Yangcheng hu is a large freshwater lake located to the north of Suzhou famous for its delicious hairy crab. On the 13st of September 2014 the lake hosted the second annual Yangcheng Lake run. This would be my first race in China covering 10k, getting lost to cover a few extra twists and turns (about 1k worth), before a surprising finish in first place.
The race was due to start at 10pm which meant an early bus trip for the Shanghai runners but a fairly late lie-in and short taxi ride for myself traveling up from Suzhou. Since I’d arrived in China late in July it had been hot and humid, but on the day of the race it was refreshingly cool. It was just slightly wet underfoot and looked like it could be a great day for running. The park around the lake was stunning. This was going to be fun.
In actual fact the race started nearer to 11am, so there was plenty of time to hydrate and warm up. At the start we had some instructions to follow the arrows, where to pick up water etc. I have to admit, sometimes this information goes a bit over my head as I tend to feel a bit of apprehension and lack concentration at the start of a race. Mostly I just cant wait to get going. And as the gun fired for this race it felt great sailing off along the long flat gravel path.
We hit a good pace straight out of the traps and I was feeling sharp after my extended two month break in the UK. I instinctively held onto the shoulder of the second place runner. The course was flat but occasionally we would hit a bridge or boardwalk with slippy wood. My shoes had virtually no grip so I worried a bit about taking a fall. The pace held at around 4:10 per k for the first three k. At the forth k I pushed ahead to try and stretch the other runners and pick the pace up a bit. I decided I wanted to try and run the race from the front having had a taste of leading a race at the Southhill Sponsored Run.
At around the 4k mark we turned left, went past some workmen, up left again under a bridge and right down a long straight e-bike path for one k. This was tough. On a long straight the mind can wander and with nobody out in front my mind was starting to drift. But I still felt fresh and I was happy to dictate the pace. None-the-less I didn’t want to push it too hard and slowed it down a bit to see if anyone else would take the lead from me. It didn’t happen.
At the 5k mark I was still at the front and we made a sharp turn back into the parkland and a less monotonous stretch. I still felt good and picked up the pace. I hadn’t looked back since taking the lead. 6k, 7k, 7 and a bit and we were back onto the straight again going back the other way. After 8k there was a bit of confusion when we couldn’t see the arrow to take us back under the bridge. I shouted back at the following runner and he thought we should push on straight ahead. The guy behind him seemed to agree so we pushed on.
Bit of a mistake there. We soon realized when we hit a bit of an urban area and were off course. Damn. The three front runners were in a tight pack 2k from the end and we’d got lost.
Eventually after running about a kilometer and a half through some sort of restaurant district we looped back to the bridge, I’d pushed ahead a bit but stopped to confirm the route with the other runners. After we agreed I pushed away at a good pace. We’d slacked off on the lost kilometer and I was full of excited energy. Was I still in the lead? I didn’t know, but I knew I wanted to finish as soon as possible. The next kilometer I cut a sub 4:05 pace and the next half kilometer a sub 3:50 pace to sprint over the line.
I won! It turns out the other runners had taken a wrong turn, but a different wrong turn going back onto the one k straight. So there had been a bit of confusion all round with the markings but at least the front three had all ran something approaching the proper route. I waited to watch the other runners come in. Second place from Denmark and third from Germany had been dis-heartened by the extra kilometer and fallen back a bit. I hadn’t slowed down though. I’d gotten used to a lot longer distances over the summer and wasn’t phased by the extra bit in this race. I actually sped up for the last part of the race after slowing down when we got lost.
We followed the race up with a delicious buffet lunch and a swim in the pool. It would have been nice if the race was a bit less confused but it was a good competitive run and a great workout. And it’s not everyday you can say you put in an extra 1.5k and still win the race, haha. Finished in 1st place with 48 minutes 10 seconds for 11.55 kilometers.