On the start line I refrained from talking to Lee Morgan, my pacer for the race. He knew how nervous I was and knew how much it meant to me, as well as knowing that I was trying to achieve my goal for my legendary late coach Terry O'Gara. The less I spoke the less chance there was of me filling up, so I just adopted the cool and calm Sarah (good job my profession as a teacher enables me to act on tap!).
The whistle went and we were away! Supported by Neil Banks a fellow Wallsend Harrier who seems to be going from strength to strength. He also was going for his first sub 50 and I think his lack of self belief prompted him to ask us if he could join us, despite the fact he would have 'aced it on his todd'.
As we progressed further through the race I seemed to settle into my rhythm nicely. I seriously had no clue how fast I was running and what time we were on course for, I just trusted Lee and hoped for the best. I know it's not ideal having to rely on a pacer and that I maybe should have learned to pace myself but Blyth wasn't about that for me, it was about working out if I could physically run a sub 50 and having a pacer was to prove that to myself. At no point during the race did I feel like I was struggling to keep up with Lee at all, I just felt like I was running comfortably. In hindsight it is a very good feeling, potentially if I was pushed further I think I could maybe see more outta these 35" legs of mine!
Things were plain sailing for a while, just the sand dunes to contend with between mile 2 and 4, a bit of up and just as much down. I felt quite pleased that Lee noticed my ability to run faster up hills (he mentioned after) but I tend to "use those arms" as I was told many a time by 'wor Terry' running up and down the Wallsend pit heap! At mile 4 I was struggling, that turn onto the straight into the wind was a killer, it was so intense it was drying my contact lenses up! However, with the support of many club members watching and screaming at me, knowing my race intentions I felt strong and pushed on. We did do a 'pants' mile (8:18, I later found out) but apparently I had made up that much time prior that is actually didn't matter.
Now I don't know about anyone else, I always mean to ask people but always forget, but I get really bad race finish excitement. When I know the end is in sight I get so excited that it becomes nervous energy and then I loose the plot! That kicked in, more than ever as I hadn't a clue what time I was on! Just before the 5 and a half mile mark Neil pushed on (a famous trait I now know about and a tactic I'm sure one day I'll try crack! Sorry Neil!) my belly was going round in circles and I managed to muster enough energy to say to Lee, "don't tell me!". Thankfully he knew what I meant! As I spun around the final corner and saw the finish I knew I had to give it everything I had, just in case I hadn't quite met the 50 minute mark. I belted down like a greyhound on a racecourse! (or so I felt at the time!). It was such a special moment running the last 300m. I could hear everyone willing me on and screaming at me. I knew I had set off on my sprint too soon but I had too keep it going as I wasn't sure why everyone was screaming so much! Was it 49:50? I wasn't sure, but what I did know is I had my very own Paula Radcliffe moment. I idolise that woman and love nothing more than watching the YouTube clip of her running the final straight of the London marathon when she broke the world record. For me, I felt just as determined as I belted down to the finish. I may never achieve anything she has but a sub 50, regardless of how easy it is to some people, meant the world to me at that moment in time.
So what I have I learned and what is my next move?
I have learned that regardless of ability it's oneself that should be challenged (unless you are a team GB runner of course!). I had challenged myself that day to make that time and with my own efforts it happened. In the pub afterwards Vicky Hindson (who won the ladies race) said to me that my run was just as important as the 10 mile run of our fellow club mate Yared Hagos a couple of weeks previous. Yared can run 10 miles faster than I can run 10k but Vicky pointed out that I had put just as much effort in, if not more so, that he does (probably becuase he's always miles ahead of everyone!). Regardless of ability, it's the effort you put in that counts. Vicky made me feel very proud with those words (and then set me a new challenge - to run faster over 10k than Yared has over 10 mile, 48.06! Erm... Thanks!)
So my next task (along with the Yared challenge) is to beat 48 minutes, beat 1:50 for a half and beat 24 minutes for a 5k. Now watch this space, Cawthorn is on it like a car bonnet.
With massive thanks to everyone at Wallsend, a club where anyone, regardless of ability, feels supported and encouraged!
Over and oot...