My first race report after several years of admiring others’ efforts. Be gentle.
I travelled over the bridge to the Isle of Sheppey on Sunday morning for the Island Run 10k at Sheerness. There are three prisons on the Island and last time I visited HMP Swaleside (for work!) one of the staff recommended this as a flat, fast run on the seafront. The race is hosted by the Rotary Club of Sheerness and there was a 2-mile fun run earlier in the morning, and a 5k and 10k which started together at 1100. It cost £17.75 to enter – £16 plus booking fee – via Sporting Events UK.
I got parked easily in a pay and display and there was a Tesco and McDonalds right by the start for toilets etc. The start area was a nice little park on the seafront with a couple of stalls (coffee, cakes, phsyios) and a good swing park for kids. When I arrived at 10.15 there was a bit of a queue for numbers with everyone queuing in the middle lane, but the organisers got right on it and directed people to the right place. It took me five minutes to get my number and chip. There wasn’t an official bag drop but they let me leave my stuff in the numbers tent.
The course is flat and fast. You run up a short slope to the seawall, then turn right and run out to beyond some beach huts (4.5k) before turning back. There is then an extra kilometre out and back when you get to the start to get to 10k. The going is good on a hard concrete esplanade, then a tarmac footpath, then back on to a lovely broad tarmac / concrete section to the turn. There are a couple of inclines in places but they are all short.
The only tricky bits are the start (short uphill on grass then on rough concrete with a couple of tight turns) and then shortly after the start where you drop down a short steel-lipped concrete ramp and run 200m along the road then back up a ramp. This is to avoid some stairs on the seafront. I would strongly recommend running out to the 1k marker and back so that you see this little section – it’s the only bit of the run that isn’t straightforward. Coming back towards the finish I caught up with some of the 5k runners here and had to jink in and out of cars and then take a loop round some people walking up the ramp, which was a bit of a strain after 8.5k.
I had a good run in bright, breezy and cool conditions. The sea was in and the waves breaking on the shingle beach in the sun made for a good setting. I went out aiming to push for sub-40 after some decent training recently and six weeks of coaching to work on improving my awkward running style (the result of which has been me running four of my five fastest age-graded runs ever in the last month or two on reduced mileage, so well worth the pain). My plan was to get to 5k in just under 20mins then see what happened. I pushed my way forward at the start to make sure I didn’t get boxed in and then ran closely to my Garmin and did 3.57-3.59 pace consistently all the way out, reaching 5k in 19.52.
When I turned I realised I’d had the wind at my back on the way out, but my pace held up fairly well and I passed five runners on the way back in, including two Sittingbourne Striders and the lone Tonbridge AC runner, losing 10s on the second 5k. I missed 10th place by 1s in a sprint finish in what was a sedate field of 300 with not too many club runners in evidence. My chip time was 40.02, gun time 40.03 so I was both pleased and very annoyed.
I will happily run this again. The field was capped at 300 which kept numbers sensible and it did sell out. If anyone else fancies a go:
1. Jog the first kilometre pre-race so that the ramps, steel lips and parked cars don’t surprise you.
2. The course is open to the public – you will encounter cyclists, walkers, kids on scooters, and people with dogs. The majority of people on the course were cheerful and supportive, and the marshals were on good form.
3. It would be easy to get boxed in at the start. I spoke to a guy who finished in 44m and he said it took him about 2-3k to get to his race pace because he started half way back and got stuck – the esplanade is broad but there’s nowhere to go once it’s full, so if you want to do anything under 45 mins I would make sure you nip round towards the front.