One of the nice things about venturing down south is that it gives me the chance to catch up with some of my favourite people. Yesterday, I spent the hottest day of the year so far sitting in a beer garden with Cathy, our great and illustrious Queen of the Athons. As it is July, we had no obligation to do some exercise (although Cathy had done a 5 mile walk beforehand). Sunday however was still June, which is why I found myself lining up at the start of the Hamstreet 10k alongside Helen (read her view of the race here) .
Now holidays must be the time to make out of character and unwise choices. Rather than getting a lopsided drunken tattoo at 3 in the morning, I signed up for this race. Had I been at home, I would never ever have said yes to it. Never. Ever. Ever.
When I start looking for a race it goes in several stages.
- Logistics – How long is it? When is it? Where is it? Do I have a child wrangler and/or cheerleader available?
- Greed – Is there bling? Or goodies. Or bling and goodies? This is partly why I ran a race on holiday in San Francisco, I got a t-shirt, medal AND a Buster Posey bobble head. Amazing.
- Fear – How scary is it? Is it a tough or fast course? How many people did it last time? How long did the final finisher take?
At this point, I stare fear in the face, distract it with something shiny and go and hide under the bed. I am petrified of finishing last.
So why the hell did I sign up for a ‘challenging’ course with a tiny field (74 did the 10k and about 25 did the 5k) where last year’s final finisher took 1.09? Because I only knew the first one of these things and even then I didn’t know how challenging ‘challenging’ would actually be.
At the start, I did my usual thing of looking around at other runners and it started to dawn on me that everyone looked quite gazelle like. But I reassured myself that it was a friendly race suitable for experienced runners and beginners alike (the blurb had said so).
And then we set off.
Both Helen and I are struggling with pacing at the moment, so we had made a pact to set off at an easy pace. We set off at an easy pace and watched as everyone surged forward. Checking our technology, we realised that we weren’t actually taking it easy after all. At this point I convinced myself that the entire race had misjudged themselves and would quickly tire, allowing us to catch up and maybe even overtake a couple of them.
Ha. No chance. The route was indeed challenging; hilly and rutted under foot. The former was dealt with by taking an ultrarunner’s approach and walking the inclines (that’s our excuse and we’re sticking to it), the latter was more of an issue. We are both accident prone. Since childhood I have been the sort who could knock over a glass of water in the middle of the Sahara; if I can fall on my arse, I probably will.
As we reached halfway, I was feeling it. The sun had come out, I was getting a bit weary and the idea of writing off the full race and just doing 5k was sounding quite appealing. We didn’t, and after passing the 5k marker, I felt myself perk up a bit (it was all downhill from here, metaphorically speaking if nothing else). And then around 7k, the inevitable happened. Maybe an errant tree branch, maybe a rough bit of ground, we don’t know, but poor Helen did a spectacular nosedive onto the floor.
Luckily there didn’t seemed to be any serious injuries, so we soldiered on and were overtaken by a chap who must have been behind us for the whole race. Eventually we reached the 9k marker and picked up a bit of speed. Back on the road, children cheered, traffic was stopped for us and the unwaveringly cheerful marshalls kept encouraging us on to the final lap of the playing field (stirring up some traumatic memories of PE lessons past) and towards the finish. At this point, Hels kicked in with some secret power of acceleration and I pootled in behind her. Last.
I finished last.
And you know what? No one laughed. I got my medal and my cake, and then everyone got on with doing what they were doing next. It really wasn’t so bad after all.
Will this see the end of me scouring the previous year’s results? Probably not. I enjoyed this race, the scenery was lovely, but a lot my enjoyment came from having lovely company to run with. However, now I know that the world won’t end if I do finish last, I might pull on my big girl pants, take a deep breath and be brave again in the future.