Poole 10K

A part of the Poole Festival of Running is the flagship event Poole 10K, this is probably the leading 10K in Dorset with a very strong field each year. In addition to this race you have the 5K on Saturday and lots of miniathlon races for the juniors on Sunday, for different age groups and gender. While I disappointingly wasn’t able to attend, there is evening entertainment with a bbq and live music too.

It was also a part of the Dorset Road Race League and our Club Championship which ensured it was full on competitive!

The race start was at 14:00 so I arrived an hour before and headed to the race village which includes marquees for sponsors and brands including Asics. I met my fellow Harriers at number pick up and shared a bit of pre-race banter and our fears over the heat; it was 25 °C without a cloud a the sky!

I pinned my number on my jersey, wrapped round my bandanna and swapped my flip flops for trainers and then I was in full race mode. I would usually wear my Brooks T7’s for a 10K but with me carrying a slight heel injury I opted for my Adidas Revenge Boost for some added cushioning.

As usual I did my mile warm up including some dynamic drills to get me limbered up, it was so hot that even this broke me into a sweat. I was unusually nervous before the race and joined the pens late, I think this was my foot playing on my mind and also wanting to do well.

The count down started and we were off. I stayed behind fellow Harrier Matt and let him take the pace, he’s a good and experienced runner so I knew it’d be safe plus if too fast I could drop off to the Harrier pack behind. I looked at my watch and it said we were running 5:55 pace which was perfect. It was quite bunched to begin with but enough space for everyone to stride comfortably. Once you get out of the park you turn left and run over Seldown Bridge towards Parkstone Bay where you do a left and run through Baiter Park, this is where the field began to disperse with packs forming. There was a slight sea breeze along the bay section so I packed in behind Matt and another runner for shelter. It was here our strongest club runner Paul passed us both and started moving up though the field. Mile 1 5:44.

We then ran around Whitecliff Harbourside Park which is the turning point that you start heading back to the start. It was here that Matt told me to go but I wisely said no as I felt it was just too hot and I think it would of sapped me. I took a cup of water here, washing my face and taking a small mouthful. Mile 2 5:56.

Once you exit the park you get back on the road and there is a small incline which I eased off on to keep a steady effort. I increased my speed on the downhill and slightly pulled ahead of Matt at this point. You go under a railway bridge and you’re back into Poole Park. It was here that I spied my boys and pulled out of the racing line so they could spot me, they had their signs out and were cheering me on madly; this always gives me a huge wave of emotion! I tapped for a Power Up and carried on, Matt did the same as I heard him shout “I’ll have some of that”! It worked because he was beside me as we ran through the finishing straight which isn’t the finish as we have another lap to do. Mile 3 5:57.

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The second lap is slightly different to the first as you don’t do the bridge but instead do a sharp left and head into Baiter Park a bit earlier. Matt started to pull ahead slightly here but I stayed on his shoulder and was able to keep pace.

A gap had built between us and the next pack, which included Andrew and Adam who are both people I’ve met through races. The gap was about 30 yds and I wondered whether we could close in on it but they seemed to be running at the same pace so I simply hoped a couple would dwindle and I could gain those places.

Matt had different plans though, when we reached the bay he told me we had to catch the pack for shelter. I took his advice and accelerated joining the back of the pack. This included a young runner called Serena O’Connor who at 17 is an awesome runner and came 6th in the junior dualthon world championship the day before! Mile 4 6:03.

As we headed through Whitecliff Harbourside Park, Andrew and I pulled ahead of the pack. I really wanted to beat Andrew as he recently pipped me on the finishing straight at Bournemouth 10 mile and this urged me on. I pulled alongside him as we exited the park and then pulled just ahead as I knew he’d be stronger than me on the incline, I predicted correctly as he was beside me at the crest. I made for a turn of speed downhill and again pulled ahead. I caught a Poole Runner at this stage and tried to pass him twice but he didn’t concede. I decide to sit in behind him instead and safe my legs for the finish. Mile 5 6:02.

As I ran into Poole Park my legs were really feeling it and my heel was starting to throb slightly. I knew I had to push through this as I had a pack of runners on me and had to stay ahead for the points. I gave it everything I had but even with this the Poole Runner had started to create a small gap so I knew I was struggling. As I turned left onto the finishing straight I knew I’d have to sprint those last hundred yards to keep ahead so I mentally prepped myself for this. Mile 6 5:58.

I heard my wife and boys urging me on and shouting “GO DARREN, GO” I glanced behind me and saw Andrew, with Matt just behind, in full sprint so I gave it my all, I glanced back again and saw Andrew was even closer! I don’t know how but I went up another level and sprinted even harder! I ran so hard that when I crossed the line I just pipped the Poole runner (same gun time, 1 sec faster on chip) to come 25th overall and 2nd Harrier with a 36:50!!!
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I am so pleased with this time, even though it’s 4 seconds of my PB. With the race in the peak heat of the day, on one of the hottest days so far, coupled with my heel injury I don’t think I could have asked for anything more.

I’d recommend this race to all, as it is excellently organised, marshaled and supported. It is also a real mixed field which makes it great for all and adds to the atmosphere.

My only criticism is that the three times I’ve run this race it is always roasting hot so the 2pm start time seems a bit daft. Why I can understand them wanting to do the junior races first as the heat would affect them more, it maybe better to move the junior races to the Saturday morning.

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