On top of the world! Still buzzing from the Windsor Women’s 10k on Saturday and for more reasons than one.
Firstly, just to say I was given a press place for this race – but my mum entered off her own back, but I am, as usual, 100% honest in my review. Pre-race info was thorough – and we left home at about quarter to 8, taking heed of the advice of avoiding Windsor town centre so coming through Datchet instead…and we arrived at 8.25, no traffic and were about the 10th car there #keen
Parking was super easy – a big field that wasn’t a struggle to get in or out of – and getting out can often be a problem at races where there’s only one real way out of the car park. We were SO early that there was no toilet queue which obviously generated some real excitement.
And then, in the main race village were some LOVELY posh portaloos. Seriously, I’ve lost all snobbishness around race toilets, but it was such a nice luxury that I wasn’t expecting so 10/10 for toilets. I picked up my race packet (zero queue) – mum’s had arrived in the post – and we sat down under a big gazebo to chill out, chat, panic drink water, try and apply temporary tattoos (failed) and need to wee again.
Bag drop was a breeze – well organised and all coordinated by number. I’ll also say here that the team were doing a great job at the end with someone watching and calling out approaching race numbers whilst someone else fetched it – so it was practically at the desk already before you arrived.
And then, it was time to head to the start pens. They were well signed based on predicted time, and I soon realised that my sub 45 aim was right up the pointy end of the race. And I mean like, cameras in your face, starting horn by your ear, pace car (PACE CAR?!) in sight.
I’ve never done a “women’s only” race that wasn’t a club-run event (e.g. road relays or cross country) At the start we were all SUCH WOMEN. This is for another post, but of the 10 of us in the sub 45 pen, no one wanted to go to the front. I mean, until literally we were made to. Every person that joined us wanted to slink to the back. And someone said “you know, if we were men, we would be right on that line and pushing and jostling” – and yet everyone was acting super super modest for a bunch of pretty decent runners. FEMALE SELF DEPRECATION AT ITS WORST! Anyway, as I said, for another post.
Part of our discussion was the excitement of a pace car – however Georgie Bruinvels was off like a rocket as expected and I didn’t really see it much after 1.5k 🤷🏼♀️ we started a couple of minutes after 10, then headed off up the Long Walk towards the Copper Horse.
The race is basically a lollipop shape out into the park, so you start with Windsor Castle behind you. At the end of the first km, there’s a little incline and you head off left into the park. It’s ‘undulating’ – there are no really really big, steep, long hills (others may beg to differ) but they are enough to be noticed but I actually quite liked it – they played to my strengths in that you could still put some power through them without being completed zapped of energy by the time you got to the top.
There were I think 3 water stations with bottled water (always a win because I am not very good at drinking from cups) and ‘waste zones’ with archery targets to throw at the bins (spoiler – I missed) at 3k, 5k and then I think another one but I wasn’t quite paying attention.
I was sitting in 3rd until about 3k in (and have to say again, it’s so weird being quite so far up where the action is happening, slightly intimidating and a bit lonely) where I then ended up in 4th, and then basically had two ahead of me and the distances weren’t changing. I would close the gap a bit on the ups, but didn’t have enough kick to reel them back in on the straights, but I wasn’t losing them so there is always hope.
I chose (for no real reason) to lap my Garmin at every km marker and you can see below some of them were a little bit out compared to others (but then again, Garmin could be out!) – but I actually had my Garmin on the ‘lap screen’ all the way through which I think really helped me to not be focusing on overall time or distance as I could only see that one km which helped me take the race as it came rather than panicking.
Marshalling was strong across the board (they’d clearly been on a big recruiting drive with the cadets) and also a thumbs up to the man giving us our splits at the 7km marker! One thing I would say though is that it did feel pretty lonely out on the course – but imagine further back it was a different story. I’ve also never been in a position where I know my number is being checked my race officials for being so close to the front!
Eventually realised we were heading back into the main bit of the park and was told ‘once you’re up here, it’s pretty much a mile downhill’ (definitely a runner) You then turned the corner at the top of the Long Walk (and down the hill!!) and I was probably about 30m off 3rd and 2nd was out of reach unless a miracle happened. Realised I basically had to go for it – I had enough of a gap that I would still hold it together and end up 4th if I really messed up, but I know I would have been kicking myself had I not given it a go. SOMEHOW I caught up with 3rd just ahead of the 9km marker (4 minutes to go!) and tried to put on my best ‘I’m running strong’ face to fake it and hope it psyched her out.
(By the way, the Long Walk feels REALLY FLIPPING LONG in the last km of a 10k)
I managed to keep up my game face going past and then realised I basically had to just push it as much as I could until I was done and hope she didn’t have a second wind (there was a fair amount of checking over my shoulder) and then I could hear the announcer saying my name and I was done. 41:56 (only 6 seconds ahead of 4th in the end, so her second wind was definitely there) which is a new official 10k PB (the Winter Run wasn’t a UKA ratified course so I’m not really counting it) so to have taken 36 seconds off my previous dead flat Battersea Park 10k time from two years ago was a nice start to the weekend.
Decided to run and pick up my bag and t shirt before the queues got too long and then got back to the finish straight just in time to spot my mum coming in just over the 52 minute marker. Medal, mars bar (yum) and nice tech t shirt (N.B. for future racers – go a size bigger than you usually would) And the medal is sparkly!
Mum skipped off to pick up her tshirt as we heard the announcer saying when the presentation would be and that the winners of “The Generation Game” (you had to nominate your mother/daughter upon entering) also had to be there…and that those winners were…US!
Turns out that mum’s super placing (and 1st in her age cat – I was only 2nd in mine so she is technically a better runner than me) was enough to put us right at the top of the leaderboard. A good day all round
Again, the camaraderie at the end was amazing. It was so great to see some super strong female runners smashing it and basking in the atmosphere. We had a chat, congratulated each other, talked about the hills etc etc. I’ll let you in on a secret. Before this, I didn’t really see the point in women’s only races (probably going against all the girl power rules here) Maybe it’s because I’m not bothered with mixed sports and entirely happy trying to overtake men, but there was something special about this that made me “get it” that little bit more. I can understand how it’s a far less intimidating environment, empowering those who maybe prefer a different kind of running experience. I’ve seen so much on social media about it being people’s first 10k, and a special shout out to a “this girl can” group from all over Berkshire who used this as their 10k challenge. Would they have done it in a mixed race? Maybe they would – but how would it have changed their experience?
On another note, I would be well annoyed if there was a men’s only race that I wasn’t allowed to enter so I do still have that in the back of my mind.
However what was also interesting is that this required me to run entirely my own race. Having only three people ahead of you is a strange experience as you can’t just rely on a bunch around you to take you through – which in a mixed race, I typically would have. To be perfectly honest, it made me run better. I had to really engage my brain, make a few more tactical decisions and tune into and trust my legs to do what I needed them to do – i.e. keep it under control and time the finish.
I would genuinely enter this race again – at £24.50 UKA affiliated price (£26.50 if you’re not) it’s not overly- extortionate at all, and there were so many different ages and levels of runner there, a real “open to everyone” event – plus the route was lovely – I’ve never run through Windsor Park before and that view of the castle as you come into the last 1.5k is exceptional and a definite “kick to the finish”…see splits below.
Thanks again to Promote PR and Boudavida for giving me the opportunity to participate.