This is a football site, but it is also my site, a place to be a little indulgent at times.
As you’ll know, today I ran the Lincoln 10k today, and I was, once, a staunch anti-runner. Getting up at the crack of dawn to run around Lincoln in shorts? No thanks. I’d much rather sit in and play video games, sneering at the utter pointlessness of running. I used to joke about how I’d only ever run to catch last orders. How hilarious I was.
I figured much of my anti-running stance was fuelled by the fact that I knew I couldn’t do it. I did it once in 2003 in the Poacher suit and hit 1hr 19m, which I thought was great. That was enough for me, and fifteen years later, if anyone mentioned the 10k, that was my go-to defence. Did it once; no point again. 10k? Completed it, mate.
I figure there are some of you out there maybe like me. You’re potential runners, you’d love to know why those of us who did the 10k chose to do so, and deep down, you might even fancy giving it a go yourself. If that’s you, this blog is for you. If you just want to kill five minutes having a read, then this might also be amusing.
The day started for me at 7:30 am – I wanted to get up, have a couple of pints of water to hydrate and a bite to eat, but leave enough time to settle before the 10 am start. I’d charged my Garmin overnight and my Aftershokz headphones too, so I was prepped. Then it was off to Nettleham, where we had bagged a lift to be dropped off. Fe was on photo duty, Mum and Mel were on taxi duty and Dad and Mo would be there at the end on ‘getting the beers in the Magna Carta’ duty. I made sure I’d be visible in my Hearts of Oak shirt, so Fe could see me coming for the photos.
Once dropped off, it was a short walk from the Lincoln Imp (City reference, for relevance) to Yarborough Leisure Centre for a toilet break. My hydration plan had backfired, I was desperate for a wee, and there were very few urinals compared to last year. I did what was needed, eventually, posed for a photo with my mate Dayle (who is taller than me, but Fe has managed to get me on a kerb), and we headed to the start line. On the way, Scott, a podcast listener, said ‘I didn’t know you ran Gary’ as I passed him. That’s a running joke courtesy of Charlie, Ben and Chris on the pod. Nice to know it’s carried. I also saw Gav Gordon (City reference, for relevance), and we wished each other luck.
The start line is a busy place, with 2500 runners, and you catch a glimpse of familiar faces, and say hello, but there’s always a hint of apprehension. I don’t like how you filter in – there’s one lane of the road for the runners, and you’re meant to join the race depending on your expected time. So, if you’re running around an hour, you’re further back than those expecting under 50 minutes. It makes sense, but it is a real bottleneck. Last year, I turned my phone on, and it connected to Fe’s headphones, giving me a momentary panic and resulting in me listening to a random set of Spotify-chosen songs, rather than my carefully curated playlist. That wasn’t going to happen again. This year, my music was on my watch, so all I had to do was turn my headphones on.
Disaster – they didn’t come on. For a few minutes, I was randomly pressing buttons, but nothing happened, so I gave up. The prospect of an hour running with no music terrified me, and I felt at that moment I was cursed. Adjusting focused, I primed my watch’s GPS, set it ready to run, and waited (in silence) for the ‘gun’. Spoiler – there is no gun.
Eventually it went (not literally, metaphorically), and runners began to filter in. It was too hectic for me, and we slowly walked along until we came to the start line. You have to be really careful, the barrier legs stick out a bit, and it’s a bloody minefield. Your time is recorded using a chip in your race number, so my watch was only for me to ensure Strava has my times. I pressed the button to activate it as I crossed the start line (carefully crossed the start line) and… nothing. We’d taken that long to walk like a herd of cows, my watch had reset to the normal face. I started it again but missed the first few seconds of the race – crucial later. Not a good start for me.
From there, the race is on, although it isn’t like you’re trying to beat anyone. From the starting lineup to the first roundabout is a bit mad – everyone is herded together, and it’s hard to get a good pace as you’re worried about who is ahead, or who might be behind. Once you’re around the first corner, you have the whole road, and things open up. Fe was waiting on the first corner with the camera, as were a few other people, including my cousin Angie and her fella, Mark, who have been massively supportive. They’re both runners (and I’ve been told I am now, like, a proper runner), and Mark does triathlons and iron man challenges with ease. Seeing them there, among others, of course, is brilliant. It seemed as though most runners around me had someone cheering them on, which is great.
After 2km, I tried my headphones again, thinking it would be futile, but as I pressed the button, a Japanese voice said something in my ear. It turns out they worked just fine on the start line, but it was so loud I never heard them come on. My frantic button pressing has changed the setting to the Japanese language. Luckily, Spotify plays in English, so finally, I had my music. It was even the right playlist, which was a boost!
That’s it for advice really – the next fifty minutes were just running around Lincoln. There’s a really good vibe for the runners, the crowd are vocal, and there were loads of people shouting my name, faces I recognised and some I didn’t. I don’t doubt many were blog readers, which is why this is a piece I want to write. If you were one of those people, thank you. You have no idea how much it helped. It also helps to look behind you if you’re weaving in and out, which you have to. There didn’t seem to be any collisions, but Fe said a few of the early pacesetters were swearing at people blocking their way. Back in the middle of the pack, it’s just about courtesy, and if I wanted to step out, or wind my way through, I looked over my shoulder, pretty much like I was taught on my cycling proficiency. Skills to last a lifetime.
Very early in the race, I found I needed a wee, which put me off somewhat. There’s nothing worse, I hate it because you’re alone with your niggles and aches for an hour, and needing a wee is tough when you’re running. I was scouring the track for places I might be able to nip off, wondering if I could still get a good time with a quick break. I decided not and lived with it. There was a toilet at 5km, just one, but as I approached, a guy came out, and another went in. That’s also where there’s a water station, so I opted to take more fluids on, not get rid of the ill-advised orange I’d downed at 8 am.
After 5km, it got really tough. The sun came out, and it got a bit harder to breathe, plus I usually run 5km, not 10km. My first ‘walk’ came not long after, but by walk, I count five seconds, take deep breaths and then go again. For some reason today, I needed a few – in October, I did one and ran the rest, today I decided to take five seconds at the end of every kilometre after five. I needed it, especially up the hills. “The hills,” I hear you say. “There are no hills“. Correction, there are, very slight ones you don’t notice in a car, but that absolutely batter you on foot. As we come up the Ermine West and turn onto Risehole Road, a big hill hits you. Running up Riseholme Road is tough, and then we were funnelled into the narrow lanes again. That was frustrating; a couple of runners, side-by-side, were walking, meaning only one at a time could pass. It’s unusual for that to happen – there’s a real courtesy on the track, so this was an oddity. For instance, almost every time I stopped for a five-second walk, someone coming up behind me asked if I was okay. If it wasn’t another runner, it was people watching, cheering you on. It’s such a great vibe; everyone looking out for each other.
Around 7km, my legs went, and I seriously wondered if I might have to drop out. I came around a corner and was met with a wall of noise, I assume some of you lovely people were there, and it spurred me on. It feels conceited, but I heard people saying, ‘come on, Gary’, and it’s pretty special, to be honest. At 8km, I was ready to cry (albeit briefly), and then the 9km mark came up. My watch buzzed after each kilometre with my split times, and I knew my time was looking good, but at that stage, finding it in your legs is a real challenge. I knew I couldn’t walk into the final straight, so it’s head down and keep on. It’s tough, Nettleham Road is one big hill; again, you don’t notice it in a car, but when it’s stretching out ahead of you like a never-ending tarmac torture strip, you know.
For the last half a kilometre, I turned my headphones off (ヘッドホンオフ, apparently), so I could savour every minute of those final few steps. There are no words to adequately describe the feeling coming down that last stretch, so I’ll use a picture. It is a lot like this image above – it feels like it is all for you. It’s such a buzz, and it makes the previous nine kilometres of sweating, panting and thinking you might collapse worth it. There are other runners, but it doesn’t feel like it; those cheers, the applause, it’s for you. I even looked a few of the crowd in the eye, and they’re just not cheering for just their sister, brother, mother or friend; they’re cheering for you. It’s mad, it really is. Some people were outside their houses on deckchairs, watching me go past as if I was someone special. You can’t understand until you’ve experienced it – I never did.
Finally, you go past the Lincoln Hotel, around the corner, and there it is. The Holy Grail. Salvation. The Finish Line.
This year, the dulcet tones of Rob Makepeace welcomed me (and everyone else, he wasn’t just whispering to me) over the line, and I could see the ‘gun’ time was 58:50, meaning I’d done less than that. I stumbled over the line and, without thinking, stopped my watch. Of course, I’d started it late, and it hadn’t quite got to 10k – that means no time on Strava! Doh! Technology and I are not friends today.
That’s the 10k over and done with, and if you’ve never done it, it’s the best feeling. I think it’s runner’s high; the surge of serotonin or whatever when you’ve done is just such a rush. You go around the Cathedral, where Fe found me for a sweaty hug (me, not her), and I saw loads of people, saying well done and having pictures taken. I caught up with dayle again – he’s been supporting my running since I first did the Couch to 5k, and seeing as we sat next to each other in Class 3 at Wragby County Primary School, he’s probably my oldest friend. It felt quite cool having a picture taken with him at the end.
Mr Imptoons, Chris Wray, was there as well. He and I give each other some stick online, and we’d been at it last night. When you meet at the finish line, there’s no banter, just a feeling of a job well done by all. His brother Sam, a huge Imp, as partly the inspiration behind my fitness drive. At 43 minutes, I’ll never get near his time – great work.
I don’t enjoy the act of running, it’s wank, if I’m honest, but the bit after a run is why we do it. When my time came through, 54:46, I could have cried for a second time, but for very different reasons. My previous best was 55:30, and before March, I hadn’t run under 57:40. It’s an achievement, and for a former fat bastard with metal rods in his back, I’m chuffed I can get out there at all.
The day ended with Mum, Mel, Dad, Mo and Fe in the Magna Carta, with me. Of course, I ended up talking Lincoln City to someone (the legend that is Garry Goddard), which is inevitable in a Lincoln pub for me. He was perhaps the first of many to suggest a half might be next for me. We’ll see.
You might be reading this having never run. You might be a lapsed runner, or you might be occasional but don’t feel confident enough to go out on 10k and do your thing. The time to change that is now. This is the registration for next year’s event, and if you feel slightly inspired, you should do it now. Sign up. it doesn’t matter if you’ve never run before. -one year ago, I was working through the Couch to 5k, and I hadn’t run on the road at all. Today, I’ve done my second 10k, and it’s 6:39 pm, and the runner’s high is still with me. I’ve bored Fe with it, I’ve done the socials to death, and I’m still buzzing, which is why I’m writing this. It’s so worth it, even if it didn’t feel like it between 10:00:00 and 10:54:46 today. I’ve even signed up for the Brigg 10k in October. Bring it on.
You never know, I might see you on the start line next year, where I’ll still be wondering how the hell to set my headphones back to English. Either that, or I’ll have learned Japanese. The latter sounds easier.