The 5th of July saw another edition of the North Herts Road Runners’ First Saturday of the month 5k, a two lap course on Norton Common in Letchworth Garden City. As I’m passing through England on my way to China I thought I might give this race a try before heading off to the Sonisphere music festival at Knebworth park later that morning. It turned out to be a really nice course and a great start to the day.
While Cathy Craig has already written about the set-up of the FSOTM on this blog, I’d like to speak about the race from my own perspective. I found the overall vibe of the race to be quite relaxed and very friendly but there’s always a bit of a competitive edge to these things. With any regular series of races in the same place, like this or the weekly park-run series, people are always pushing their time and looking at the familiar runners around them to see how their times match up. This makes for a great atmosphere.
There’s a nominal fee of £2 for the FSOTM and for this you get a good well organised race without the frills of a more commercial event. This is great for training or getting used to running against other people. The races tend to attract a good mix of all ages with club runners and people who normally run on their own.
The race was two and a half laps of the park over grass, trail and tarmac. We started at between two trees before falling down a grass verge and turning along a grass straight for about 300 meters. I started with quite a good pace at the start and tried to position myself behind the top five but the race was moving away from me and I was overtaken by another group of about five before a steep turn onto a gravel path.
For the next 300 meters or so it was more of less single file, but I managed to skip onto the verge to take back another couple of places although the pace was still quite hectic. At about 600 meters we turned and I could feel my shoes slipping a bit on the wet tarmac. I tried to run on the edge where I had a bit more traction. While the Merrells are an off-road shoe, they don’t have a lot of traction on tarmac and I recon I might have been better off in my New Balance MT00’s with their spongy soles.
So, to avoid sliding about too much, I slowed right down just holding onto my place until the tarmac ended around 1.5k. Here, we turned back onto more gravelly path before going over a bridge somewhere and then up a hill. Around this point of the race, places were being lost and won all the time with different runners pushing then falling back. This made it a bit difficult to keep a steady pace but by the time we turned to face back down the grassy hill to finish the first lap things settled down just a bit.
My pace for the first lap was just over 4 minutes per kilometer which I felt was good, but I wanted to push things for the remainder of the race. By the time I got to the turning onto the gravel path again I was right onto the shoulder of the runner in front of me and I could still see the guy in front of him. By this time, the course was familiar and I could hold a better pace without worrying about sliding about too much.
By the time we had crossed the bridge again and turned up the hill I was able to pass the two runners ahead. I held a strong pace going up the hill and crept toward the runner in front before accelerated down the grass toward the start line. At first I thought this might be the finish line too, but this would be another 200 meters or so along the grass straight.
I never quite caught up on the runner in front but finished strongly with a time of 19:40. The last two kilometers I had a pace of 3:47 per k and ended up in third place overall. Not bad for an early morning sleepy start. After this it was good to see the other runners finishing including my big sister who had run the first half of the first lap with my little niece.
Later in the morning it was off to the Knebworth festival for Ghost, Chaz n Dave, Anthrax, Slayer, Iron Maiden and too much cider. Next week it’s 100k across England in the Race to the Stones.
See you there!!
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