Races don’t come any bigger than the Wroxham 5K in Norfolk. 

Some might say Run Norwich, but that’s as much about participation as it is competition (and there’s nothing wrong with that, obviously). 

Wroxham is a runner’s race; you won’t find a faster 5K course anywhere nearby and that sense of opportunity brings an added pressure. 

Predictably, the night before was a sleepless one due to a level of nervous excitement and it was almost a relief when my six-year-old son, Logan, came into our bedroom at 5.15am exclaiming that the sun was out, and it was time for breakfast. 

Wroxham is a chance to set a new personal best, and everyone knows it. 

I knew before the race that I wouldn’t be able to sit back and reflect on a perfect Strava graph in the aftermath of Wednesday. 

I wanted to go out hard and hang on. I didn’t want to be running down that glorious downhill finish feeling like I had more to give. No regrets, find out where my fitness is (and hopefully beat my time of 19:00 set at the Great Stampede last year). 

I vowed that I wouldn’t let my watch tell me how I was feeling; just stay in the moment. 

Fortunately, I’ve had a few Wymondham training sessions to know what was coming. That gasping for breath feeling wouldn’t come as a shock to the system. 

The nervous energy on the start line was palpable; the tension only heightened by every glance to those around you to see who’s up for it. 

‘Am I too far forward?’ 

‘Am I too far back?’ 

‘What’s he/she doing up the front?’ 

The polite jostle for an appropriate starting position doesn’t help in the search for the sense of calmness I want before we’re unleashed. 

But when the countdown starts it’s time to forget about everyone else; it’s me against the clock. 

I was quietly confident I could break 19 minutes but I try not to take anything for granted; I’m just grateful to be on the start line following injury earlier in the year. 

It always feels too easy at the start, almost like the running gods are trying to play a cruel trick on you. 

I pushed hard in the opening kilometre in the knowledge that I would be incredibly unlikely to keep that pace. But I reminded myself that this wasn’t the time for carefully planned pacing – I haven’t done enough training for this distance to know. 

After the first kilometre we turned right, and I tried to settle into the gentle downhill section; it was still feeling relatively comfortable by this point. 

As we then turned left on to a slight incline the first signs were there that this race isn’t for the fainthearted. The side of the road was starting to be punctuated with the odd youngster that perhaps went out too fast or had felt a niggle. 

As we then turned left into the third kilometre the smell of someone’s bonfire filled the air. Fortunately, it was only temporary and I tried not to use it as the excuse my body was looking for to slow and keep me safe. 

‘You’re good,’ I told myself. 

My Wymondham AC club-mate Paul Fairchild then glided past me. I tried to go with him for about 20 metres before realising the pace was a bit hot for me. There’s a difference between committing and plain stupidity. 

It was after the third kilometre sign (was it the wrong way around?) that I felt the lactic acid starting to accumulate. Suddenly my legs felt heavier, and it was getting harder and harder to turn them over. 

It was getting really uncomfortable now, but I only had seven-ish minutes left of this.  

A kind Ryston Runner urged me on and I can only apologise that all I could muster was a grunt as an attempt at a thank you. 

The fourth kilometre marker was a welcome sight; the last kilometre doesn’t count after all, does it? You can always find something. 

‘Push, push, push... get to that downhill,’ I told myself. 

The scattering of spectators was another sign that this would be over soon. As we descended towards the finish I cheated and looked at my watch. 

It was just over 18 minutes and I knew I was on for a big PB.  

There aren’t many better feelings than those snatched moments when you know you’re about to achieve the goal you set yourself. It feels like it’s been a while. 

I crossed the line in 18:34 – a 26-second improvement but all I could think about after crossing the line was finding somewhere to lay down and regather my senses. 

That’s when the fun really begins; sharing your race experience with others and hearing theirs over fish and chips and a beer. I had been looking forward to this almost as much as the actual event. 

To have more than 300 runners out of the 890-strong field go under 20 minutes shows the calibre of the field. 

Kudos to Norwich Road Runners for staging such an event. The addition of the pacers with flags was a great touch and the all-round organisation was first class. As runners we’ve come to expect it, but we shouldn’t take it for granted. 

So that’s it for another year... as long as I’m well enough I want to do Wroxham every year until my legs can’t anymore. 

I know it won’t always come with a PB at the end, but hopefully I’ll always be able to share it with friends... and eat fish and chips after.