decided he didn’t want to be beaten by an old, fat man and he kicked too. I passed him and then he caught me up with less than 90 metres to go, I heard myself say ‘go on kid, you’ve got me’ and he kicked even harder but then I remembered – FUCK YOU, I’M ULTRABOY.
I kicked again and with the crowd cheering behind me, the screams of come on, with less than 25 metres to go I opened my stride, let my legs go and went into a thunderous after burning autopilot and I went straight last him with mere metres to spare – me beloved sunglasses flying off into the distance.
At the finish I was hyper ventilating, I could barely breathe but I had made it, well under 50 minutes and finishing in the top 20%. I’d take that any day of the week – perhaps this proved to me that all my recent speed and hill work was paying off, something to think about.
Anyway the race was far from over – I had a dad to look out for.
The hour came and went, the arse he’d been admiring came in with what I assumed was her mother given they looked so much alike. And when the 1hr 10 came round in the distance I could see his buff and his trundling self still merrily making his way round. He might not be so quick anymore but he can still do the distance and he doesn’t stop when it comes to a hill or when he’s tired and this is impressive.
He began the long journey around the track and I grabbed a couple of photographs and then shot across to the 200metre point to grab a couple more. Heading back he started to build up a bit of steam and so I ran across back to the finish line and watched as he gave a bit of spurt for the final push. Very inspiring to watch my dad beat both the hills and the heat just a week before he takes on the Liverpool Rock n Roll half marathon.
Post race we grabbed some Jaffa cakes and fig rolls and headed to the stands to sit down and admire the last of the runners come in and also to congratulate some of the ladies that my dad had been flirting with around the course.
In conclusion This was an awesome race, truly brilliant atmosphere and a really good route – I can highly recommend this run and the people at Nice Work and Medway Council should be very proud of putting on such a great day. At £16 the race was priced very competitively and the medal was reasonable if not brilliant. I can’t fault this race and I’ll be going back next year to try and beat my time.