My First Four Races

February 13, 2011

As you will have realised from my last post, I have become somewhat hooked on running over the last year or so.   As promised, today I’ll be thrilling you with the highs and lows of my first four races, including the classic newbie mistakes I made each time.  I’ll also shamelessly grovel for sponsorship money for my forthcoming marathon attempt.

1) Anthony Nolan Royal Romp 5km, Regent’s Park, London, 22nd August 2010

The first race I took part in was the Anthony Nolan Royal Romp. This was a 5km event in Regent’s Park that I entered as a warm-up race for the Great Scottish Run 10k. As my first race, I had no idea what to expect. Luckily, the missus signed up as well, so I had some company.  I was well into my 10k training by this stage, so I was hoping to complete the race in around 22 minutes.

This was a small, well organised charity event.  There are loads of these, and they are great.  There was a good mix of decent club runners and charity fun runners, and a few complete numpties in fancy dress. One girl ran in massive stilettos. (No, she didn’t beat me.)

Anthony Nolan Royal Romp 5km start

This was also the first time I got to experience what I have christened the “A&A” factor.  Runners invariably perform better in races than in training, largely due to the boosts you get from both race day atmosphere and adrenaline.  As a result, I got round in a better time than I expected, and enjoyed every minute.

Afterwards, the wife (who clocked a very respectable time of just under 29 minutes) commented that it was fun running by the zoo and seeing some of the animals.  I replied that I hadn’t even realised we ran past the zoo, I was so engrossed in my running.  This has been a common characteristic of all my races. There is no point in me choosing my events based on scenery as I’m not going to notice either way!

My result?  20 minutes and 26 seconds, 18th place

My newbie mistake?  We turned up way too early.  We arrived about 90 minutes before the race start time, long before the registration building opened.  We had to trudge round the park with our bags to find a toilet!  For small events like this, you only really need to arrive just in time to warm-up, and collect your number and timing chip.  I’ve always been a bit OCD about punctuality, so I’m not sure I’ll ever stop making this mistake, but I won’t be quite as early as I was this time.

2) Great Scottish Run 10km, Glasgow, 5th September 2010

Next up was what I thought would be the big one. My main race for the year.  When I started running, I signed up for the Great Scottish Run 10km to raise money for a charity close to my heart. Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres looked after my Mum when she was ill, and she now works as a volunteer at their Glasgow centre.  This was also an opportunity to enter a race with my Dad who has been running for nearly thirty years.  This was pretty exciting for me. My good friend Alan also joined us for this one. More on Alan later, but basically, the man is a freak of nature. He does so many things wrong, but his race times are staggering.

My Dad’s training plans had been pretty much destroyed by an achilles injury, and sure enough about a week before the race I tweaked my right achilles as well.  Matching father and son injuries.  Pulling out was never a serious option, though.

This was my first mass participation event, and the atmosphere at the start was superb.  The first half mile was up a nasty wee hill, but I kept pace with Alan for a couple of miles before my injury flared up.

Gentle Start!

My entire right calf cramped up and I could barely walk.  I stopped, stretched and hobbled on. I soon realised running was no more painful than walking so I battled on to the finish.  Alan forged ahead and finished in around 42 minutes. This is all the more remarkable for Alan’s pre race preparation which consisted of spending the night before drinking several Glasgow boozers dry.  Very, very annoying!  Dad got round in 63 minutes which is fantastic for an old codger with a dodgy achilles and no training!

My result?  46:12. Quicker than I would have imagined a few months earlier, and good considering the injury problems, but I knew I could have done better.

Mass Participation

My newbie mistake?  I didn’t warm up properly. It’s really hard to warm up sensibly with thousands of people lining up next to you, but you have to find a way.  It’s less of an issue with longer races where you can start slowly, so I think I’ll avoid races 10km or shorter with that many participants in the future.

3) After Adoption 10km, Hyde Park, London, 24th October 2010

My next race was a 10km in Hyde Park in support of the After Adoption charity. I was treating this as a warm-up for the Poppy half marathon in Bexhill.  I didn’t have high hopes for this race as I’d had a couple of weeks off to recover from my injury in Glasgow, and the focus of my training since had been endurance, rather than speed.  The course turned out to be fast and flat so Alan and I both got big PBs, as did the missus in the 5k version of the race.

Much like the Anthony Nolan 5k, this was a small, friendly, well organised central London race.  I love these!

Alan, incredibly, broke the 40 minute barrier, and the missus knocked a couple of minutes off her 5k time.

My result? 41:49 which I was delighted with, and I thrashed the dude out of autoKratz!  Annoyingly, my timing chip failed so I don’t have official evidence for this one, so you’ll just have to trust me and my watch!

My newbie mistake?  I didn’t bring warm enough clothes.  Both the missus and I were freezing our proverbials off waiting for the race.  I rarely feel cold, but we were actually searching for little patches of sun breaking through the trees in which to stand.  I will not be making that mistake again!

4) Poppy Half Marathon, Bexhill-on-Sea, 14th November, 2010

My last race of the year was the Poppy Half Marathon in Bexhill-on-Sea which was a big deal as I was running with three friends, Alan, Rob and Bart. This brought a healthy dose of competition to proceedings. The course at Bexhill is fast, flat and right by the beach so PB potential is entirely dependent on the wind coming off the sea behaving itself.

We arrived in Bexhill to find the wind was not too strong, but the rain was piling down. There was a point in the third lap where the rain reached near apocalyptical levels. With every stride I could feel my clothes squelching.  As it happens, this didn’t really bother me too much! I actually felt a lot worse for the poor friends and family who were standing watching us!

Lovely Day!

This race is a big deal for the town and the locals lay on the most amazing spread of cakes for the runners.  I must have had about six of them. Lovely!

Alan managed a phenomenal 1 hour 32 minutes, Rob broke the 1:40 mark and Bart cruised home around 1:50.  To be fair, he was just back from the Chicago marathon and wasn’t taking this one very seriously.

The highlight of the day was Alan being heckled by a race marshal for his inappropriate attire: “How the hell are you this far up the pack wearing that lot?”  (In case you are wondering, he was sporting manky sweat shorts, a hoody that he must have nicked from a teenage mugger, and £25 gym shoes.  Bastard.)

What Are You Wearing?

My result?  1:37:50 – a pretty solid 64th out of 400-odd runners. I was pretty pleased with that, for my first half marathon. I felt bloody awful afterwards, though. My legs ached for about four days!

My newbie mistake?  I started too quickly.  It’s so easily done.  The adrenaline is coursing, you feel relaxed and easy, and before you know it, you are through the 2 mile mark 20 seconds a mile quicker than you planned.  In the end, my first lap of four was my quickest by a minute or so, and the last lap was very tough, but the overall result was solid.

The Boys!

So, there you go.  Four races, four respectable results, four silly mistakes!  Interestingly, I was more pleased with the results in the two warm-up races than the two main races I entered.

As I may have mentioned, I’m having a go at the London marathon in April in aid of a fantastic charity who supply IT equipment to hospitalised and disadvantaged children.  If you haven’t already sponsored me, and would like to, I would very much appreciate it:

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ColinGrossman

In my next riveting running blog post I’ll be providing a mid way report on my marathon training, including the results from my first two warm up races.  Will I have learned from my newbie mistakes?  What new way will Alan find to confound sports science?  Which event will offer the best cakes?  Will you care enough to read?  (Don’t answer that last one.)

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One Response to “My First Four Races”


  1. […] also completed two of my three scheduled warm-up races, both at Dorney Lake near Windsor. In my last blog post I described a whole range of newbie cock ups I made racing last year. I’m pleased to say that […]


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