As I headed towards the centre of Sutton Park on Sunday morning, I was reminded that I am privileged to be able to train and to run in such a stunning location.
Blackroot Pool – heading towards the ‘Hill of Doom’
As I made my way slowly up one of the many steep hills in Sutton Park, I suddenly remembered that I was about to attempt a rather challenging race, the Hill West 10k.
I love the race organiser’s description of this event “Now in its 22nd year this 10k charity event is set in the fantastic surroundings of Sutton Park, in Streetly, West Midlands. Renowned as a ‘good and challenging course’, completely traffic free, the event starts in the heart of the Park and follows a route which takes in about 50% of this historic Park. The course is a mix of tarmac roads of paths and off road trails, with the first 5k mostly off road with some challenging hills and the last 5k almost all on undulating tarmac…”
I last completed the Hill West 10k back in 2005 in a time of 61:27. I finished in 92nd place out of 102 runners. Fast forward 11 years and I hoped that the increased popularity of running meant that there would be a few more entrants. As I approached the Jamboree Stone and the start/finish of the race I spotted loads of people wearing race numbers. Phew!
Start area – loads of people registering for the 10k
When I got slightly closer I noticed that the majority of people were participating in the 4k family event. Arse! [Update: 133 people entered the 10k and 349 people entered the 4k!] I subsequently did something I have never done before a 10k before. I spent a couple of minutes studying the slightly complicated looking course map.
Course map – slightly different to the course in 2005
After having a quick conversation with fellow UK Run Chat member Matt – congratulations on the huge Hill West 10k PB Matt! – I headed towards the start area. The 4k run started at 10:30 and the 10k run seven minutes later at 10:37. It took me three seconds to cross the start line, what a contrast to London.
I ran across the field onto the path and turned down the cups of water I was offered at the drinks station. I ignored the urge to run straight to the ice-cream van that was parked up less than 150m from the start, and turned left onto the path that leads towards Keepers Pool. My knee felt great and after a quick readjustment of my Workplay bag, I quickly settled into my stride. However, as I ran down the long hill towards Keepers Pool I kept thinking:
“What goes down in Sutton Park, must come back up in Sutton Park”
I reached the first kilometre marker in seven minutes. I was surprised I was so slow. The second kilometre marker appeared less than three minutes later. I stopped looking out for the kilometre markers and used my Garmin.
I felt great for the first twenty minutes of the race. Why hadn’t I entered the event since 2005? I then arrived at the bottom of the ‘Hill of Doom’ and was reminded why. I ran up half of the ‘Hill of Doom’ and walked the second half. Once again I’d failed to conquer a running nemesis.
Walking up the ‘Hill of Doom’ before the race – it doesn’t look very challenging in this photo
According to my Garmin I covered the first 5k in 30:18. With the exception of the ‘Hill of Doom’ I hadn’t found the first half of the course too challenging. I was looking forward to tackling the undulating second half of the course. I felt great and was determined to beat the undulations.
As I ran down the long hill towards Wyndley Pool, I realised that in order to get to the finish I would have to run up some lengthy hills. Sometimes knowing Sutton Park so well can be a disadvantage. I knew that the second half of the course would be hilly and not undulating. I decided to adopt a run-walk-run strategy for the final three kilometres.
After a lot of internal cursing about my lack of fitness, I made it back to the ice-cream van and the Jamboree Stone. According to my Garmin I staggered across the finish line in 62:18. I’m still waiting for my official time but suspect it will be a few seconds slower. The quest for a sub-60 10k continues.
I was handed my medal and helped myself to a bottle of water and a banana and apple from the water and fruit table. There didn’t appear to be any goody bags – the race cost £10 to enter (£11 on the day) and was raising money for charity so this was fine. As there were no photographers I was rather cheeky and got Matt to take my photo.
Post run pose – thanks Matt!
I’d like to thank the Hill West School PTFA for organising such a great event. The course was challenging but enjoyable and the marshals were brilliant. I definitely won’t be leaving it another 11 years! Next year I will conquer the ‘Hill of Doom’… The link to my Strava stats and the course is available here.
- Cost: £10 in advance (£11 on the day)
- Course: 10/10 (both scenery and difficulty)
- Medal: 5/10
- Goody bag: N/A
Do you have any tips for conquering hills? I need all the help I can get.
Can you recommend a training plan that will help me achieve a sub-60 10k?