A recent Saturday at Podim 5k was Elsey Davis’ first race back in over a year. The hard working doctor laced up her shoes and tells us all about it. 

The combination of a pandemic and stress fracture wiped out any opportunity to race, including my first GB vest.  After spending the whole year craving a race and the buzz that goes with it and I couldn’t wait to get back to a start line… but when the reality of the prospect of a race actually came around- I was terrified.

The journey back from injury

I started back running sessions the beginning of February after a period of easy base miles. Returning to sessions after an injury is up and down, progress is definitely not linear. Some days you see a glimmer of fitness then a few days later you feel as sharp as a crayola.

There was even a text to my coach a few weeks before, trying to chicken out of racing. Just having a wobble following a particularly tough session where I think I even convinced myself the GPS must have been dodgy paces were so bad. 

There are two options with the return to racing, either return before feeling completely race fit and race your way to fitness or wait until you feel back to full fitness.

The former requires you to swallow your pride a little and make sure race results are put into context of where your fitness is in your journey back from injury and take results with a pinch of salt/ stepping-stone to the next but it also means you get to race sooner.

Cold feet

So then I decided to just crack on and blow some cobwebs away. I signed up for the famous Podium 5km.

The week before, I was on call overnight for psychiatry. This involved scattered sleep tucked up in a sleeping bag on top of a bunch of chairs pushed together in the doctor’s office answering bleeps from the wards when needed or admitted patients who have been sectioned.

Not ideal race prep and could have served for a nice excuse to withdraw, which I considered many times. You spend the whole week fretting about it. If you can count on one hand how many runs you have done with any company in the last year, the prospect of getting on a start line with 30 others seems a little overwhelming.

In hindsight, it sounds a bit mad saying it but I was worried I was going to embarrass myself and be totally out of my depth. It’s also been about three years since I even ran a 5km race, I’m most at home running half or full marathons. Going into a race with a quiet confidence you are great shape is a totally different feeling to the way I felt leading into this. 

Race day

It was such a good feeling to see so many familiar faces after so long. A reminder of the wonderful community in our sport. Chatting to others, my nerves eased a little to know I wasn’t the only one feeling apprehensive about racing again.

We were blessed with perfect conditions and the course is pancake flat, I can see why it’s such a popular race. I’m currently doing most of my miles on hilly trails so having a down week prior to the race meant my legs felt pretty fresh at least.

I wore my watch but decided I wasn’t going to look at it at all as I thought it would knock my confidence if splits were slow so I had no idea at all until the clock near the line what my time would be.  I just ran hard and hoped for the best.

It all felt a bit like a blur during the race, I felt good but had no idea what pace I was running. I couldn’t believe I came away with a small PB. I ran 16.09, my previous best from 2018 was 16.16.

You forget how much racing others and the adrenaline makes running faster in races feel so much more comfortable.

Me or the shoes?

I do however appreciate this is hard to interpret given the new shoe technology, which without a doubt provides an advantage.

There are endless discussions about the shoes and everyone has their own opinions and I do feel a little disappointed it has moved in this direction as I liked knowing my results were 100% my own steam. But the way I see it now, is that I’ve set a new benchmark in the shoes without drawing too many comparisons to old PBs and my aim is to just improve my times from there.

Even trampoline shoes considered it has given me a massive confidence boost that my new approach of running lower mileage (around 50 miles per week at the moment) with supplementary cross training in a bid to reduce injury is proving effective.

Often running high miles is looked at like a badge of honour but there are a lot of athletes out there now like Steph Davis and Beth Potter proving that it’s not essential and I think each athlete has to find their own groove. 

Finish line feels 

Crossing that finish line, I was flooded with that post race buzz I have missed so much! It was totally worth all the nerves and I feel ready to attack the next race with a fiercer attitude.

Its taught me that it is good to take chances in life even if you don’t feel prepared, you may surprise yourself and be stronger than you think and even if it doesn’t work out, so what? Next time it will be better. 

Beth keeping the men on their toes

The end of my race however was just the beginning of the evening’s excitement.

This was the first evening “out” my wife and I have had in a while and wow, did it deliver. An hour later we witnessed a world best being set by Beth Potter.

It was so inspiring to watch, she just glided along with the men in such a state of flow- I think a few were a little out of sorts to have a woman float past them in a race.

Photo: Running Live

Chatting to one of the guys afterwards he was like “then an arse came past me and I thought, that’s not a man’s arse….and if it is, it’s nice!”. Really made me laugh.

Seeing her reaction afterwards was class…she was so shocked and asking if the clock was working. It’s clear she works incredibly hard and it’s nice to see athletes get rewards for their graft.

We finished the night off with a Big Mac in the car then drove home to a very angry Bengal cat who has never known his owners stay out so late since his arrival in lockdown. So we poured a glass of wine stayed up a little longer and played fetch with him (he is a weird dog like cat- follow me on Instagram for daily updates).