Race Review: Dalton Park Winter 10k 2021

Last race of the year… and it was certainly an interesting one!

Having navigated the seemingly-permanent North East road disruptions and got myself comfortably parked at Dalton Park Retail Centre, I collected my number and retreated to the car until it was nearly time for the race start. The weather was as you might expect this time of year – freezing, blowing a gale and pouring with rain – so I didn’t want to have to stand out in it for longer than necessary! Unfortunately, the race start was delayed by about ten minutes as the starter had been sent to the wrong place… this had a fairly big knock-on effect on the rest of my race.

I was expecting to finish in 1:15:00 or just over. I finished in 1:20:18 at the North Tyneside 10k seven weeks previously, but on that occasion I was having a really bad day with my suspected spondylitis, so I was dragging my leg most of the way. I would have finished quicker today if not for a few issues.

First of all, the 5k runners – who were meant to start fifteen minutes after the 10k runners – started on time, only about five minutes after us. This meant that I (the last runner, as it was a small field and I’m slow) was being overtaken from about one and a half kilometres in, and so by the time I got to the marshal at two and a half kilometres, I was well mixed in with the 5k lot. This meant that the marshal assumed I was doing the 5k and directed me to turn back around the cones – which was the wrong way. I realised fairly soon after that something had gone wrong and returned to clarify that I was doing the 10k, but this added an extra half a kilometre (about three or four minutes at my pace) to my race.

Once I got to the lapped lollipop part of the route, I felt a lot better as there were lots of other 10k runners doing the laps – until the final part of the second lap, when I was most definitely on my own! It was a long, lonely stretch back to the start/finish area, and the final hundred metres were made a bit dicey by the fact that they had also started the junior 2k race off bang on time. The juniors were meant to go ninety minutes after us, and if we’d started on time I would have been finished and back in the car by the time they set off. Unfortunately, due to the ten-minute delay, I was running face first into a bunch of very surprised-looking kids as I struggled up the finishing straight – which was pretty hazardous on a steep hill! Thankfully they’d all passed me by the time I made it over the timing mat. Just have to hope there’s no chip confusion as a result (it looks like it might take a day or two for the results to be posted).

The finish volunteers didn’t even notice I’d finished for a couple of seconds (I think they were quite understandably distracted by having just set the juniors off) but quickly found me a 10k medal, water and some much-appreciated Celebrations! I’d picked up my t-shirt along with my number before the race. They were also keen for me to take a Santa Dash medal, but I declined – I only need one medal per event! On my way back to the car, I was also offered a very soggy extra t-shirt (presumably also a Santa Dash one!), but again I don’t need any more of those. I’m not sure whether the ‘Santa Dash’ referred to the 5k or was a different event that they’d either (a) cancelled or (b) ordered too many medals and t-shirts for.

My Garmin tells me I finished in 1:21:44, which should be roughly my gun time (I started my watch when they said ‘go’ and crossed the timing mat about twenty-five seconds later, so my chip time should be a bit faster). I’ll find out my official time when they post the results and will update this post then. I’m a little disappointed about going the wrong way as I could have been a few minutes faster, but the real victory today was gritting my teeth and doing the race in those conditions. I feel really happy now that my race season is finally over, though I’m already looking forward to the Sheffield Half Marathon, Edinburgh Marathon and twice-postponed Blaydon Race in spring and summer 2022. While Geth was not at all jealous of me running in the wintry conditions today, it did remind him that he’s not had a decent 10k attempt in a while… so hopefully we’ll get a few 10k races in during summer 2022 as well!

I definitely won’t be doing any more winter races, though. Winter running, going forward, will be a time for treadmills, post-parkrun hibernation weekends, and the bit of marathon training that’s short enough that you don’t have to be out for very long.

Race goodies
Race goodies. Those Celebrations were especially good.

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