Bit late on my weekly update this week. Apologies for any emotional and spiritual trauma caused. After the program we will announce a help line to offer support to those affected,
I’m now fully into this pre-dawn running scene. The only hard part is rolling out of bed, but all you have to do is think “if I can do this – if I can just roll – I’ll get my run for the day. Nothing else that happens in the day can take that away. OK it’s dark, cold, you’re knackered and it’s probably pissing down, but just GET UP, YOU BASTARD”. That usually works.
Once up, my legs are OK pretty much straight out the door. No stretching, no jumping up and down and slapping my face. Just breathe that night air and slot into those natural rhythms. But don’t forget to turn on your head torch, or you will be hit by a car and die.
I got a new head torch, BTW. It’s an Alpkit Gamma. Main beam not as powerful as my cheapo Taiwanese non-branded one but the power unit is way lighter. And get this – IT HAS A REAR LIGHT. A RED ONE. AND YOU CAN MAKE IT FLASH ON AND OFF. So all good.
I did my local (Worcester) Parkrun on Saturday. Don’t usually like doing them on consecutive Sats but I fancied finding out if my Solihull sub 20 form from last week would carry through to home turf (and mud). (To those not from these parts, I should tell you that Worcester is a trail course, while Solihull is tarmac (therefore faster)). My PB at Worcester is 20.26, set about a month ago. Surely I could beat it? But could I do the big one and go 19.xx?
I got a good starting position at the front but didn’t react to the gun fast enough, and a couple of waves went past me. (Silly Runneratthegatesofdawn! You correct that next time!) This meant I couldn’t attempt to hang onto the leading guys because they were gone, and I was stuck with the fast-starters-but-inevitable-faders. Bit of dodgery-sprintery and I found myself in the gap in front of them, chugging away behind a blue shirt. First K – 4:00. On target but nowt to spare.
It’s a hilly bit after that. Also the doubts creep in – can I hack this? Should I be doing this running thing at all? Wouldn’t it be better sitting in a nice armchair at home with a cup of tea and a slice of cake? (Cake! Why do I always think of cake when I have the doubts during a race?) But me and my blue shirted friend plod on. Next K – 4:19.
Shit! We are way off schedule!
Luckily help is at hand – in the form of an Ipodded fitness runner from Worcester Boxing Club and a beanie-hatted guy whose running style suggests a lot of hidden reserves. We four run as a tight pack for a while, surging around the undergrowth like an elite SAS unit in search of terrorists. But we don’t find any. And then boxer elbows me and cuts me up at a corner. Third K – 3.59.
OK, so we need to thin this thing out a bit. Beanie makes a break just before a short tarmac stretch after a long hill and I go after him, fairly sprinting down that gloriously hard and civilised surface. (TIP: Always go full tilt down hills, even if you’re knackered from the hill you have just toiled up.) So it’s down to me and him. Both feeling it, both determined to finish in front of the other. 4th K – 4.18.
Aaargh! Damn those long hills! And we are on yet another one. I actually sigh aloud near the peak of the final ascent, such is my effort to stay in touch with beanie. We round the bend of destiny and tear down the final tarmac straight towards the finish stretch, Beanie in front, me a couple of metres behind. But what’s this! Back markers! Children on the tracks? “Sorry! Thanks!” I grunt to a little one and her mum as I scorch a trail between them. I think she says something disapproving after me but never mind – no one was hurt and this is LIFE AND DEATH. BEANIE IS GETTING AWAY.
“Go on lads,” says the marshal at the last bend into the grassy finish straight. Don’t worry – I’m going! But Beanie is ahead of me, he’s going to finish first! He’s just too… what’s this? Some spare speed? How come I’m able to…? I’m overtaking him! I am going past him and…
“There you go,” she says, handing me my bar code tag. “Sixth place.”
The five demigods who finished ahead of me are on the hill, basking in their glory. (OK they’re sitting around and having a chat, but let’s keep this melodramatic narrative style going a bit longer.) I think about joining them but no, my place is with my comrades – Beanie, Boxer and Blue. I wait for them all to come in, shake their hands and move on. My work here is done.
</melodramatic narrative style>
Two hours later, watching my offspring playing rugby, I get an email with my time in it – 20:03.
Aaargh! It’s a good time, though. I’m happy with it. But…
Next time sub 20.