It was Sunday 23rd September, I was standing at the start line of the Sheffield 10km and there was that end of summer chill in the air. The music was pumping and my fellow racers were participating in a group warm up. Fellow Sheffield 10km runner Sam Novelli and I didn’t participate though having already warmed up from running to the start line from Netheredge. I was starting to feel butterflies in my stomach from the pre-race atmosphere.
I was feeling hopeful and I’d set my sights on an ambitious target time of a new 10km PB. I wasn’t going to get tangled up further back in the field before the race had even begun, I’d chosen to commit to my ambitious time and stand in the sub 40 minute section at the start line; an opportunity I missed out on at the Sheffield Half Marathon I ran back in spring. I’d committed to giving it my all and to try my damned hardest at smashing out a new PB time on my first official 10km race.
When the countdown began I put in my headphones ready to dart off when the time came – 3, 2, 1, GO! And we were away. I sped off so much harder than I should’ve setting myself a completely unsustainable pace. I was practically sprinting and I could already tell that I’d overcooked myself after the first kilometre. When I glanced down at my watch I saw 3:29 for the first kilometre, that was the fastest kilometre I’d ever run! I told myself everything would be fine but only if I slowed up a lot whilst running up Ecclesall road. Then the second km flashed up on my watch with 3:52, if only I could maintain this pace I’d easily finish in less than 40 minutes.
An unexpected climb
I found that the pace of kilometres 3 & 4 slipped just above 4 minutes, a much more comfortable pace. I couldn’t help but feel the pressure though and halfway around kilometre 5 things began to unravel. As it turned out, I’d made a massive assumption when looking at the route; I was convinced that I would turn back on myself once I’d reached the roundabout at the top of Endcliffe park but the route actually continues further up Oakbrook road with a short but punishing climb.
During kilometre 5 I had to stop to retie my shoelaces that’d frustratingly come undone. I had climbed almost 100m elevation since the start by the end of kilometre 5, not something I’d anticipated. The pace of both kilometres 5 and 6 came in too slow at over 4:15, reflecting the unanticipated climb. It was at this point that I started to realise it was highly unlikely that I’d be able to run the Sheffield 10km in sub 40 minutes.
Luckily what goes up, must come down, meaning that I could push on hard in kilometres 7 & 8 to bring the pace back below 4 minutes per kilometre. It wasn’t easy but this helped to bring my target time back within reach, almost. I had started to really hurt by kilometre 9 and my watch flashed up at 4:09, too slow again. I needed to run faster, I willed myself to just run faster, ‘Come on, Tim!’ I told myself.
After I’d clocked kilometre 9 roll over I began frantically working out in my head what pace my final kilometre needed to be to get the sub 40 minute 10km. I would need to run the final kilometre in 3:21, that just wasn’t going to be possible so I kissed goodbye to my sub 40 minute dream. Instead I’d decided to push on and get to the finish line as quickly as I could because that timer wasn’t going to slow down so neither was I, tick tock tick tock…
I put everything I had into that last kilometre of the race, gurning and grimacing so much I didn’t even see our friends who’d come to cheer us on stood at the top of the Moor. I was pleading with every step that the finish line would come into sight. Then all of a sudden I could see the timer above the finish line, I couldn’t believe it, I was still within the 40th minute; feeling enthused by this realisation I somehow managed a short sprint to cross the line. I had finished the Sheffield 10km in 40:56, placing 101st out of 3,623 runners, boom!
I came to the conclusion that considering I’ve only ever ran one sub 20 minute 5km, setting a target time of sub 40 minutes on a 10km was ambitious, if not near on impossible. I decided that my performance was actually quite good and it has inspired me to look into some more serious training sessions. I’m hopeful that by improving my training schedule over the next 12 months I’ll have a much better foundation for running Sheffield 10km in under 40 minutes next year.