This weekend saw me diverting from my Edinburgh marathon training plan to run Shrewsbury 10km, a race I’ve run and enjoyed 3 times now. I should have been clocking up around 26km but I didn’t feel like dropping one long run would dramatically affect my prep at this stage. Having made the decision to forego my Sunday long run for the race, I also slotted in a parkrun on Saturday morning.

I decided I wanted to push for a PB on Saturday, but pootle around Sunday’s race just taking in the scenery, checking out the ongoing floods in Shrewsbury and enjoying the support of the crowds.

Beating my parkrun personal best would mean finishing in under 25:04, a time which not 12 months ago I wouldn’t have even dreamed of achieving, let alone be trying to beat. Let’s not forget that the last time I tried to beat this around Christmas, I vomited up the length of the time tunnel. (In my defence, I did come down with the flu the day after.)

The weather on Saturday morning was not favourable; strong winds meant fighting to maintain momentum and my hands were freezing cold. At around 3-4km I started to question why I was not tucked up in bed with a hot coffee and you can see in my strava pace analysis where my pace started to drop as my enthusiasm ran out:

But, I managed to pull myself together and push forwards to finish with a strong last km, including sprint over the final 300m or so. Although my stomach wasn’t too keen on the surge up the last hill (oh, for a flat parkrun) I didn’t stop dead in the time tunnel this time, and kept walking until my stomach quietened. After walking around in circles for a minute or so I finally realised I’d not stopped my garmin, so had no idea how fast I’d run the course! Still, I was pretty sure that with the weather conspiring against me and my indifference in the second half, I was not going to touch my standing PB.

That low expectation of my performance brings me to Sunday, and Shrewsbury 10km. I have previously run Shrewsbury with a local friend who was not in the race this year, but I knew there was a big contingent of Broseley Joggers (my local running club) entered. However, despite meeting them pre-race, I managed to get separated from them in the allocated time spaces before the start. Not wanting to push myself too hard (and knowing how many hills I’d have to scale to finish!) I decided to position myself between the 60 and 65 minute pacers, which would give me a comfortable enough padding on my 10km personal best from Ellesmere to get round unstressed, hills and all and the opportunity to catch up with those lost joggers as the crowds dispersed.

I figured if I started around 60-65 minutes I could breathe easily, take it steady and drop back without getting in anyone’s way if necessary. I set off gently, but even without pushing started overtaking runners in the first couple of km, including a couple of my earlier ‘lost’ Broseley Joggers. As we came to our first noticeable up-hill section I ticked a few more off. (Sprinting hills is my running super power, thanks to ridiculous amounts of hill training and strong strong glutes/quads from strength training.)

Like parkrun the day before, the weather was really not pleasant and I was struggling to get warm; my thumbs were completely numb and I was actively shivering as I plodded on. Until Porthill Road, that is…

Images from Google Street View, turned into a gif with ezGIF

…a strong push up this long winding incline saw my heart rate increase and my body actually regain some heat at last. With the Porthill Road hill defeated, I plodded on until around 6km, when I caught up with a couple more Broseley Joggers and the 60 minute pacer. I carried on, feeling strong, cheerful and not at all like I was over-exerting myself.

This general theme of running cheery-ness continued until the last 8km, when not unlike parkrun I started to get a bit bored. (I genuinely don’t know how I’m going to manage running 30+km in training in the coming weeks!) However, the support from Shrewsbury locals lining the streets and cheering us on kept me motivated. As I entered the final km I knew there’d be a last uphill push before the finish straight but felt like I had so much left to give, almost that I’d wasted an opportunity in plodding along so gently. For the final 500m I stepped up a gear and sprinted the last 300m at speeds so fast I couldn’t see anything aside from a narrow strip in front of me (big red finish gate!)

I finished Shrewsbury 10km in 55:45 minutes, only a minute slower than my current 10km PB and feeling like I could do it all over again. I was completely blown away by how relaxed and easy I found it maintaining what I considered a steady pace, when not that long ago I was pushing hard to get in under an hour. With plenty of energy left to spare, I helped a few other BJs run in the last of our group, giving them often much needed support in that final drag.

My expectations of my running ‘skill’, i.e. endurance and ability to maintain consistent speed, are 18 months behind where I’m actually physically at right now. In my head, I still feel like the fat unfit girl who can’t hold a jog for longer than 10-15 minutes without needing a walking break. I can’t speak positively enough about the power of consistent, regular training at both short and long distance, mixing up slow and faster pacing. I’m actually starting to feel like this marathon is not going to kill me (although the long boring training runs might!)

Oh and that parkrun? I set a new PB of 24:42.

Lead photo by Gareth Griffiths