Market Drayton 10k 2015

Sunday 24 May 2015 by

You’ve probably never heard of Market Drayton. It’s a small market town right on the north-eastern border of Shropshire. Like most small towns, it has a few claims to fame that local people and businesses like to tout. It is the birthplace of Clive of India, the home of gingerbread – although the company that made the sort of gingerbread it was home of sadly no longer has a presence on the high street. It also has the country’s only Müller factory.

Recently, though, it’s been a sporting event that’s really put Market Drayton on the map. For the past three years, the Market Drayton 10k has been voted Runners World Best UK 10km, and in 2014 it beat the London Marathon and the Great North Run to become the Runners World Best UK Race.

The Market Drayton 10k 2015 was on Sunday 10th May, and for the third year in a row, I was running it. On the first race, 125 runners took part. This time I was lining up with 2300 people.

Market Drayton 10k, Running, #HoBFitness, Start line, 10km

The starting line

I hadn’t trained sufficiently. I was banking on the fact that I once ran ten miles more or less continuously to get me through. That was October, though, and this was May, and six miles was looking like a hell of a long way.

The buzz of excitement was building though, and as the Batala drummers started their routine in the moments before the start of the race, my heart started pounding with their drumbeats. I was psyched and excited and ready to go.

Market Drayton 10k, Running, #HoBFitness, 10km

Me with my mum!

The course starts with a long stretch around the playing field of the local secondary school. Last year, conditions were muddy almost to the point of treacherous, but the weather this year was kind, providing springing, but solid earth beneath our feet. We were off.

The town was out in force to support. Random people passed you sweets and took your empty water bottles, shouted at you to keep going and well done. The course isn’t that fantastic in terms of things to look at – though I’ll always have the joy of it being my hometown – but the supporters more than make up for what could otherwise be a bit boring terrain. They’re on literally every corner, sitting in their driveways and cheering you on.

The halfway point came and went with a bit of bad stitch. I thought I was going to start really struggling. I concentrated on my breathing, using all the techniques I knew to eliminate stitch. By this point, I’d left my family a little way behind, so I was running on my own – no one near by to notice me struggling or offer encouragement. But with the smiles of the crowds in my – admittedly sweat bleary – eyes, I found the mental reserves to push through the pain and keep going.

And the final three miles breezed past. Knowing the course as well as I do, I was able to offer encouragement to some other struggling runners. It’s all downhill for the next half a mile. Just one big hill left to go.

And a big hill it is. Just after the 8km mark, there’s a nasty little bit of uphill known as Phoenix Bank. I’m sure many have burned up as they struggled to climb to its peak. The worst part is it banks quite sharply left near the top, so you just think you’ve beaten it, then you turn round the corner and there’s a little bit further to go. I was determined to run up all the way, and I did. Though I was overtaken by a few people walking…

With the end officially in sight (if I squinted) I had a look at my running watch and was surprised to see that I was on target to beat my last year’s time. It helped power me along the long final straight before I hit the final leg, back round the grass.

Running on grass is really hard when you’ve been running on the road. Last year, my sister, who wasn’t as good a runner as me in terms of stamina, beat me by a mile because she took off on the grass, while my legs turned to jelly and I lost all momentum. The firmer ground helped this year, as did the knowledge that I would have to push it a little to get to the finish line ahead of last year’s time. Finally, I crossed the finish line – 1 hour 9 minutes and 12 seconds. A whole minute and two seconds faster than last year.

But that wasn’t the end of my race. A family friend, Harriet, was running, and we knew she would be last. It’s not a statement about her fitness – Harriet has Cerebral Palsy, and though it’s only mild, it’s enough to disadvantage her in sporting endeavours. She’d have every right to sit out of races, but – inspired by her mother, who recently ran the London Marathon – she was determined to do her local 10km.

With my family, and hers, I went back along the route until we found her, just a few metres from the final grassy leg. She already had a crowd of supporters. It looked like almost every marshal she’d passed had decided to come with her. The entourage were clapping and cheering and encouraging the obviously exhausted Harriet, with one marshal in particular coaching and coaxing her through every step.

It was a long way round the grass again, and Harriet was clearly in some pain, pushed to the edges of her physical limits. But she kept going, and finally crossed the line – exhausted, exultant and emotional. And we were all emotional too. There wasn’t a dry eye in the area as she was ceremonially presented her medal.

Market Drayton 10k, Running, #HoBFitness, Finish line, 10km, Cerebral Palsy

Harriet at the finish line

The Market Drayton 10k well and truly deserves its place at the top of the ranks of races. The family friendly atmosphere, the excellent support, and the inclusivity of the event add up to make it an excellent occasion, and long may I continue to participate in it.

(And Harriet has already signed up to run again next year. She’s a true inspiration!)

You can follow Loralei on Twitter: @LAHaylock

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