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Race report: Headington 10km

September 6, 2009
tags: ,

6 September 2009
Overcast, around 16°C, slight wind

Starting and finishing on a disused airstrip (now mostly turned into farmland), with the middle 6km of the race tearing through quiet, mostly flat country lanes, the Headington 10km has something of a reputation as a fast race. Rather importantly – for me, at least, with the memories of the parking panic at Burnham Beeches still fresh in my memory – the parking for the race was easy to find, had signs, and well marshalled (with direction provided using luminous hands on sticks).

There was quite a large club contingent at the race, which probably gives you an indication of its position in the racing calendar. It’s not something that seems well-known to non-club runners (unlike the Town and Gown, which is Oxford’s main 10km race, or the Blenheim 10km for Cancer Research, which benefits from a substantial publicity campaign), so I initially felt a little intimidated by the anticipation that the standard would be very high. This might help explain why I went off a little too fast at the gun…

The course itself is pretty unremarkable in terms of scenery, but that’s the price you pay for a flat 10km. Given its reputation for speed, it is a pity there was no chip timing – this would probably have helped build on its reputation for speed and would have been a nice touch for PB  hunters. The water station at the 6km mark was well-placed for an unseasonal day, but might have been a bit late in the day for a hotter day. I had a bit of a problem with the water itself, coming as it did in a bottle (rather than the usual half-full plastic cup), and fumblingly managed to throw my bottle into the road rather than quench my thirst. Evidently something I need to practice.

While I wait for the official results to be published, I know I shaved a couple of minutes off my PB and my unofficial time was 40:53 (a massive improvement on 43:46). I had a ‘watch malfunction’ (namely not pressing the start button hard enough) at the start – compounded by the rather short build up to the start gun – so I expect to add a few seconds to the time. However, I think it’s sub-41, about which I’m frankly ecstatic.

Tips for running Headington 10km

  1. Stick with the pace you go out on and see how it goes. I thought I had gone off way too fast (see splits below) – and in truth I probably had – but that’s no reason to curb your speed dramatically. I actually beat my 5km PB halfway through this race (although it was earned on the hilly course at Waddesdon Manor), and kept as close to the pace I’d started with as I could. It’s a test of mental strength as well as physical.
  2. Pace yourself against others. I ran most of the race within a couple of paces of a runner who was keeping the same pace as me. We passed each other at a couple of points in the race before he beat me in the final sprint, but it helped me to push that bit harder.
  3. Choose which racing experiences you remember. I went through a phase of running out of steam at the 7km mark (particularly on the tough cross-country course of the Thames Run earlier this year), which prompted me to up my distance to run the half marathon. I got to the fateful 7km marker and focused on having run the half marathon rather than the times I’d struggled at this point, and even managed to feel a bit of a second wind at the 8km marker (although that doesn’t seem to be the story my splits tell).
  4. Choose a sensible racing line. At around 1500 metres, the course turns back on itself, so you need to choose the most efficient way to decelerate, turn and accelerate, while avoiding everyone else (unless the pack has started to thin by that point). Watch out for the breeze-block lane markers too – they looked like a health and safety disaster waiting to happen!
  5. If you need water, make sure you don’t throw it across the road like I did! Sometimes, taking a drink mid-race is far more challenging than it should ever be…


Finish time: 40:56 (PB)
Position: 54 out of 310

1km: 3:42
2km: 3:50
3km: 4:03
4km: 3:56
5km: 4:11
6km: 4:03
7km: 4:17
8km: 4:16
9km: 4:30
10km: 4:00

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 6, 2009 3:10 pm

    Also ran this morning. Thought the conditions were fantastic. Congratulations on your time.

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