We got back from the UK on Thursday evening, tired but happy. We’ve had a fab three weeks with our family and friends, and I’ll post some of the best bits in the next few days…but whilst we were there, I got to run the Leeds 10k and wanted to post a race report before I forgot all about it.
As background, we used to live in Leeds in West Yorkshire. We were there for six years and whilst I never liked the city very much (unlike everyone else, who raves about it), I did love our wonderful friends very much. So we were thrilled to sneak in a weekend during this trip and I was even more thrilled to be able to run the Leeds 10k. I was never a runner when I lived in Leeds, those were my obsessive-cyclist years so I think this was the first race I’d ever done in Leeds apart from parkrun. I planned to run it with my dear friend Debs, and then our other mate Andy signed up too. In the preceding weeks, I had a few emails from Debs basically telling me she hadn’t done as much training as she’d planned so I shouldn’t run it with her. I decided to run it hard and it turned out that Andy was willing to run it with me, so a plan was hatched.
The Leeds 10k is a big local race, with about 5,000 participants. It’s organized by the Jane Tomlinson’s Run For All organisation. Jane Tomlinson was a Leeds lady with an incredible, warm smile, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2000 and given a year to live. However she lived for another 7 years, and completed numerous challenges like Ironman, long-distance bike rides and marathons before succumbing to disease. She’d raised nearly 2m GBP for charities. She had been a tremendous inspiration during my Leeds years, and I was gutted at her death, so I was so excited to run ‘her’ race. It’s a pretty flat race, out and back along Kirkstall Road with a couple of diversions to make the distance. Kirkstall Road is not pretty so it’s not a scenic race, but it’s a great PR race. I was gutted to not have trained for it (i.e. speedwork, tempo runs etc) as I think I could have PR’d there otherwise.
My goal was simple. To run hard and see what I could do on the day. I hoped to run it at 8.30 pace but wasn’t really sure what I could do after a week of basically eating bread, cheese and Devonshire cream teas. I find these days that the emotional aspect of racing is mattering more and more to me, rather than the final result, lovely though PRs definitely are. I want to finish a race knackered and exhausted, feeling like I did everything I could out there. Mental strength is becoming more important to me than physical strength. My goal these days is to keep pushing right to the end, to not give up, to keep pushing even when there’s nothing left. No matter what the clock says, if you know you kept pushing then it’s hard to be disappointed.
In the end, Andy and his lovely wife Rachel basically sherpa’d me for the entire race. They picked me up (Debs would drive our cheering squad), found excellent parking and delivered me to Millennium Square to get my number. Millennium Square was abuzz with excitement, including a coffee/champagne garden (we fancy in Leeds, now) with deckchairs. Having posed for photos, Andy and I headed off to our corrals.
It’s a long time since I’d run a race this big but it was pretty smooth. We found our corral (i.e. our stretch of road), found some portaloos (clean) and lined up. I’d apparently put my goal time down as 49.59 as we were with much faster-looking runners than I liked, but whatever. There was no national anthem (oh Britain!) but we heard the countdown and a few minutes we were off. We were very close to the 50-minute pacer and I was initially feeling awesome so I told Andy we’d try to stick with the pacer as long as we could.
I felt good for the first mile and solid for most of the second but by about a mile and a half, I realized I was working hard and I might not be able to hold that pace forever. The 50-minute pacer was drifting further and further ahead. I wasn’t disheartened about this, bearing in mind my goal. I just wanted to give everything I had out there. Andy was in full Sherpa mode…lolloping along next to me effortlessly, pointing out new buildings that had gone up since I moved away, showing me where he worked. I grunted every now and again, we were an awesome team. At the water tables, I’d keep running hard, he would lope over the side, take water for both of us, scamper up and hand me water and then even carry it for me after I was finished. I was incredibly grateful, I just didn’t have the breath to tell him.
Eventually we got to the half-way point and I felt really good. Tired, but strong and decent. There were some lovely gentle downhills that I tried to push down and before long, we were nearing the city centre. It was fairly warm that day and quite humid, but nothing compared to California, so I was very surprised to see a giant hosepipe chucking out gallons of water for runners to run through. Everything in me was horrified at this ‘waste’ of water but then Andy pointed out that the UK is not exactly suffering from the same drought as California so I should just get wet and enjoy it. So I did.
The final half-mile was brutal. Up an off-ramp/slip-road which felt like a giant hill at this point, and then up the Headrow. What’s usually is a gentle uphill felt like a death march but I pushed as hard as I could. I saw our friends (and the Dude) cheering at the railings and finally we were done. We’d done it in 51.47 at an 8.21 pace and I was very happy with that result.
We got our medal (lovely) and our t-shirt (disappointing), plus two chocolate bars (ate them immediately) and some other gubbins in our goody bag. We found Debs, who ran a solid run and then our cheering squad arrived! Lots of sweaty hugs.
We were all getting chilly now so I walked with Andy and Rachel back to their car via the coffee/champagne garden. Neither was up for champagne (boo) but we got excellent coffee and that was nearly as good.
All in all, it was a fab morning’s work. I LOVED running my first Leeds race and thoroughly enjoyed this 10k. Great organization, a very PR-able course (although not pretty) and a wonderful community feel. It made me feel much warmer towards Leeds than I usually feel about the place! I’m super-glad I got run it.
Also, especially thank you to Andy and Rachel of Thompson Race Services (jk) for driving me, Sherpa-ing me and making my morning awesome. Rachel took all these photos too!! They’re coming to the Bay Area in the spring so I’ll be returning the favour then!