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Lee Valley 10k: Race report

July 10, 2011

Photos of the Lee Valley 10kOn the same sunny mid-summer Sunday as the Asics British 10k was being run in central London (a race jam-packed with runners willing to pay at least £32.50 for entry) a small, independent, friendly and frankly bargain race (£10 entry) was held at Lee Valley Country Park.

Just down the road from the site of the Olympic 2012 white water events, the course joins up gravel paths, towpaths and sections across grass to create a flat and scenic route. Despite being so flat, there are sections that made runners work hard – an off-path section across some fairly rough and soft ground around the 6km mark and a starting and finishing stretch with a narrow gravel path meant that energy was sometimes sapped away from being converted to speed.

A great event, a lovely location and definitely one for the calendar next year. (Next year’s race will be two weeks earlier to avoid clashing with the Olympics.) Details will be here in due course.

Although I had intended to use a sensible pacing strategy (i.e. start off slowly and build up speed progressively), it didn’t quite work out that way with my first mile being my fastest, and my splits generally dropping a few seconds each mile up until the sixth mile. Clearly there’s quite a bit of work to do in terms of improving my pacing. Still, despite a couple of comparatively slow miles (6:23, 6:26 and 6:22) I managed to finish in a time of 38:33 (34 seconds off my PB). More uninterrupted tempo runs should help me manage my pace in future races.

But pacing wasn’t my only learning point from today’s race. I queued for a post-race massage, which I don’t normally do, but thought it would help avoid the onset of stiffness in my legs. There were two tents where massages were being provided, with one having a substantially longer queue than the other. I decided to go for the shorter queue (as you do). It was only after hearing the man in front of me whimper in agony as his leg was bent to the side with the weight of the masseuse’s body that I realised this queue was for sports therapists rather than the traditional rub-down. In for a penny, I thought to myself, wondering what tearing muscle would feel like…

Anyway, the therapist/masseuse/whatever was excellent. She gave my legs a very good – if somewhat painful at times – stretch out and showed me some exercises to try to relieve the tightness I often feel in the side of my calf. This involved adopting a lunge position, pushing against a car, keeping my hind heel on the floor while she pressed against my calf to push the stretch out further. She also gave me some tips on adapting the Downward Dog (no, I don’t know either) yoga position my girlfriend has been trying to get me to use.

All this was in the context of an interesting fact. Having a good range of motion is important for running fast, logically enough, but the quote of the day has to be this: ‘Increasing your stride by 1cm can result in an improvement of 5 minutes over marathon distance.’ Now that’s food for thought.

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