Holkham 10k Race Review

What do a couple of runners (one enthusiastic – me, one less so – Tom) do when they book a holiday? Book a holiday race of course! We set off for a couple of days away in Norfolk and entered the Holkham 10K, which is set in the beautiful grounds of Holkham Hall. The Holkham parkrun is an absolute favourite of mine (you can read my parkrun review here). The parkrun is tough and hilly but with this epic downhill sprint finish. The 10k looked to be similar, but I was anxious whether I would be able to cope with the ups and downs over double the distance. A race description that starts with “Tired of fast and flat??” was concerning. Who gets tired of that?

I did some prep the night before whilst sharing a solid pre-race meal of seafood salad and cider with Tom (yep, sure that’s recommended in Runner’s Weekly somewhere). This is super sad, but I’ve started ‘studying’ elevations in advance. I split the race up into mile segments with a mental description of what was going to happen in each one, and when I wanted to drop or gain pace. To help me remember the plan I like to draw the elevation on my hand in advance! This is both depressingly boring of me, and super useful. You can judge my artistic skills against the real elevation..

I haven’t run a 10k race for ages and I’m still working on getting my speed back post marathon training. I didn’t have a time in mind, but I wanted to come in under 60 minutes (9:39min/mile pace). As we arrived it started to pour with rain – of course – so we sheltered in the car for as long as possible before doing a little warm-up and setting off with the other 700+ runners. I picked my rainbow vest to do my little bit to celebrate National Pride day, the slightly larger event happening that day.

Mile one was largely flat, meaning it would be one of the easier miles. I paced it to an easy effort but didn’t hold back excessively as I knew I had slower miles to come. I think 9:16min/mile was probably a good compromise here. Once the second mile was underway our first climbing section began. I knew the last bit was downhill so hung back on the incline and gently opened up my stride again downhill to average 9:32min/mile.

The third mile passed uneventfully at 9:38min/mile, although there was quite varied terrain. I don’t mind trails, but there were sections which were quite sandy which I found sucked the energy out of my legs a bit.

The fourth mile was definitely the hardest, being a slow continuous incline. It isn’t a massive hill at all (nothing like fell running!), but I find these long stretches really tough mentally. You can attack a hill, but you can’t really attack a mile incline – well I can’t anyway! I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t planned for this mile to be hard I think I would have got really demoralised here.

I’m a bit of a slave to my Garmin: I don’t mind feeling completely exhausted if I look down and see a cracking time, but if I feel like that and my time is rubbish it’s a totally different story. I give up on the spot! I think that’s why I’ve always found hills such a mental struggle. But my new tactic of planning for this and deciding where to vary my pace is helping hugely – I’m letting my brain know in advance that it is totally ok for this section to be slower, no need to get glum. I hit the mile 5 marker with an average pace of 9:50min/mile for that mile and was totally ok with that.

Then the fun bit. The course is basically a downhill party from mile 4.8 to the end, with one party-pooper of a hill sitting at 5.4. This section is the same as the finish of the parkrun, so I knew exactly what to expect which was great. I gradually opened up my stride and remembered to enjoy the feeling of simultaneously speeding up and becoming less tired. This is what I love about the downhill sections – it’s like magic!

I ran the fifth mile in a speedy 8:45min/mile and headed into the final leg realising I was going to smash my 1 hour goal. As I headed up the last incline to the monument at mile 5.4 I realised there was a photographer. Of course, I made sure I was smiling and doing my best impression of “looking strong” (The actual photo is below – it was definitely better in my head!!), and happily by the time I’d finished posing the hill was basically over. So that dealt with that.

From here it is a downhill sprint home. I absolutely loved this bit, although the finish was quite a bit further away than the parkrun finish meaning it flattens out just as you’re starting to feel like you might die. Mildly demoralising. I ran the sixth mile in 8:38min/mile and then gave it everything I had, clocking a fleeting pace of 5:38min/mile as I crossed the line! There is a nice orange carpet which makes me feel like a celebrity, particularly as lots of people were clapping. 

I was delighted to finish in 57:15 and place 125/402 female runners. My Garmin was also particularly excited to inform me of another impressive achievement: a new maximum heart rate.. of 202!

Overall it was a great race. It was a shame it was raining, mostly because I’d forgotten to put on my bodyglide anti-chafing balm. There was a lovely atmosphere, two water stations, great marshalls and it’s a super course. It’s always such a privilege to run somewhere so beautiful. It’s like double points – you’ve done something great for your body, and you’ve visited somewhere lovely too!

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