On Sunday 3rd September, I took part in my first ever official organised race, and what a race it was! The Spitfire 10K takes place at the RAF Museum based at RAF Cosford, Shropshire. The venue alone was worth taking part for – the course comprised hangars, airstrips, bunkers, and part of the museum itself.
I’d been looking forward to this race for a number of reasons; it was my first and so I would get to experience what happens on race day, it wasn’t far from home and my family were coming along to watch (and hopefully cheer), but most of all because the race organisers had allocated each runner the name of an RAF pilot who had fought and died in the Battle of Britain to run in honour of. I was particularly touched by this, and thought it was a poignant and important tribute.
Above: my race pack
I was allocated a pilot named Sergeant Warden, full name Noel Proctor Warden. Naturally I wanted to find out more about him and whether he had any descendants. The information I was able to find wasn’t much but it did give me more a picture of him. He was a Spitfire pilot and was tragically shot down over Calais in October 1941, aged just 23. He had joined the RAF when the war broke out in 1939 and completed his training in 1940. This means that he had completed a year of active service when he was killed. He was from Gateshead, Tyne & Wear (just outside Newcastle-upon-Tyne) and doesn’t appear to have been married or had any children. His will names his father as his only beneficiary. His family appear to be connected to a colliery, either owning or managing it. That’s where the trail ended. I did find this rather wonderful photo of him whilst in service – he’s the very smiley chap third from the left:
Thinking about how Sergeant Warden had lost his life at such a young age and what he must have experienced and gone through was very motivating for me. I really wanted to do my absolute best and pay tribute to him properly. I vowed that even if the course was difficult or I found myself feeling sore, tired, or whatever, I would keep going and I would finish the race.
Race day arrived and the nerves kicked in pretty quickly! We had to leave at 7:30am to get to the venue in time, so I managed some porridge for breakfast and brought lots of water and electrolytes with me to keep myself hydrated. I was glad to have my family with me – finding my way around the huge air base and dealing with the throngs of people everywhere would have been a bit of challenge if I’d been on my own! At 9:45am, the briefing for runners took place in hangar 1 – surrounded by the most impressive and iconic aircraft I did my dynamic stretches to warm up, took photos of others runners for them when asked to, and had my leggings complimented! Then we were off!
Me before the race: feeling nervous, excited, and a whole heap of things.
The course itself was a dream for a first race – mostly flat and even and easy to follow. The weather was not so great with cloud and drizzling rain, so hitting the airstrip for a chunk of the run proved tricky – the wind was so strong and blowing against the direction of travel for the first leg. At one point I realised that my fringe had turned into a sort of vertical quiff – the wind had blown it up and back and my sweat had set it there! My own fault for forgetting to move my headband from around my neck and onto the top of my head! The course was marshalled by RAF Cadets as well as personnel from the base and they were amazing – they cheered and shouted encouragement to everyone that passed them, even a back of the pack plodder like me. It gave the race a great atmosphere and really helped when energy levels started to lag.
At about 8kms along, I started to feel pain in my right hip. This was something that had been happening on long runs recently but I was determined not to let it stop me. I kept going, working hard not to tense up and to keep my muscles and limbs loose and relaxed. I was aware that I was near the back of the pack and I felt like my running was slower than ever before. I began to lose faith a little and wanted to stop, but then I remembered *why* I was running and the vow I had made. So I dug deep and kept going. Magically, within seconds, I could cheers coming from around the next corner – it sounded like the finish line! I was almost there – I’d almost done it! I turned the corner and sure enough, there were the spectators and runners who had already finished, cheering everyone on. A marshal motioned to me – “turn right and you’re nearly done! Ten seconds more if you sprint!” I laughed because I didn’t think I had anything even resembling a sprint left in me. I turned right and right in front of me was the finish line. So I sprinted! I actually managed a sprint finish, sore hip and all!
Above: my Strava stats, showing 6 PBs!
As has become a habit, as soon as I finished I went to my phone to end the run on my Strava running app. My final time was 1 hour and 17 minutes. This will seem like an eternity for runners better and more experienced than I but I was very pleased: my previous best time for a 10k distance was 1 hour and 20 minutes, so I had shaved an entire three minutes off that time. Not only that but I achieved new PBs on the following distances: 400m, 1k, 1 mile, 2 miles, and 5k – with my time for a 1/2 mile distance becoming my second best time. Overall, I came in 665th position in a field of 860 runners. For my very first race (a 10ker!) and after only four months of running, I am more than happy with that, and I’d like to think that Sergeant Warden would be too as I was so inspired by running to honour him.
Above: race goodies!
Finishing the race got me a goody bag and a very impressive medal, complete with a spinning Spitfire as its centrepiece. I also nabbed myself a lovely technical t-shirt, which I will be wearing with pride on my training runs. When they start again – more on that sore hip later! The Spitfire 10k was such a positive experience and I’m so glad that it was my first run. It was so well organised and thought out and the atmosphere was wonderful. I will be putting my name down for next year’s race as soon as places are up for grabs!
For now though, it’s time to focus on injury, recovery, and training for my next race – another 10k on 24th September! Happy running! x