So there I was, standing in a crowd of around 700 others, all of us checking our shoes and fiddling with buttons on watches and phones. Lots of little things were running though my head. Are my laces too tight, is the timing chip facing the right way up, make sure you don’t start off too fast, did I drink enough water, did I drink too much water. But then, all of a sudden, it was too late.
When I started running at the end of 2014, a single non-stop 5k seemed impossible. I remember thinking to myself ‘once I get to 5k, that’ll be enough for me’. I had no interest in times, or PB’s, or races, and certainly not half marathons and marathons. But there I was, lined up at the start of my first race, the Whitstable 10k, feeling both nervous and excited and having no real idea what to expect.
After a quick stop off at race HQ to collect the souvenir t-shirt, it was a short uphill walk to the starting area where there was enough time for a few light stretches and to take on some water before moving across the road to the start line. Unusually for a bank holiday weekend, it was a really hot day so I was quite happy to find a slightly shady spot to stand in while we waited. After around 15 minutes the organisers had sorted out whatever issues they had on course and were finally ready. The delays hadn’t helped with the nerves, but that didn’t matter now – 3, 2, 1… We’re off.
The slight incline of the start quickly turned into a decent downhill stretch and I made the most of this by heading off fairly quickly. The route took us along the slopes at Tankerton and then through the Seaview caravan park, which we reached at about 3km. At this point I noticed another runner who was keeping a very similar pace to me and with whom I kept switching positions as we went along. This was a great help as it kept my pace steady and gave me a target to keep up with, but also to chase down when I went behind. The route continued on and we hit the only slight uphill section at around 3.5km which took us along a grass track, before leading into a residential area, and then back onto the concrete.
It wasn’t long until the 5km water station came into sight and I was past the half way point – from here I knew it was a flat run all the way to the finish. Through kilometres five and six I was fine, but then not long after the 7km marker my legs started to get heavy. In hindsight I realise I’d gone out too fast and saved nothing for the final stages. The runner I’d been toing and froing with started to get away from me and I was now just racing myself. I needed to dig in to keep a decent pace and I was counting down each 200 meter block as I made my way nearer and nearer to the finish line. And then, just when I needed it, a fellow runner who could obviously see I was fading shouted some encouragement my way, which spurred me on to push for a final sprint towards the line.
I’d completed what must have been only my third distance of 10k and although those last few kilometres had been tough I’d really enjoyed it. I’d learnt a lot from my first race and I was already looking forward to my next one!
Going against what most other races appear to do, there was no medal for finishers, although I do love the souvenir t-shirt. If they include a t-shirt in future years I’d recommend picking this up when first arriving as I noticed a few runners unable to get their size when trying to collect after the race.
Being far too busy and excited by the fact that I was taking part in my first race I didn’t take any photos on the actual day, so all images were taken on an equally sunny, albeit not as hot, day in Whitstable.