I usually begin my running blogs with some polite formalities along the lines of 'on Sunday 7th May 2023, I took part in the Alderley Edge Bypass 10k...'
Today, I'm just going to jump straight in and instead start by saying... MY TIME WAS 40:51!!!
Honestly, words cannot explain how absolutely BUZZING I am to have finally broken that bloody 42-minute wall that I have spent the past year and a half trapped behind!
If you regularly read my running posts, you'll be aware that I have frustratingly been unable to get my 10k time below 42 minutes since my knee injury in October 2021.
Prior to my injury, my 10k PB was 40:24 (which was, incidentally, achieved at the 2021 Alderley Edge Bypass 10k!), but have I got anywhere near that time since? Have I buggery.
Last year, even a finish time within the 41-minute region seemed highly unlikely. My times just stubbornly refused to move anywhere outside of 42 minutes, and I was starting to believe that I'd well and truly peaked.
As the 2023 Alderley Edge Bypass 10k approached, I was in two minds as to whether or not I should actually run.
In the week leading up to the race, my calves were not 'living their best life,' to put it bluntly.
I know I have the tendency to 'over-train,' especially during the summer when all I want to do is spend each and every night running and making the most of the sun-dappled country lanes and bluebell woods.
As a result of my increased schedule, I have been plagued with extremely tight calves and a flare up of runner's knee on my right leg.
I've always suffered badly with calf cramps. I wouldn't mind, but I can't even attribute it to a lack of salt - my diet is about 85% made up of Aldi pretzels!
On the Friday before the race, vicious calf cramps struck at least five times over the course of the night.
Josh was furious.
The sudden and excruciating onset of cramp can admittedly be a little dramatic... I tend to leap out of bed with the grace of a legless toad, and this manoeuvre is usually accompanied by a banshee-like shriek capable of stirring the dead, let alone someone in the same room.
Every time I drifted off to sleep, my calves protested again. It was relentless, and I ended up foam rolling at 02:50am.
"It was like something out of a horror film," Josh grimaced the next moming. "I woke up and just saw you in the moonlight on the floor at the end of the bed, foam-rolling really slowly, staring straight ahead."
Race day dawned, and with it came another 'lovely' gift from Mother Nature. Typical.
So there I was at 6am, foam rolling my calves, icing my knees, dosing up on paracemtaol and miserably eating enough Kit Kats to keep Nestle afloat for the next 500 years.
I'll be honest,I didn't exactly feel inspired with such a delightful combo of ailments wreaking havoc!
I started to mentally prepare myself for a finishing time of 45 minutes...
Running is there to be enjoyed, and I am absolutely obsessed with it... But any runner will tell you that race day is different. Out on that course, YOU are your biggest competitior. The more you run and the more you compete, the harder it is to shake dreams of PBs.
As runners, even when we're feeling under the weather, or teetering on the edge of a pesky injury flare up, we still dare to dream that something miraculous will happen out there. And sometimes, it does...
As is always the case with Run North West events, the race was faultlessly organised.
The thing I like the most about Run North West events is the fact that they do seem to attract quite a few elites. I love watching the pro runners storm ahead, absolutely putting me to shame as I toddle along 🤣 Imagine actually being able to just effortlessly run that fast, really!!
Because the Bypass 10k is essentially one long 'out-and-back' the elites were easy to spot. Pretty sure I'd only just stepped onto the Bypass while they were turning round at the halfway point 🥵
Somehow - and I'm still not entirely sure how or indeed why this happened - but I found myself running alongside the 37:30 pacer for the first 2k. Don't know who I thought I was, tbh!
I think my logic was that I was going to be forced to slow down with leg or stomach pains at some point, so while I felt fine, I may as well go as hard as possible.
I mean, I think it goes without saying that I couldnt sustain that pace!
I'd love to be able to run a sub-40 minute 10k one day, but I think 37 minutes is a tad unrealistic for me!
Me, pursuing the 37 minute pacer, thinking I'm Paula Radcliffe or something 🤔🤣
I dropped back into the group running with the 40 minute pacer. Again, I think I was just kidding myself: I honestly didn't expect to finish anywhere near 40 minutes.
As my calves, knees and stomach cramps seemed to be holding up okay so far, I vowed that I'd be happy as long as I finished ahead of the 42:30 pacer.
There was a slight lull between 7k and 9k. By this point, I had slipped back from the 40 minute pacer, but was still far ahead of the 42:30 group. I seemed to be bringing up the rear of a little gaggle of runners sitting comfortably between the two pacers.
As 8k approached, I was convinced that it was in fact 9k, which was a real blow. (It's the equivalent of spending all day Thursday thinking it's Friday, then your colleague bursts your bubble by saying, "See you tomorrow!")
I turned my music up to help push through the mid-run lag, which led to disastrous consequences...
Let it be known that my preferred genre of music is old school rap: think Jay-Z, Snoop, Dre, etc. But let it also be known that my ultimate guilty pleasure song is Pop Muzik, by M Robin Scott. I don't know what powers of enchantment it exerts over my ears, but I can't get enough of it. I listen to it at least five times a day - every day- and I'm not even
ashamed of that fact. (Yes, I'm well aware that it came out 14 vears before I was even born, but it's still a TUNE!)
So there I am, pounding along the bypass, and I think, I know what will give me a bit of a boost!
So I skip a few songs on my playlist and the bizarre, zany opening chords of Pop Muzik burst gleefully through my headphones. I'm suddenly all giddy, with my motivation restored.
I CAN take this final 2k down!
I am GOD!!
I WILL CATCH THE 37:30 PACER UP!!!! (Not...)
But you know when you're a runner and you've got your headphones in and you're in your own little musical zone, and you're suddenly not sure if you've just accidentally sang out loud? Well, yeah, that. I am convinced that I got so carried away that I loudly went, "Everybody talk about MMMMMM pop music!"
And if this did happen, I sincerely apologise to any of the runners within my vicinity who would have most likely been extremely confused.
I think it was burning shame of this potential escapade that carried me towards the finish line. Try as you might, you can't run away from yourself...! 🤣
That hill at 9k is real killer, but I gave it all I had up the final straight.
"Who else have we got coming through? We've got Cara Bradley!"
As the gent on the loudspeaker called my name, I clocked the timer beside the finishing arch.
41 minutes exactly. In a wave of euphoria, I knew then that my chip time would reveal that I'd run somewhere within the 40 minute realm.
Bloody FINALLY!!! It's only taken a year and a half to get back here 🙄 (Watch now - I'll run 42-minute 10ks for the rest of the season again!!)
I finished with a time of 40:51, 14th female out of 549, 6th out of 154 in my age category, and 135th out 1,399. ❤️
I've raced three times this year so far and I've already got my Half Marathon PB down to 1:30, and I'm back to where I went to be, 10k wise! I am SO excited to see what the rest of the season holds!
The VERY happy face of someone who has finally run a 40 minute 10k again!!!! 😍😭
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©
🏃🏻♀️Run North West:🏃🏻♀️
📸 Professional photos by Mick Hall: 📸