Yesterday I completed the annual Great Midlands Fun Run for the 25th time. While I was running I worked out that I’ve been pounding the streets of Sutton Coldfield since before I was 11. Over the years the event has been rebranded from the Sutton Coldfield to the Great Midlands Fun Run, and the course has been shortened from 10 to 8.5 miles. The support from the local community has, however, always been amazing.
I was clearly very efficient at entering the 2015 event, when my running number arrived I discovered that I’d been allocated bib number 0001.
Running tip #1: don’t enter an event the second that online entries open.
The morning of the race was a disaster. I’d run out of Weetabix (much drama), I couldn’t find any safety pins, and most worryingly I was unable to do my usual pre-race poo. Although the lack of Weetabix and safety pins were minor irritations, my inability to do my usual pre-race poo was a major concern.
Running tip #2: lay your kit out and pin your race number to your running top the night before an event.
Running tip #3: check your pre-race breakfast supplies before the morning of an event.
Running tip #4: listen to your body; if you don’t need to go then you don’t need to go. Don’t try to force the issue.
Feeling slightly flustered, I then got soaked walking the mile or so to the local train station before eventually finding myself sat on a train with a loads of other runners heading towards Sutton Coldfield. I looked around the train and noticed that I was surrounded by families and groups of friends. I wished for the millionth time that my own family and friends were interested in running. After a few delays (I have no idea why we had a police escort), the train arrives at Sutton Coldfield 30 minutes before the race is scheduled to start.
Running tip #5: running is more enjoyable with the support of family and friends.
During the short walk from the train station to the start of the race I noticed that the rain had finally stopped. It immediately started to rain again. For the first time in 12 years the weather wasn’t hot and sunny, conditions were perfect for running.
The chilly wait at the start.
After a short but chilly wait at the start, the starting klaxon was sounded; it was time for me to tackle the streets of Sutton Coldfield. It took a couple of minutes to cross the start line and I immediately found myself having to dodge the groups of walkers who for some reason always start at the front.
After two miles the course turned into Sutton Park and I noticed that my shoelace had come undone. I managed to stop and tie my shoelace without causing too much of a course blockage. Unfortunately stopping seemed to completely destroy my rhythm; I found it really hard to get going again after I’d stopped.
Running tip #6: check your shoelaces are tied securely before the start of each run.
Once inside Sutton Park the course headed up a long but gradual hill towards the Jamboree Stone. I was making my way slowly towards the 3 mile marker when I looked across and spotted a runner who was hobbling and clearly in a great deal of pain. I suddenly realised that I recognise the runner (I clearly need to wear my glasses) so stopped to find out what had happened. I eventually ended up walking the next mile or so with my injured friend until she was rescued. Running injuries suck.
Running tip #7: when another runner is clearly injured and struggling to walk then don’t just ignore them and run past. You never know when you might need help.
Once I was alone I started to run again and found myself overtaking loads of walkers. It felt amazing to be running again, after my walking break my legs felt great. I run past the 5 mile marker, Blackroot Pool, the Railway Turn and the 6 mile marker, and eventually found myself at the bottom of the most challenging section of the course; Cardiac Hill. The second I spotted the sign for Cardiac Hill I started to walk, once again I had allowed my nemesis hill to beat me.
Running tip #8: hill training is important.
When I reached the top of Cardiac Hill I knew that the course was downhill all the way to the finish line in the centre of Sutton Coldfield. I started to run again. I ran past the 7 mile marker, past my primary school, past the fire station, the police station and towards the 8 mile marker. I was overtaking hundreds of walkers, it felt great. When I reached the 8 mile marker I noticed that my knees were hurting so I slowed down. I ran down the hill into the centre of Sutton Coldfield, headed along the Parade and crossed the finish line. I had completed my 25th Sutton Coldfield/Great Midlands Fun Run.
I was immediately handed a medal and was given a small bottle of water. Although I felt absolutely fine, I was clearly doing my usual impersonation of a beetroot as I was offered a second bottle of water. I navigated my way out of the slightly chaotic finish area, away from the crowds of supporters and shoppers and headed back to the train station.
Feeling the cold and looking old 😦
Last year I had a 29 minute wait for a train, yesterday I was lucky and only had to wait for 15 minutes. Unfortunately I started to feel really cold while I was waiting for the train. I have never been so pleased to see a London Midland train!
Running tip #9: make sure that you have warm dry clothes to put on after a race. At an event with no bag storage facilities this was difficult.
As I’m sat writing this race report on Monday morning I’m feeling relatively niggle free. My right knee feels slightly “suspect” and my troublesome left foot feels a bit sore. I already know I’ll be back in 2016 to complete my 26th Fun Run. I’ll just make sure that I delay getting my entry in.
- Cost: 5/10
- Course: 8/10
- Medal: 9/10
- Goody Bag: N/A