Ok, you got me. I didn’t really almost win the Midsummer Hampstead 10k but I was placed as 3rd Woman in the rather respectable time of 44:38. Here’s how having a goal encouraged me to step it up in the course I affectionately call the Midsummer “Madness” Hampstead 10k.
I guess it helps that I’ve run this race three times before so I knew what to expect in terms of the course – three laps of Hampstead Heath extension plus a road called Meadway. I’ll admit that this doesn’t sound very exciting on paper but when you consider that the Hampstead Heath extension is a hill, you’ll understand that this is not a flat course. In fact, you are having to conquer the same undulating terrain not once but three times. Now add on my first pre-race mistake as in I cycled the wrong way at Highgate – down West Hill instead of Hampstead Lane and then had to retrace my steps uphill – and then arrived a sweaty mess with only seven minutes to spare, you’ll understand that my heart was already pumping. At least I’d warmed up, if you can call it that, and perhaps this helped me perform better during the race.
After a short announcement from the race organisers – London Heathside – we were off. As I said before, I hadn’t even had time to think of a strategy. What drove me to push harder was something that the running coach Nina Anderson had said earlier in the week at a special event for women at Runners Need in association with Women’s Running magazine. She asked us to think about what was our goal. In previous races, it was to test the waters, build my confidence and make sure I felt strong after my injuries. But in the Midsummer Hampstead 10k, I ran to win. I felt strong, fit and able to push myself (thanks perhaps to the South Downs Marathon) harder. And yes, my competitive streak took over, especially when I realised that on the first lap round I was already fifth woman. Knowing your place in a race can be the impetus you need to dig deep and find that inner drive to up your pace.
By the second lap, I’d edged myself up to fourth place, thanks to a rather fast one-on-one against a bloke of an equally strong pace. I could see the female competitor in third place just in the distance and made it my mission to not only catch up with her but finish third. I think if you know you have a chance, you will do as much as possible to make it happen. And it did happen, I moved into third place on the final lap and kept up the pace until the bitter end. No, I didn’t win but I finished feeling exhilarated and elated that I had come in third place.
The path is narrow at first, what with all the runners trying to squeeze on as they find their pace but once you get into your stride, this race is an easy one to navigate. You know that you’ll need the energy for three laps, so this allows you to set yourself up and really test your hamstrings and glutes on those hills. I may sound a bit of a masochist but I love the challenge of going both uphill and downhill as you feel like you’ve had an all-over workout afterwards.
As it’s a relatively small race (around 200 participants) and mostly club runners, there are no fancy goody bags at the end. What you do get, however, is a generous slice of watermelon, bottle of water, dry wick t-shirt and a voucher off bikeandrun.co.uk. And if you happen to be placed, you receive a trophy, small bottle of vino and vouchers for bikeandrun.co.uk all handed to you at rather lovely prize-giving ceremony, where you can mingle with the other winners and the London Heathside lot, who are very welcoming.
I really enjoyed this race and not just because I happened to have been placed. I think having the goal to not only finish but win (well that didn’t happen) spurred me on to come third in a good time. Considering that this was a undulating course, I’m pretty happy with my time and hope that things can only get better from here on in.