Watch for the lights…

Posted on: 10 May 2018

As a lifelong motorsport fan, getting me to run twice around the hallowed asphalt of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit was never going to be a particularly hard-sell.

The occasion was the Silverstone 10k put on by Silson Athletics Club.  It’s been going since the mid- 80s and what makes it unusual – and appealing for many – is the mid-week date and the early evening start time of 7.30pm.

That means, unless you’re travelling longer distances, it’s a perfect after work race, with the option to enter on the night if you prefer.  For me, it took about an hour and a half to get to Silverstone and that left just under an hour to collect my number, take on some food, warm up and meet my brother who was also taking part.

The last time I ran Silverstone was in 2016 and about 1,000 other runners did the same.  More than 1,600 ran this year, making for a terrific atmosphere (but a rather miserable, bumper to bumper crawl to get off the car park afterwards and out of the circuit).

But who’s complaining?  The weather was perfect, the surface was smooth and the course virtually flat.  This is an ideal PB hunting ground if that’s your bag, with the added bonus this year of pacers at five minute intervals.

My existing 10k PB was set at Silverstone, 45:47, and I’ve not really come close to it since.  But last night I felt strong and quietly confident that I could fight for a 45-flat, so I lined up near to the relevant pacer.

The plan was to drop slightly behind but keep the pacing group in sight – then go for a strong finish.  That was until I got chatting to a runner from Warwick University’s team called Mary.  She also wanted to run a 45, or ideally just below that, and jokingly said to me “so I’m just going to follow you” or words to that effect.  Anyway, her teammates soon arrived and I thought no more of it.   

Then we were off, about five minutes behind a small contingent of wheelchair racers.  The track is wide so you don’t tend to get boxed in.  It’s entirely optional to make noises like an F1 car and quote famous lines from Murray Walker as you run around the various iconic circuit corners (or is that just me?), however it genuinely does pay to stick to the racing line.  I found this out to my cost last time and ran quite a bit further than the planned 6.2miles.

I won’t bore you with too much detail on the race itself.  However, a few things did stand out.  First up was how calm and in control I felt throughout – running with confidence and no injury concerns was just so satisfying. 

Second was that rare delight of a negative split.  My second 5k was nearly 30 seconds faster than my first; it actually proved slightly faster than my Parkrun PB so that gives you an idea of how hard I was pushing.

Third was my running buddy.  In the end, the pacing group didn’t play a part.  I was ahead within the first 100 yards and never saw them again.  I did, however, see Mary.  It was probably a mile or so into the race when I caught her.  And we traded positions all the way to the line.

We weren’t strictly running together, but just provided each other with a constant reference point.  We didn’t talk much, just a few nods and smiles.  With about a mile to go, I could see she was slowing and I just called across to her to stick with me.  I told her “I need you more than you need me, so don’t drop back for both our sakes”.  And it seemed to work.

My sixth mile ticked off, meaning just under a quarter to the finish.  Yes my legs were tired but there was definitely something left and I kicked up a gear for a sprint finish.  I didn’t dare look at my Garmin, but knew my splits had been good.  Low seven minute miles all the way, and one in the high sixes.  And still that 45m pacer was out of sight.

My instincts were right – over the line in 44:17, a minute and a half quicker than 2016.  Stunned, elated, buzzing, proud.  I haven’t felt this satisfied with a result since the Stafford Half Marathon last year, another PB time that totally exceeded my expectations.

And Mary?  About five seconds behind, but get this – she finished first in her age and gender category.  We helped each other get exactly what we wanted from the event.  The strength, friendliness and supportive nature of the running community never ceases to amaze me.  From total stranger to valued friend in under 45 minutes.  That’s powerful!

Could Silverstone get any better?  Sure it could – big brother came home ahead of his pacer too, ducking under 55 minutes for yet another PB time.  A triple celebration.

Next up is the Vitality 10,000 on Bank Holiday Monday.  I can relax and enjoy that one because as far as times go I have nothing to prove to myself.  I didn’t think I could sustain seven minute mile pace over 10k, but I can (7:02 to be precise).  I can also believe that a 1hr40 half could now be doable and, dare I say it, that ultimate goal of a four hour marathon – it isn’t out of the equation just yet.

 

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