On Sunday 15 May 2011 I ran what I think I should start to call my local 10k race - the Woodley 10k. As with the Shinfield 10k race, this is also a fast and relatively flat race and I thought I may just be able to get the sub-40min 10k I just missed at Shinfield.
Following a request from a colleague, this and hopefully my future "first time" race reports, will be a bit more in depth.
Given Woodley is so close to home, and the fact that parking is limited to pretty much whatever Woodley town centre has, my wife and I cycled to the race. Bike racks are very limited too, but nothing a long chain and a firm fence post or tree couldn't solve.
The Woodley 10k starts and finishes at the town end of Memorial Recreation Ground on Headley Road in Woodley. When we got there the kiddies' 3k race was still underway and in it's final stages and quite a large crowd of runners and supporters building up around the start/finish area. For those concerned about these sort of things, there were plenty loos on offer: about 8 port-a-loos as well as those in the buildings at the recreation ground, and a fitness instructor gave a little aerobics type warm up routine just before the race started.
The start was effectively a very wide mass congregation behind a line drawn on the grass. There's nothing to really restrict you behind the start line, but once you cross it, you're funneled down from a width of about a football pitch to the width of a 2 lane road in about 200m thanks to orange mesh fencing on either side. This is definitely long enough and I didn't notice any severe bunching, though I did find myself up near the front so I have no idea what it was like further back in the field.
Once off the field, it's a bit of a sharp turn into the rec ground drive, across two speed bumps and then out onto the road. I can imagine this initial bit being a little tough with a large crowd. Once on the road, it's quite flat for about the first 2.5km as you make your way through the quiet neighbourhood roads and then you get your first climb as you head up towards Bath Road. Nothing major, but noticeable enough to drop my pace below 4:00/km for the first time.
Once you reach Bath Road, you run a short section on the pavement and then turn back in towards Earley to the first water station. It's then pretty flat and fast for the next 2km until you reach Wokingham road where you will find yourself at the highest point in the race looking as a great big long downhill towards the Showcase roundabout. According to my Garmin, we dropped about 25m in altitude over about 2.2km. This is a great downhill to the lowest point in the race with the only thing slowing you down being the water station as you pass Station Road at about the 6km mark. It's then a slow and continual climb back up the hill back towards Woodley with another water station at about the 8km mark.
This hill is quite a toughie and took quite a chunk out of my time. Thankfully I'd built up quite a "cushion" in the preceding kilometres so by the time I turned back into the recreation ground road, I was still on course for a sub-40 min 10k.
The race then finishes back on the field you started on, but a little to the side of the starting straight with a little climb to give you a final burn on your legs as you sprint to the cross the line. Well, it burnt my legs as I had someone breathing down my neck for most of the long hill. He passed me just as we entered the rec grounds, but I dug in deep and sprinted away from him on the grass to finish the race in a new "PBSR" (personal best since return) of 39:42. Yes folks, I'd just dipped below 40 mins for the first time in well over 12 years and I felt great. Knackered, but absolutely delighted with myself.
As the race is chip timed, the official results were available pretty quickly and were printed and stuck to the window of one of the buildings as they became available. Just before leaving, I popped over to confirm my time and position. I couldn't believe it, I was on the first page of results in 23rd place (out of 596 runners).
As a well earned reward, my wife and I then cycled down to our favourite pub, The Wheelright Arms, and have a big Sunday roast and a couple of beers for lunch. All in all this was a great race and a great day out.