Now that's something I never envisaged saying - I completed the Bristol 10k. I did - on Sunday 13th May 2018. Its a couple of weeks since the run and every time I think about it I'm buzzing about it!!
So if anyone has read any of my blogs before then you'll know that about a year ago I decided to try and get fit (well I want to fit into a rugby shirt) and signed up to do a 5k run and spent a couple of months training on bike and running before tackling it. Since then I've done a couple of more Park Runs and the Mo Run as well as kept up running through the winter.
Late last year as I found how much I enjoyed running I'd contemplated doing the Bristol 10k in 2018, but thought that doing it in May might be to early for me to achieve the distance. The more I thought about it I spoke to friends who'd done the Bristol 10k (and other 10k runs) and took encouragement from them and began to wonder if it was something I might actually be able to do. It would certainly be a good target for me to work towards. As the year started I thought I'd go for it and try to start building up my distances, however with one thing and another (life happens) I didn't do as much training as I wanted or needed to be doing, the target of doing the Bristol 10k this year was slipping off my radar. I thought I might be able to do a 10k somewhere else later in the year but was a bit disappointed as I'd really wanted to do the Bristol 10k - I'm originally from Bristol so would be a cool thing to do - to run around roads from my hometown.
However in February/March time I saw a post on Facebook from Bristol Sands about the Bristol 10k. This year is the Sands (Stilbirth and Neonatal Death Society) 40th anniversary and the Bristol group were trying to get a team of 40 together to run the Bristol 10k in aid of Bristol Sands with the aim of raising £5,000 towards renovating an area of Arnos Vale cemetery in Bristol for the stillbirth section. It got me thinking again about doing the Bristol 10k and in its own way it kicked me up the arse.
I still needed convincing that I could do 10k. 5k was (dare I say it) relatively easy now but the Bristol 10k was getting closer. If I was going to take part and ask people to sponsor me I needed to know that I could do it. I didn't want to embarrass myself by keeling over a 6 or 7km!! In late March I'd gone for a run one Saturday morning with the aim of initially doing 5km on my usual route - along the front to Dr Fox tearoom and back home. As I went along the front I decided to see how far I could go and after getting to Dr Fox's instead of heading for home I headed into town and went through town and up to the school our son attends. As I got to the end of my run and approached home it began to snow. I got back home and checked the Strava app and had (surprisingly) covered just over 7.5k so really began to believe I could do it - with some serious effort between now and mid-May.
After my run that morning (after showering and having breakfast) all I could think of was doing the Bristol 10k, the thought of doing it was going around in my head. My thinking was that each time I went running I could run longer sections before having to slow to a walk to recover and began to get more confident of completing the Bristol 10k. So I sat down at the computer and registered and paid my fee. I was locked in now - I was taking part in the Bristol 10k 2018!! If I was doing the Bristol 10k then I was going to try and help raise some money for the Bristol Sands group especially how close the cause was to Denise and mine hearts after our first son Thomas was stillborn. So I e-mailed the Bristol Sands group to see if they still had space on the team and joined up. Within an hour of deciding to do the 10k I even had my 'Just Giving' page set up hoping to raise £200.
After setting myself the challenge of completing the 10k and setting a fundraising target I shared my Just Giving page on facebook and was blown away by how quick and generous my friends were to sponsor me. In a couple of days I'd been sponsored more than £100 and the amount was rising. The people at Bristol Sands were amazing to. In just over a week after registering they'd managed to get me a t-shirt with the Bristol Sands logo on that fit me (remember I'm still trying to fit into a rugby shirt!!) that I could wear on the day to show who I was supporting. I did get a bit carried away when I registered for the Bristol 10k, at the same time (without thought of how long it would take to complete 10k) I registered Harrison and myself to do the 'Family Mile' in aid of the Wallace & Gromit Grand Appeal - running 10k wouldn't be enough so why not do an extra mile right after!! Silly boy.
What I needed to do now was to start doing 10k runs. I thought about it and set myself a target of completing at least 3 x 10k runs before the big day. I needed to get an idea of how long it would take me to complete a 10k and of the physical affect it might have on me - I am still a 'big lad' and didn't want to have to avail myself of the services of St Johns Ambulance on the big day!! So on the morning of Friday 6th April I set out at just after 0600 on a chilly morning to attempt a 10k. As with most times when I go out running, I'd already settled on a route to cover 10k in my mind, but as usual out on the road I changed my mind/the route at least 3 times. Anyway 1hr 40 minutes and 2,100 calories later I arrived back at home with my feet and ankles burning but with 10.2km in my legs. I'd done it, I'd completed 10k for the first time. Although I'd completed 10k (and thrown in a couple of bridges to try and simulate the actual route) this had been a cold morning and I find running in the cold easier - the cold air I find makes it easier to breath (I know understood what the ice hockey players were on about when they talk about being able to play for longer when they played outside as a kid or now at the 'NHL Winter Classic' each New Years day). Chances are that the day of the Bristol 10k (even in the UK) would be warmer so would need to do a 10k in warmer conditions to reassure myself.
A fortnight later I had the chance to do that. My three running friends were coming down to Weston super Mare to do a 'Virtual 10k' for Sands (National Group) and we were starting at midday. That weekend the weather had been quite mixed but overall it had been warm. The four of us (Hayley, Michelle and Laurane) had come up with a team name now. When we run together we are team 'Basic Backrunners' a twist on the name of an 'official' running team called 'ASICS Frontrunners). Our route (which I'd planned) would start off from Dr Fox Tearoom on Knightstone Island where we would reconvene for post run recovery drinks and cakes (a 'tradition' from when we complete Park Runs). When we started out it was warm but raining which wasn't to I was happy with. However shortly after we started the rain stopped and the sun come out and it got very warm very quick as we headed along the promenade in Weston super Mare away from our start point and in the general direction of the hospital.
My son, Harrison, joined us for the first half of the run and did 5k for his Virtual Run. When we got to the entrance to Weston Golf Club he turned and headed back to Dr Fox tearoom to meet Denise and enjoy cake and a drink. Before we started off I was determined to run as long a sections as I could before breaking into a walk. I usually pace myself along the promenade by running a certain distance using lampposts to measure my effort. On this run I actually managed to run just under 5k with the only stop being to cross a road. Along with the encouragement from the rest of the Basic Backrunners (who in turn dropped back and ran with me) that kept me going, I was really pleased with completing that distance without stopping (apart from to cross the road) but I knew we were only half way through the run. So I just kept my head down and went one step at a time through Uphill, down onto the beach and all the way back along the promenade to Dr Fox Tearoom. After 1hr 46 I stopped Strava on my hone and we had completed the 10k for Sands. I was probably happier with completing that 10k than I was the first one as this was in conditions that I was more likely to experience during the Bristol 10k in 3 weeks time.
As we sat in Dr Fox Tearoom enjoying post run coffee and sandwiches and talking to Martin (the owner of Dr Fox who very kindly sponsored us £10 for the run) I sat and reflected on my 10k efforts. I was now two-thirds of the way to my target of completing 3 x 10k before the Bristol 10k. In between I was doing shorter runs - 3k and 5k and a longer one at just under 7k with Harrison one evening. I have to say at this time Harrison is amazing and inspires me every time I'm out on a run with him. Not only does he make me proud that he comes out running with me but being with him is very encouraging (and wants me to do more blog posts) and he is very encouraging to me too. Despite at that moment being in pain from the effort I felt better equipped to deal with and complete the Bristol 10k after doing the run in the heat and humidity that afternoon.
By now it was the beginning of May and I still had one 10k to do. This one was another virtual run, this was for Bristol Sands. As I mentioned earlier Bristol Sands is a cause very close to our hearts after our first son (Thomas) was still born (I wrote a blog post last year on the loss of our son). When I saw that they were organising a virtual 10k I had to do it. As soon as it was possible I signed up to do it. I discovered that I was the first one to sign up to it. I decided to do my 10k on the evening of 2nd May - get home from work, get changed and lace them up and out on the roads. The conditions that night were quite nice as there was a decent breeze about that took the edge off the late afternoon/early evening heat. As usual I changed my route a couple of times while I was out on the roads from the one that I had planned before going out. However after 1hr 41mins I was the first person to complete their Virtual 10k for Bristol Sands. Not only that but I'd achieved my target of completing 3 x 10km before the big one, something that left me feeling calmer about completing the Bristol 10k in a couple of weeks time. In the time between my last 10k and the Bristol 10k I kept ticking over with the odd 5k here and there. I even managed to dip under 45 minutes for a 5k (still a personal best).
Pretty soon the weekend of the Bristol 10k arrived. By the Saturday (the run was on the Sunday) despite hitting my target of 3 x 10k before the Bristol 10k I was beginning to get really nervous about taking part the next day. So I tried to keep busy and I kept checking that I'd picked out a couple of energy gels, made sure I had all the kit ready that I'd run in, sorted our shower kit and a change of clothes for going to my parents house after the run. In the evening I sat and pinned my running bib to my Sands t-shirt and pinned the bib to the back of the shirt with the reason I was running for. I even had a very nice text from my managing director wishing me well for the run the next day and asking if I had a target time in mind. I thanked him for the text and said that my target time was around a 100 minutes but I'd settle for being in work on time the next morning, which he appreciated!! As Harrison and myself were doing the 'Family Mile' after the Bristol 10k I was making sure Harrisons stuff was ready too.
Despite that I was really 'getting in my own head' about doing the 10k the following day. I was beginning to doubt I could do it and was afraid of letting down my family and friends who had been so kind to sponsor me and encourage me. A couple of times that afternoon I know I bored Denise with talking about it and how I could do it. I talked about the route a couple of times and that the weather forecast (cloudy with a bit of sun and temperature of about 13 degrees) would be good for the run but that was more for me to try and convince myself than for Denise. Eventually it was time for bed. One downside to living in Weston super Mare meant it would be an early start the next morning. Not only were there road closures in Bristol to navigate and parking to be found but Bristol Sands was trying to get everyone together for a team photo about 0830. The run starting in different waves and times from 0930 (I was in the 'pink' wave starting at 1007. So we left just after 0700 on the Sunday morning. I made sure to try and fuel myself properly - a couple of slices of toast with peanut butter and water to keep hydrated - I was concerned about staying hydrated. However once we arrived in Bristol my main concern was the weather. When we got our of the car there were no clouds to be seen and out in the sun it was already feeling quite warm at 0750ish when we arrived in Bristol. That was a bit unsettling to say the least!!
We parked and made our way to the charity village in millennium square and met up with other members of the Bristol Sands Team. The first person I met was Charlotte Coombs who had done an amazing job in organising everything there that day. It was really nice to meet people who up until now had only been names on Facebook/twitter/e-mail. We had photos taken and I hung around nervously waiting for time to go by and for the start of the race. While I was waiting I bumped into an old school and college friend (Darren Collier) so took the opportunity to have a bit of a catch-up and a laugh to try and take my mind off the 10k that lay ahead. Eventually the time went on and I decided that I should make my way to the start line. I wanted to try and be at the beginning of the wave to give myself the best chance of completing the 10k in enough time to do the family mile with Harrison. I said 'see you later' to Denise and Harrison who both hugged me and wished me luck and set off to find the start line. I agreed to meet them back ere after the run (they could track me on their phones to see where I was) as we all thought it would be easier to find each other. On the walk through Millennium Square I was playing the route over in my head and noticing that the sun was getting higher and the temperature was going up!!
I got to the start area and was pleased to see that the organisers were giving out bottles of water. Despite having made sure to drink plenty before the run I was happy to take on a bottle of water. I took my place in the 'pink zone' and waited for the time to tick over to 1007 for the start of the run. As I stood there waiting as more and more people arrived at the start line I realised that this was it, I was locked into the run now I couldn't escape!! In a way it calmed me a bit. I was in a sea of runners and convinced myself that some of them were probably thinking the same thing as me. Eventually the time ticked around to 1007 and we were off!! For all the time I'd spent thinking about how I was going to run the race an pace myself all plans went out of the window. I just put my head down and started running at a steady pace. Around me all I could hear was thousands of feet hitting the ground in front and behind me. I made sure not to get to freaked out by it or to try and match other runners pace. Although a lot of people were running past me (which I expected) I was actually overtaking a couple of people to my surprise.
I'd never experienced anything like this before. As I went along the encouragement from the crowds lining the streets was amazing and helped carry me along. At one point I heard someone shout out 'WELL DONE PETE, KEEP GOING' I wondered first of all if it was someone I knew or if it wasn't then how did they know my name? As more people shouted out my name I realised they could read it off my bib number!!! It was brilliant, the cheers and clapping gave me a lift and I didn't feel as breathless as I might have done and my legs didn't feel as heavy as they would have by now as we approached the 1km marker and I hadn't slowed to a walk. Straight after the 1k marker was the incline that would take us up to the top of the slope that would drop us down onto the Portway. I'd studied the route a lot before the run and knew that we would spend 5 of the 10k on the Portway going under Brunel's Suspension Bridge twice. All I could do now was to break the run down in my mind. As I got onto the Portway I had in my head that by the time I came back off the Portway I'd have more than half the run done - simple.
As all the runners made our way down the Portway although the crowds thinned out a bit the encouragement from them was still amazing. The encouragement from other runners was brilliant too. Every now and then as a runner went past me I'd get a pat on the back and a 'Well done mate, keep going' and even a few people comment on the cause I was running for which was emblazoned on my t-shirt. At the minute the run and the heat weren't to bad. The heat wasn't yet a factor because on the way down the Portway we were all running in the shade and although warm I was glad not to have the sun beating directly down on me. When I looked across the other side of the Portway and saw the runners who were already making their way back up the Portway, I was very aware that the return leg on the Portway and probably a lot of the route after were going to be in the sun with little or no shade to protect us. As I chugged on down the Portway toward the 3km marker I was feeling quite good about my run and pace. I was yet to slow down to a walk and was enjoying the run so decided it might be a good time to take on an energy gel - take it now before I felt that I needed it, prevention being better than cure. My energy gels were in my shorts pocket, my very warm pocket. I tore open the gel packet and started to squeeze the contents into my mouth. It was the most vile thing I'd ever had in my mouth - by now the texture was half water half thick gel. It was what I imagined the texture of something that had curdled would feel in your mouth. Vile!!
As I finished my gel a team of policemen in full riot gear running for charity cruised past me. That's ok, they're fitter than me its to be expected I reasoned. I put my head down and kept on going. Shortly after a team of firemen n full gear with breathing apparatus on, carrying ladders with breathing apparatus on breezed past me - 'that's just showing off' I thought and shook my head and smiled to myself but just carried on at my own pace. Just before the 3.5k/turnaround point on the Portway I decided that if I was going to finish the run (knowing that I was going to go out into the blazing sun soon) then I needed to slow down to a walk for a short while. I drunk the last of the water from the bottle and squirted a bit on my head to try and cool down and picked up the pace again and took the 180 degree turnaround point as gracefully as I could. Around this point there were some marshals' kindly handing out jelly babies and wine gums so I grabbed a jelly baby and popped it in my mouth and started to try and look up the road to see if I could see the water station at 5km.
I went along chewing the jelly baby and that's when I had a problem. As I breathed in a bit of jelly baby stuck in my throat. OH CRAP!! Dear reader, I'm not going to lie I started to panic. I couldn't clear it as quick as I thought and started to worry that this was going to be my downfall and started looking around to see if I could see any St Johns Ambulance - just in case!! As I did the thought crossed my mind that it would be ok if I fell/pulled a muscle and couldn't complete the run. It would be ok if the heat got to me and I had to pull out. However if I had to go into work the next day and tell them I couldn't finish the race because I choked on a jelly baby - well I'd probably just quit rather than face the barrage of piss taking that would follow!! Finally after a couple of seconds of running along and try to cough and hack the offending piece of jelly baby up, it cleared and the spots in my eyes began to disappear and started to breath properly again. Well as proper as I could 3.5km into a 10km run.
As I said before in my head I was breaking the run down in my head to make it more manageable. The next marker I was looking for was 5km. Not only was that the half way point, but that's where the water station was which I needed as we were now out in the sun and it was getting very hot. As we headed towards the 5k mark I noticed that the crowd was thinning again and so were the amount of runners around me. By now everyone had found their pace and the field of runners had spread out over the course. Half way back up the Portway I noticed on the opposite side of the road there were workmen coming along taking down signs and collecting rubbish. That spurred me on as I didn't want to come in just in front of them!! It made me determined to walk as little as I could. Pretty soon I approached the water station and grabbed 2 small bottles of water. I made sure to take small sips of water from one bottle and from the other bottle I squirted water over myself every now and then to take the edge off the heat. After the water station I headed to my next marker at 6km, this meant we were coming off the Portway and in my mind heading towards the end part of the race. I reasoned that I'd only have 4k left an I regularly now ran 5k so this would be easy - like I said, breaking it down. I have to say that the marshals' were brilliant - full of encouragement as we passed them as were other runners as they passed me. Even managed to have a chat with one or two of them a we chugged along.
Although in my mind we were into the last part of the race I also thought this was going to be a difficult part of the race. It was difficult because once off the Portway we would head along Cumberland Rd. From experience this was one long road and at this point I didn't want to be on what was going to seem like a never ending stretch of road. Once we were on that road I noticed how every now and then the road kicked up slightly which was not what tired legs and hot heads needed!! This was a difficult part of the run for me. Although I wanted to walk as little as possible, I needed to keep slowing to a walk or I felt I might not make the end of the run mainly because of the heat. Despite drinking plenty of water by now my mouth and lips were constantly dry and I was worried about dehydrating. So the next kilometre or so was very much head down and keep plugging away. Occasionally I'd look up as someone shouted my name in encouragement and acknowledge them. I started to notice some runners who'd already finished the run and were walking back along Cumberland Rd with their finishers t-shirts and medals on shouting encouragement.
As fewer and fewer runners were overtaking me I was beginning to think I as one of the last runners on the road - despite my efforts. So about about half way up Cumberland Rd I plucked up the courage to look back and was encouraged to see that there was probably still a hundred or so more runners behind me that I could see. To be fair a combination of non-prescription sunglasses and sweat in my eyes meant I couldn't see that far back down the road. What I saw gave me a boost and again it was time to get the head down and put one foot in front of the other.Eventually I began to see the 8km marker which was just before the left hand turn at the Louisiana pub on Hotwells that would start to take us back to the centre of Bristol and towards the finish line. It certainly was a sight for sore eyes - knowing that I was nearing the finish line.
As I made the left hand turn the crowds swelled and the cheering and clapping started again. It gave me (and I'm sure all runners) a massive lift at just the right time. The downside with that many people around was I felt I couldn't slow to a walk until I crossed the finish line but I knew I still had a very hot mile to go and the first part was across cobbled roads!!! If I'm honest if it wasn't for the crowds at this point shouting my name and encouraging me I would have slowed down and walked the rest of the way - this was beginning to hurt. As I headed down Princes Street I started to focus on the 9km mark and possibly one or two runners in front of me that I thought I was catching. Head down, keep running was what was going through my head and had been for a lot of the last hour or so. I passed the 9km marker and in my head knew that I was now down to less than a 1,000 metres once I passed it. In my head I began to imagine watching myself on television at a big televised athletics event. Steve Crams voice would be getting more excitable and the distance in the top right of the screen would now be ticking down quickly. 950 metres, 900 metres, 850 metres... I kept on running determined not to break into a walk. I was now at the end of Princes Street and I knew that once I got down to just after the turning for Baldwin Street there'd be a left turn that kicked uphill and that would mean I'd be turning for home.
I approached the turn and the noise from the crowd increased. I got around the turn and headed towards the Bristol Hippodrome on my right. As I got to the Hippodrome I could see the marker for 400 metres left as I approached it there were 2 ladies running the race that came alongside me and told me to follow them and not to give up as we were all so close to the end now. It was moments like this on the course that made me so glad I'd entered the run and taken part. In my mind I switched from seeing myself on television at a big athletics event to being at a cycling event and these 2 ladies ere my lead out. The voice commentating changed from Steve Cram to Ned Boulting an David Millar. Like I good sprint cyclist (think Mark Cavendish) I made sure to follow the 2 ladies (my lead out) and keep running. I felt that if I slowed to a walk I'd be letting them, myself, Denise, Harrison and everyone who'd sponsored me down. The last 400 metres were probably the longest 400 metres of my life - I didn't think they were ever going to end!! As I rounded a bend down Anchor Rd and came alongside the Seaquarium the finish line with the timing clocks on top came into sight and I could hear the PA announcer calling out peoples names as they crossed the line. No way was I going to slow to a walk now and let down my lead out who were still encouraging me on. In the last 100 metres or so I took off my arm the mobile phone holder that I'd worn all through the run and took the phone out ready to hit the 'stop' button as I crossed the line on the Strava app to measure my time etc and headed towards the line.
As I crossed the line I heard the announcer call out my name and who I was running for and I pressed stop on my phone. That was it I'd done it, I'd completed the Bristol 10k. I was buzzing. Like the rest of the finishers I headed to the people giving out the bags for the finishers that included the important medal. As I grabbed my bag I heard my name called out by a familiar voice. I looked over and to my sheer delight Denise and Harrison were there waiting for me at the finish line. I leant against the barriers they were stood behind and tried to get my breath back and compose myself. They both said how proud they were of me. Denise asked me how it was. All I could manage to say at this point was 'that hurt'. I was beginning to well up and was feeling quite emotional. I think it was because of the reason I'd done the run. For the 10k I'd not only carried Thomas name on my back but I felt like I'd carried him on my shoulders and it was now catching up on me. I was worried I was going to lose control of my emotions - obviously there's nothing wrong with that it's just that I worried if I did it might mess me up for doing the family mile or even if I'd be able to go back to the charity village and see the rest of the group from Bristol Sands who I was now really keen to see and trade stories with. Luckily a mate of mine from work who'd completed the run turned up and it kind of snapped me out of it and I regained a bit of control. However as much as I wanted to speak to Mike I knew time was getting on and I needed to go back to the Bristol Sands tent and then to the start line for the family mile.
Denise, Harrison and me headed back to the Bristol Sands tent where we were greeted very warmly by Charlotte, Abbie and other members of the team. Again all I could say when anyone asked me how it went was 'it hurt'. I can't tell you how grateful for the cold glass of prosecco that was handed to me and for the lovely slice of chocolate cake to begin my recovery - I think that's how Mo Farah does it after a 10k run. As much as I wanted just to lie down on the floor and wait until bits of my body stopped hurting I had to get to the start line of the family mile with Harrison. Beside if I waited until I stopped hurting before I moved again I might not be on time for work the next day!! So I decided that I needed to keep moving and after 10 minutes or so I said goodbye to everyone, switched my bib number and we made our way over to the start line for the family mile.
Unfortunately I can't write an awful lot about the family mile. Once they said 'GO' Harrison shot off into the distance and I didn't see him again until I crossed the finish line 18 minutes later. I walked the whole course. I did try to run a bit of the course but it just wasn't happening. Despite the physical pain I was in, as we headed home (after going to my parents house to show off our medals and shower) after posting my time and pictures on Facebook I was already planning my assault on the Bristol 10k for 2019. I was addicted already.
Doing the Bristol 10k was an amazing experience. It was really brought home to me later that evening when I read someone's post on Facebook in the Bristol Sands group. The post was attached to the team photo before the run and said something along the lines that it was a brilliant experience but the line that grabbed me was 'the realisation of being among a group of people who all knew the pain of losing a child'. That line stuck in my head for a day or two and affected me. As much as I knew that we'd lost a child it made me realise that we'd lost a child (if that makes sense) and that there are still far to many other parents who know the pain and anguish that comes with it. Taking part with the rest of the Bristol Sands group made me realise that Denise and me aren't alone. Its made me want to find a way of helping. I'm not sure what I can do to help but I know the first step is to stop putting off going to the monthly Bristol Sands meeting. Its a monthly meeting for all parents in the area who've experienced a stillbirth or a death shortly after birth. I want to get more involved and by chance there is an opportunity to join the committee of Bristol Sands. As soon as I saw the e-mail I stuck my hand in the air and volunteered - I just need to get elected onto the committee now.
Completing the Bristol 10k has already made me se some more goals with my running. A week after the 10k I managed to complete a 5k run without stopping, something I'd never done before. I'm also determined to complete the Ashton Court Park Run (which has a killer of a hill) without slowing to a walk. My last goal is to do the Bristol 10k next year and complete it without slowing to a walk. However before I finish I just want to put out some numbers for the Bristol 10k -
- I did 10k in 1hr 39 mins (my first time under 100mins)
- Through the kindness and generosity of my friends I raised £393.00 for Bristol Sands.
- From a target of £5,000 Bristol Sands raised over £9,000!!!
Thank you to all who sponsored me and encouraged me through this.