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Race report: Andy Reading 10k

December 13, 2009

The finish line of the Andy Reading 10k

13 December 2009

Patchy cloud, showers, little wind, around  6°C

The Andy Reading 10k is held as a memorial to the eponymous Andy Reading, who established the Oxon Cross Country League amongst other things, and raises money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

The race takes place over a lollypop-shaped course, with the majority of the track snaking round an airfield. It’s almost entirely flat (aside from a bridge around the 2km and 9km marks), is entirely on good road surfaces (rather than pot-holed sections of path, or forcing runners to deal with the punishment of undulating curbs), and – perhaps unsurprisingly – its reputation for speed makes it very popular with local running clubs.

Taking place at the end of the year, over exposed ground, you are potentially at the mercy of the elements. Today, though, the weather was generally kind (although an icy shower about 20 minutes before the start time reminded the gathered runners that it could get cold), with the head (and tail) wind moderate on the exposed straights of the runway. However, even with favourable weather, there’s something quite post-apocalyptic about a pack of runners making their way around a wintry landing strip – like a low-budget Mad Max.

My race hadn’t been looking favourable. I woke up this morning with the tell-tale snuffling of a fledgling cold and with a tight chest from the cold. A generic lemon-flavoured cold and flu drink and an antihistamine later, I felt a little better, but sluggish. (I always find that antihistamine gives me a ‘brain fog’ – at its worst, it can become like thinking through treacle – but it helps to clear the lungs.)

Once I was at the race HQ, and had picked up my chip for the race timing (with a start and finish mat, rather than being linked to the gun, so race times genuinely are accurate), I got down to the business of warming up. I’d decided that, no matter the weather, I was braving shorts so there were no restrictions on the movement of my legs. With the sun hidden behind a cloud and a wintry shower, it was quite bracing. I decided to keep my gloves on for the race itself as a token gesture towards keeping warm, but in the end it wasn’t necessary as the sun came out.

The race itself felt good. The course isn’t terribly scenic, which is only to be expected from a flat course, and there’s an element of awe the moment you get on to the airfield and see the leaders streaming away in the distance. Most importantly, though, the race was well organised and the supporters were quite vocal – which always helps. The only problem seemed to be around the fact that the runners came to the finish through the same gate as the cars leaving the race HQ. It wasn’t a problem for the faster runners, but the slower racers had to contend with dodging round cars on their way to the finish line.

Tips for running Andy Reading 10k

  1. Try to avoid burning out. It’s a fast course, and there’s the usual congestion around the first kilometre, so there is the eternal temptation to dart round people and make an unsustainably fast first split. Perhaps this is made more common by the course’s reputation – I certainly overheard a lot of conversations about runners trying to avoid blowing up at the start. (Not literally, one assumes.)
  2. Keep focused to keep motivated. There are several long stretches of road – not to mention the whole of the airfield – where you can see the pack way out in front of you. In fact, the runners at the tail of the race see the leading pack coming out of the airfield before they’ve even entered the circuit. You have to focus on your own race, and ignore the speedsters way out front.
  3. Keep something for the bridge. Around the final kilometre you come up against the comparatively steep incline of a bridge. Push through it and make the most of the downhill afterwards – although that might be easier said than done.
  4. Have a decent warm-up. I took the time to do a warm-up jog, some high knees, heel flips and striding sprints as well as some static stretches, which meant I was ready to run for the first split, rather than settling into my pace around the third. Notably, I didn’t do anything other than static stretches for Eynsham two weeks ago.
  5. Think sensibly about clothing. This winter seems to have been quite mild so far, and there wasn’t a frost this morning. Although it didn’t feel warm, I’d decided to go for an optimum range of movement rather than layers of warmer clothing. Ultimately, your body temperature raises under vigorous exercise, so you only generally feel the chill while you’re waiting for the starting gun.

Details

Results here.

Finish time: 38:51 (race time; 38:46 chip time) (PB)
Position: 44 out of 445

1km: 3:47
2km: 3:48
3km: 3:57
4km: 3:57
5km: 3:45
6km: 3:53
7km: 3:58
8km: 3:55
9km: 3:56
10km: 3:45

This was a massive PB – I’d been setting my goals around the 40-minute mark, but this was well under my previous PB of 40:20 (from just two weeks earlier). Based on the Runner’s World race-pace calculator, this puts a sub 1:30 half marathon well within my ability, and moves me closer to the 3-hour mark for Paris.

I’m running the 2010 Paris Marathon for The Stroke Association, and have set the target of raising £1000. Donations of any size are massively appreciated. If you would like to donate, please go to www.justgiving.com/lewis-birchon.

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