Poole Festival Of Running race recap – 2 medals, 15 kilometres, 1 great weekend!
In my first official races since my half marathon back in April I was looking forward to returning to more familiar distances. I originally signed up to the Sunday morning 10k race a month ago, but knowing I would miss out on my habitual parkrun due to a late flight back from Rome on Friday, I decided to go for the 5k race too. It worked out perfectly as I went along to Poole Park on Saturday afternoon to get a feel for the course, collect my bibs and t-shirts and join in the 3.1-mile early evening race as a warm up for the following morning. All I had to do on the Sunday was turn up and run – worth the earlier effort for those extra few minutes in bed!
The 5k was a relaxed affair with not too many competitors crammed into the starting area. I didn’t go out aiming for a race PB, especially as it was a last minute decision to run, so I wasn’t really too fussed about the headphone ban meaning that I would be unable to hear my pace through my strava app at half-mile intervals. I missed my usual podcast fix but did enjoy soaking up the tranquil atmosphere as we ran along the seafront and back into the park around the lake to the finish line. Despite there being no distance markers either, I was surprised to see how even my pace had been when I looked at my app afterwards (8:00, 8:11, 7:59) and was ecstatic to find I had come in under 25 minutes. It was a scorcher of a day but thankfully by the time the race started at 6:30pm the temperature had cooled – though I was definitely glad to be in shorts this time around and still finished rather red in the face!
On Sunday morning I was back to do it all again – only this time double the distance. The 10k course was still a single loop (not just 2 laps of the 5k route) and was pleasingly flat and scenic; this time we ventured beyond Poole Quay before doubling back along the seafront and back through the Poole Park to the starting point. I knew the longer race would be more challenging without headphones – both as the distraction and motivation of an engaging podcast and to provide those pacing notifications, but I was happy to immerse myself into the atmosphere of the race. I noticed that there were some distance markers approaching the finish line when I arrived at the festival, so planned to use the timer on my fitbit watch to help maintain my pace, checking in at each kilometre.
The starting line was much busier this time, as both the 10k race and the half marathon were due to start simultaneously and split off further along the route. There was also a much longer queue for a pre-race toilet trip, but I was still ready at the start with a few minutes to spare. The runners around me were already discussing the next races in their diaries, including the Great South Run in October, and I was impressed by the community atmosphere as so many runners from local running clubs were participating and supporting in their matching vests. I was proudly wearing my ‘double’ t-shirt – specially made for runners completing both the 5k and the 10k or half marathon distances.
The klaxon sounded and we were off – watches beeped and speed started to build. But after less than a hundred metres there was congestion and I was forced to walk a few steps as the crowd of runners slowed into a narrower section. It quickly opened out again and this time the rhythm was better. I passed my cheering parents as we headed out of the park and along towards the quay. The air was fresh and cool along the waterfront; it felt like perfect running conditions. I approached the first kilometre marker and had a quick peek at my watch. I’m more used to calculating mile-pace than kilometre-pace but I was happy with my speed, conscious not to go too fast too early as I had in my recent half marathon. As I passed the markers for kilometre 2 and 3 I was confident that I was maintaining a sustainable pace (mile 1 – 8:37, mile 2 – 8:20). I hoped for a personal best and was aiming to go sub-55 minutes, my previous 10k PB being 56:53 back in October.
Time went on and the 4-kilometre was nowhere in sight. Surely I hadn’t slowed down that drastically already? Eventually I saw the luminous yellow sign in the distance - but it wasn’t 4 kilometres, it was 5! I was halfway and had made it to the drinks station – a quick sip of water and I was back on track (mile 3 – 8:26). Assuming I had somehow missed the 4k marker I kept my eyes peeled for 6k. That one never materialised either! From 3k onwards the markers only appeared every other kilometre, which felt a bit misleading. When I saw a marker for 12 miles (where I assumed the half marathon route re-joined the 10k course) I was relieved to think I had just over a mile to go (mile 4 – 8:24, mile 5 – 8:36). Little did I know the course would divide again and it was actually much further to the finish than I realised – that will teach me to check the route map more carefully next time! I finally saw the ‘200m to go’ sign and knew I had smashed my previous PB (mile 6 – 8:18), although I wasn’t aware at the time by just how much! The results were published instantaneously online and I was so proud of my new PB – 52:27. Next goal: sub-50 minutes.
Overall, I would definitely recommend the Poole Festival Of Running and am likely to be back next year - there were plenty of helpful and encouraging marshals along the course, and it was a particularly scenic route, passing through plenty of greenery as well as providing stunning sea views. The staff at Race HQ were well-organised and efficient; clearly proud to be supporting and representing the event. There were plenty of choices for a post-race snack and coffee too. Just make sure you familiarise yourself with the course beforehand to avoid confusion over random distance markers and be prepared to sacrifice your headphones – I reckon it’s worth it for the uplifting support from the crowd along the way.
My next race will be the New Forest 10-Mile in July – let me know if you’re planning to sign up and which other upcoming races you’re looking forward to in the comments!
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