3. Bristol 10k

Our first official challenge in Bristol was Run Bristol’s fabulous 10k, a fast, flat course ideal for a personal best, as Cozzie found out last year. But will too much Haribo on the Friday before and one too many glasses of wine with Dom’s parents the night before scupper Dom and Cozzie’s chances? Find out below…

3. Sunday, May 5 – Bristol 10k

Dom’s dissection…

Sunday began bright and warm…. and with a little headache somewhere behind my right eye. Hmmm… it’s great being home, but somehow we get into the wine too easily theses days. I seem to remember thinking carb-loading on the old grape juice might be a good way of keeping hydrated. At 6.30am on Sunday I was regretting that decision.

Helping Hearts before the Bristol 10k

Helping Hearts before the Bristol 10k

Still, man up and crack on, as they say – we Helping Hearts heroes are made of stern stuff. After dragging Cozzie out of bed (man, that girl likes a lie in… ) we headed on down to College Green to meet the other runners for Shine Together, the charity of Southmead Hospital, and the fundraising team of Trevor Reid and Cheryl Segger.

Somehow we had got there with a fair bit of time to spare, so milled around among those masses at the runners’ village in the Millennium Square after meeting Dave Marsden. Bristol is also a great event because it’s almost impossible not to bump into someone you know. This time I stumbled across Simon Peevers, an old colleague from the Evening Post, who despite having had open heart surgery a few years ago has dedicated himself to running and getting himself as fit as he can be – massive respect to the man.

Bag drop in the heart of Bristol

Bag drop in the heart of Bristol

After meeting Dave Marsden, my old friend from school, we headed for the starting pens – alongside 9,000 other runners. This is one of the things that make Bristol so special – thousands of runners, all out to achieve a massive personal goal, all ready to give it their all around the streets of the most beautiful city in the world. What more could you ask for on a Sunday morning?

After a poignant silence for the victims of the Boston marathon bombing, in which Bristol did itself proud, we were off, cantering through Hotwells and trying to keep pace while weaving in and out of other runners who were slightly quicker or slower than us.

I’d set my personal best for the 10k here a few years ago, and this year was desperate to smash it. For once I’d done a little training, and was keen to go around in under 45 minutes. Straight away it was pretty obvious it was shaping up to be a decent race, but a tough old slog. The pace was fast, and I made it through the first kilometre in about 4.30secs, which was my target pace. But it was warm. Too warm – verging on hot. Shortly after I reached the Portway I passed a young woman who had collapsed and was getting medical attention. Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps not, but it made a rather fine point about my wine-fuelled preparations…

And we're off! The start of Bristol 10k 2013 - courtesy of Run Bristol

And we’re off! The start of Bristol 10k 2013 – courtesy of Run Bristol

Still, we were out and running – nowhere near the front, but keeping a decent pace. One of the great things about the Bristol races is that as you’re running down the Portway, you see the elite athletes coming back in the opposite direction, miles ahead of you. Crikey are they fast – it’s incredible to see these runners sprinting along, gliding like gazelles half again as fast as you, while you plod and stumble, head thrown back as you snort like a horse, trying to fill your lungs with every last ounce of air – and that’s just at kilometre three…

Bristol 10k route - with the pain that is Cumberland Road!

Bristol 10k route – with the pain that is Cumberland Road! Courtesy of Run Bristol

After turning back along the Portway the course leads you through the edge of the Cumberland Basin to my least favourite section of the entire course, Cumberland Road. There is no reason why I shouldn’t like this bit. It’s straight and flat, and there are plenty of supporters, but it’s the same every year – I absolutely bl**dy loathe it. It always seems hot and exposed, and far harder than it should be. True to form, on Sunday as soon as I hit it I felt unbelievably thirsty – so thirsty that I was ready to mug the first onlooker I saw holding a water bottle. Thankfully (I think) I didn’t see anyone, or it could have got quite nasty…

By the end of that stretch I had slowed down to what felt like little more than a trot. I knew I had to dig deep, and as we ran over the cobbles near Prince Street bridge and hit the final kilometre mark, I gritted my teeth (metaphorically – anything else would be stupid at this stage!) and put my head down. We curved around the traffic lights on the centre, up the punishing short uphill towards the Hippodrome, and then it was “give all you’ve got” time – a final sprint to the line.

Done it! A PB, and challenge number three!

Done it! A PB, and challenge number three!

My time had ticked away, but I gave it my best Usain Bolt impression and crossed the line in 45.58secs, smashing my previous best by almost 2 mins 20 seconds. Boom! And then the boom kicked in, and I was bent over a railing, sucking air into my lungs in a desperate bid not to blank out. Dave trotted through the line not long after (a massive thanks to his mum and dad, Alyson and Mike, for turning out to support us, by the way – we saw you at the start and that gave me a huge boost, I can tell you!) and it was off to pick up that sweetest of prizes, the finishers medal.

Cozzie also had a brilliant race, as you’ll find out below, and it was great to catch up with so many friends afterwards and hear about how they did. Simon Trebble was a shade outside his personal best with a fantastic 41.19, Dave M clocked a brilliant time of 48.37, Dave and Rob Green also ran around the 50 minute mark and my old Post colleagues Vikki Ellis, Kirsty Pugh and Simon Peevers also ran well.

Happy days...

Happy days… Si Trebble, Dom, Dave Marsden and Cozzie

Top result of my friends went to my old mate Andy Sloan from the Evening Post, who won the red wave (why wasn’t he with the elite group?!) with a top-drawer 39 minutes. But the result of the day was a new world record in the over-60s category by Welshman Martin Rees, who clocked a whopping 32.54. That guy is in his 60s, and yet ran the distance just five and a half minutes slower than Mo Farah ran to win gold at London 2012.

So, what a day, despite the heat. Thank you Bristol, for a great third challenge – there’s more to come in our May month of madness, more to be done to help save lives for people at Southmead Hospital.

Cozzie’s recollections…

Bristol put on a great day for a run on Sunday. Dom and I were starting in different waves – so Dom headed off with Dave Marsden to the 9.30am start, while I made my way further back to the red wave for the 9.45am start. There was a poignant 30 second silence in respect of the tragic events at Boston two weeks earlier, then the countdown began and I waited… and waited… and waited, until the start line finally came into sight after the first wave had finally left! There was something in the region of 10,000 runners so it took me almost 20 minutes to cross the start line!

What it's all about - a nice medal, and Helping Hearts

What it’s all about – a nice medal, and Helping Hearts

And then rather frustratingly for me, my first kilometre was the slowest one I did (5:21) due to the inevitable weaving in and out of other runners. While it doesn’t sound like much time to make up, to do the race in my aim of under 49 minutes after such a slow start made it a real struggle!

Once I was out running along the Portway under the famous Clifton Suspension bridge, I got into a good flow and steadily made some progress  – but at the 5k mark I was just over 25 minutes so still had some time to make up to manage a PB.

Hell yeah! Cozzie's hungry again...!

Hell yeah! Cozzie’s hungry again…!

The last half of the race was a battle, and while I smashed out a 4.35 seventh kilometre, my eighth one was slower again – very frustrating!  At the nine kilometre mark there were bigger crowds of people to spur me on, and then some guy on a loud hailer shouted ‘only 600 metres to go’. I looked at my watch and was at 46:30 so aimed to finish in under 49:30, and came close – I got confused on the home straight (no, I’m not that blonde!) but they were redirecting people to run down a different side of the ride which slowed me down, but I boomed it down the final leg to finish in 49:35 – to shave 19 seconds off my PB achieved at the same race a year ago. Great!

After finally finding Dom afterwards, I was absolutely rapt to hear what time he’d finished in. This is one of the first times Dom has properly trained towards a race, and he absolutely deserved to do as well as he did. Then it was off for fun on the Downs on a sunny afternoon and a pint of Thatchers Gold to round things off – thanks Bristol!

www.justgiving.com/helpinghearts2013.