Last Sunday, August 26th 2018, I ran the Severn Bridge 10K. Sharing its route with part of the Severn Bridge half marathon, the 10K is run almost entirely on the “old” Severn bridge as an out-and-back run.
I’d entered it months ago and had really been looking forward to it. Through all my knee issues, I really hoped I’d be fit enough to be able to run it. I like 10K as a distance. It’s far enough to be a challenge but not so far as to be boring or too much of an injury risk. I was a bit wary though because, as a result of my knee injury, the longest run I’d done in months was the Race for Life 10K at the beginning of July which I had literally limped away from.
The weather forecast for Sunday did not look good and sadly the Met Office had it spot on. The rain started on the drive there and by the time I arrived at Event HQ just off the motorway junction it was lashing down. I’d also misjudged my arrival time. I’d allowed a good hour to pick up my race pack expecting long queues for big collection and for the toilets and bag drop. As it was I waited less than ten minutes to collect my running number and then had to wait an hour in the rain. A tip-off from another runner led to me spending at least a bit of time in the dry and semi-warmth of the women’s changing tent but eventually I had to stuff my raincoat into my backpack and hand it in at the bag drop and make my way to the start. I’m sure the rain got even heavier at that point and the ten minute walk from Event HQ to the start line up on the motorway carriageway itself was wet and cold and I was shivering by the time I got there. The start line was near to a road bridge and it was a squeeze as everyone tried to shelter under it.
The atmosphere was lovely though despite the weather. I was there alone but never felt alone. I chatted with a number of other ladies, some like me hoping to finish in under an hour, some hoping to finish in under 90 minutes, and some just happy to finish! We weren’t kept waiting long before we were called forward to the start line and sent off on our way across the bridge. Beforehand, I had said I wanted to finish in under an hour. My PB for a measured 10K was 1 hour and 24 seconds so that seemed an achievable goal, but I also really wanted to enjoy the experience. After all, how often do you get to run (safely and legally!) along a motorway?! The weather conditions were really awful. I was trying to take in the view as I ran along the bridge but you really couldn’t see much through the mist and the rain. The first stretch up to the top of the bridge wasn’t too bad but the main flat stretch of road across was windy, and there was rain blowing into my right ear the whole way. I was keeping up a good pace following a lady in a distinctive red T-shirt and trying to console myself that at least the rain would be blowing down the other one on the way back!
At the other end of the bridge my spirits were raised by a bagpiper playing on a road bridge above the motorway! The run continued down past the motorway exit at the far end of the bridge before turning back to run back the way we’d come, and then turning again to run down the exit slip lane. I was glad to see the 5K halfway mark. Just a Parkrun to go! There was a water station there so I took a drink, although the irony of taking on additional water when I was already soaked to the skin and dripping was not lost on me!
The return leg of the run took place on the cycle path which goes alongside and slightly below the main vehicle carriageway. The puddles were huge! By the end of the path it was impossible to run around them and all I could do was plough on through the ankle-deep puddles and apologise to any runners who got splashed. My trainers and socks were saturated, rain was dripping off my hair, my chin, my nose, I had to keep wiping my glasses to be able to see, and then I heard and saw the most enthusiastic marshal standing by the gate at the end of the cycle lane. She was calling out that there was only half a mile to go and my spirits lifted. The route went up a slight incline to leave the motorway in order to access a path underneath it before finishing back at Event HQ. A marshal at a tight bend was calling out that this was the last incline, and I commented to a half marathon runner passing me that I really didn’t need an incline right then. He replied “I’m not teasing you, but this isn’t the incline he’s referring to”. He was right. The path went downhill, underneath the motorway, and then the final stretch was uphill. Uphill! With just a couple of hundred yards to go I dug deep, running past people who couldn’t do more than trudge but I was determined to finish strongly. I’d been keeping an eye on my average pace and knew I was looking to finish in under an hour if I could just keep going.
Then I came through trees and the path started to slope down again and I recognised it as being the final stretch into Event HQ, and I could hear the music playing and see the Finish line ahead of me with the clock on it. People ahead of me were obscuring the seconds part of the display but I could see the hours and minutes. 0 hours, 57 minutes. I sprinted! I saw the minutes figure tick over on to 58 as I approached but I didn’t care. I was well inside the hour. I’d done it! I crossed the line and stopped my watch at 58:10. Volunteers with armfuls of medals were there to greet finishers and I thanked one as she handed me my 10K medal. Next stop was a table covered in bananas! I had planned to save my banana until I’d collected my goody bag but once I’d unpeeled it I thought I’d just eat it and I don’t think a banana has ever been so tasty. I took a bottle of water, collected my finishers T-shirt and goody bag and headed for the bag drop to collect my coat and bag.
I really enjoyed the race despite the weather. It would be nice to run it again in the sunshine and actually get to enjoy the view but it was a fun race. I was even more delighted when the official results were finally released that evening and I saw my chip time was actually 57:53. I had well and truly smashed my PB and still can’t quite believe that I ran a sub-58 10K! And the best news, my knees are fine. Onwards and upwards to my half marathon now!