A combination of FOMO and wanting to enjoy a few beers on New Year’s Eve saw me swap my Wymondham New Year’s Day 10K place for the Ely 10K on December 31. 

A group of friends had signed up for Ely and I decided to gatecrash to try and bring 2023 to a close with a new personal best. 

With my Town and Gown ‘10K’ time of 38:00 set in October effectively expunged due to the course being 120m short, my time to beat was 39:53. 

However, I thought I was in the shape to go under 39 minutes and went into the race with that intention. 

When I initially checked the weather for Ely in the days leading up to the event it was forecasting 40mph+ winds so I was a little relieved when closer to the time that prediction had lessened. 

It was still going to be a factor, albeit one that was out of my control. 

I’ve spoken before how getting that surge of adrenaline on the start line where I say to myself ‘I quite fancy this...’. This was noticeably absent on Sunday and can probably be put down to the less than optimal lifestyle I’d lived over the festive period (Celebration anyone?). I felt a little sluggish in the warm-up but know from previous experience that’s not necessarily a good indicator of how my race will unfold. 

The start was fast; with the wind behind us and running downhill, I tried to keep my pace in check whilst realising this was also going to be the quickest part of the course with the wind becoming a factor later on. 

The first kilometre felt okay but by the second there were already signs that this wasn’t going to be one of those ‘flow state’ races. My legs felt a little heavy and my breathing was already a little laboured. I tried not to focus on pace too much and judged it on effort level but by the third kilometre the wind started to hit from a sideways direction offering a glimpse of the struggle to come. 

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I passed the 5K point in around 19:40 and I was already adjusting my goal of going under 39 minutes. I didn’t feel like I could make up those 10 seconds in the second half of the race... I was right. 

Just after 5K we turned the corner and the wind hit; this was going to be a grind. 

I tried not to look at my watch, but I could feel my pace was dropping and steadily other runners started to gradually overtake me. This really doesn’t bother me in terms of competitiveness, but I find it’s a good indicator of how I’ve paced the race. 

For three kilometres it felt like being in a wind tunnel; the flat nature of the Fens offering no protection from the elements. I was losing time and I started to think that I’m not going to be able to bring this home in under 40 minutes. 

When we finally got out of the wind a little in the ninth kilometre there was short, sharp hill but I managed to find something here and started to pick off a few other runners. 

I knew I would have to go some still in the last kilometre to go under 40 minutes. 

Fortunately, we were now not running directly into the wind, and there were a few houses to help buffer some of its effect. My legs and lungs came back to life a little and, looking back at the data after, my heart rate started to drop despite picking up the pace. 

I managed to cross the line in 39:43 – a decent result in the circumstances (an official PB) but also a bit of a kick up the backside. It turns out I can’t eat and drink whatever I want whilst compromising my sleep and still expect to be at my running best. Not that I regret that at all; if you can’t overindulge at Christmas then when can you? 

But with a marathon training block starting this week, if I can gain a Manchester place, I need to get back to the more disciplined approach I adopted in the second half of 2023 which was probably the biggest factor in my relative success. 


Cross Country Championships

Good luck to anyone involved at the Norfolk Cross Country Championships this Sunday. It’s one of my favourite events of the year to spectate, if not take part in, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of Norfolk’s best grind their way around that Earlham Park course.