Finding May Day mojo at the Glastonbury 10K

Another weekend, another 10K.

Jumping back into racing after an 18-month break, with two events in less than two weeks, definitely wasn’t the plan. But my 16-year old son was keen to try a 10K and the race I’d been aiming for, in Wells at the end of May, was already full. So we shifted our sights to the Glastonbury Round the Tor on the May Bank Holiday weekend.

For Joel, he just wanted to get round in less than an hour. And me? After the Easter Bunny, I was hoping to rediscover my racing mojo. I couldn’t get a whole lot fitter in the space of a fortnight. So rather than chasing a time target, my goal was to run my own pace at the start and not go off too fast; stay focused and relaxed; and to actually enjoy it all the way to the end. Basically, the exact opposite of the Bunny.

My left ankle was still feeling a little bruised and stiff from my gravel diving, but running was pain free. To help make the race feel a little more zen, I decided to set a different focus for each kilometre:

1K: feeling stable, supported and relaxed – needle in cotton

2K: feet moving in a circular path

3K: elbows swinging rearward

4K: staying light on my feet with hot air balloons lifting from the crown of the head and the ankles

5K: y’chi – focusing eyes on an object in the middle distance and feeling pulled towards it

Then rinse and repeat for the next 5K. I cycled through them on the training runs leading up to the race, until I could remember them easily.

As Joel and I arrived in Glastonbury on the day of the Round the Tor, we suddenly realised this was a BIG event. The town was packed, not just for our race and the 5K and 3K that came before, but for May Day celebrations as well. Great for atmosphere, but maybe a little overwhelming for your first 10K. The nerves were kicking in for Joel. We tried to find a quieter spot away from the main crowds where we could watch the 3K runners heading off, and did our best to keep warm while waiting for the first 5K racers to appear. Someone had whacked the thermostat down after the heat of the Easter weekend, and it felt distinctly chilly.

At last the time came to head to the 10K start. The sky had darkened overhead and it began spitting with rain. We were eager to get going, and the minutes crawled by as we waited for the starting signal. Then finally we were off. We decided we’d start together so neither of us would go off too fast, too early.  Then we’d run our own pace once we’d settled in.

I’d warned Joel to look out for people cutting in front of him at the start, and sure enough, we nearly went flying a couple of times as runners suddenly veered across our path without warning.  But we managed to avoid any collisions, and just concentrated on starting steady.

From the start, we headed left onto Magdelene Street, past the town hall and the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, and through the finish line. The spectators cheered, music played, and Joel looked comfortable and calm. The route then took us up the High Street on a small incline, before we left the big crowds behind as we headed onto a long downhill section.

Photo credit: Ben Timpson

The kilometres began to click by. I chatted with Joel and cycled through my focus list. At the 2K mark, my left foot began to niggle. Was my stiff left ankle the culprit? I worked on relaxing my feet and lower legs, and it soon eased up.

As we reached the bottom of the long hill and 3K, Joel started to complain of a stitch. I debated whether we should keep running together, but experience said that he’d pace himself better without me. So I suggested that he slow down and run his own race while I went ahead.

The route undulated gently, as Glastonbury Tor came into view. The long downhill must surely mean we were due some uphill? But no sign yet.

I was running comfortably and easily. Although we’d left the town behind, there were still plenty of spectators – and the occasional drum band – along the way to cheer us on. The threatened rain never materialised and the temperature was just right. Switching focus each kilometre seemed to make the distance fly by. And soon we were heading back towards town.

The roads were getting lumpier and bumpier with potholes, and I kept a corner of my attention on where my feet were landing. From the 8K marker, I became extra wary, the memory of the Bunny still fresh on my mind. Time for ninja feet.

Then the expected uphill came all at once, with a cheeky little sting-in-the-tail at around 9K – Glastonbury’s very own Heartbreak Hill. At a top, a quick smile – or grimace – for the photographer, before a long run in along Magdelene Street, and a repeat of the first kilometre. Only this time, we were crossing the finish line for real.

Now, to join the spectators at the finish and wait for Joel. It wasn’t many minutes before he appeared, eating up the final metres and looking strong. He finished in under 58 minutes, even with a few walking breaks, easily inside his target.

So what was the Kirkman family verdict on our day at the races? I felt as though I was really starting to get the hang of this racing malarkey again, and enjoyed it from start to finish. Job done. And Joel’s already asking when we’re doing our next 10K. I’m taking that as a good sign 🙂

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