The Yateley 10k Series and the joys of summer evening racing

Right, well, I started my last post with an apologetic ‘sorry for taking so long to write, won’t let it happen again’ intro. That post was on June 17. It’s August 5 today. So… that went well. Or not.

Tell you what, can I just cut and paste my intro from that last piece? It still applies. Hang on…

Okay, first off, an apology. It turns out to have been quite some time since I posted here. While I’m not presumptuous enough to think people have been hanging on my every word, since I’ve gone to the trouble of doing it for a few years now, the least I could do is post something on a fairly regular basis. I’ll try not to let it happen again.

Anyway, the same excuses largely apply as last time: busy new job, plenty of travel, lots of other stuff – and a family holiday, or which more soon (really!). But while I haven’t been writing about running, I’ve still done plenty of running.

In particular, the long evenings in the summer months not only make evening running far more pleasant, but they open the way for mid-week evening races. Which is why, for the last three years, I’ve been making semi-regular trips to Yateley in Hampshire on Wednesday evenings.

Yateley is a picturesque English town in very pleasant countryside – back in 2011, the district of Hart was apparently named the most desirable place to live in the UK – and, perhaps predictably, home to the Yateley 10k Series, which comprises three races held on the first Wednesdays in June, July and August.

Well, sort of. As an aside, for every one of the last three years availability issues at Yateley School, where the event is based, has meant that the July race has been held on the second Wednesday of the month. Although that’s really a minor technicality, I guess.

The Yateley races are hugely popular – all three usually sell out before the first is run, with the best part of 1000 runners taking part in each – and the field is largely packed with club runners. Which means that the standard is pretty high. That’s usually good news though: I often find having a bigger field packed with faster runners helps spur me to faster times.

The course is a classic Hampshire road race: there are definitely hills, but nothing too taxing. Yes, it’s time to break out everyone’s favourite running course description… it’s undulating!

Yateley undulate

Actually, the FAQ section on the Yateley website goes a step further:

Is it flat or hilly? Both, gently undulating

Now, I very much like the Yateley 10k Series, and think the organising team do a fantastic job, so I’m going to force the editor in me to stifle questions about how a course can be flat and hilly…

Yateley course map

What really helps make the Yateley 10k Series are some of the nice touches by the organisers. There’s a commentator at the start and finish, who talks the runners home. There’s a fun run for kids. They lay on a pre-event group warm-up which is well-intentioned, if not my sort of thing. There are two water stations and even, brilliantly, a sponge station. And let me tell you, 7k or so into a hot run a quick dabbing with a damp sponge is very welcome indeed.

Yateley also has a very nice curry house, which means that me and my running friend Matt – and, to be fair, several other runners – often undo all the good fitness work by popping across for a post-run jalfrezi. But hey, given the run starts at 7.30pm and it takes me about 40 minutes to drive home afterwards, I need to eat – and it’s definitely tastier than the McDonalds I had after one of my early Yateley races.

This year, for the first time, I actually made it to all three Yateley races – having ‘only’ managed two in both 2015 and 2016. It turned out to be a good year to do so, since the three medals this year were designed to link together like some weird Transformers toy to create a slightly odd display thing. Strange, but a nice touch.

Yateley medal

Racing seven times on the same course in three years is also an interesting test for comparison. Of course, the conditions are different every time – this year featured two unusually hot evening races, while the August event was a soggy affair after heavy rain – but you still get a feel for how you’ve fared and what form you’re in. It’s also interesting that you start to recognise a lot of the same runners, giving you some useful references for your form.

Speaking of form, it’s also interesting to compare my results over the last three years. Let’s see what progress has been made…

Race Time Finish position
June 2015 41m 25s 96
August 2015 42m 18s 119
July 2016 41m 12s 77
August 2016 42m 09s 84
June 2017 42m 00s 85
July 2017 41m 43s 78
August 2017 42m 14s 84

 

Okay, when I said ‘progress’ I really meant ‘let’s admire my good grouping’. Hmmm, should I have shown more improvement? Well, possibly, although those times disguise lots of variables. A simple list of times, for example, doesn’t indicate that my August 2017 time was set in wet conditions, or two days after getting off a plane from a two-week holiday in America, during which there was excess eating of burgers and smoked meats…

Anyway, I’m not that bothered if the times suggest a lack of progress. The enjoyment of the Yateley 10k Series is simply being out on a weekday evening doing something I enjoy, surrounded by plenty of likeminded people. And isn’t that the point of running, really?

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