Where should I begin?
In the wrong starting pen for starters ! A very costly mistake. See way back in December 2014 when I applied for the Great Run, I was running a Half Marathon in 2 hours 5 minutes (give or take for poo breaks and bridge lifts) and that was the time I registered with them. When I got my race number and realised I was in the 7th starting pen, I contacted the organisers to see if I could move up some. It was possible but the amount of hoops I needed to jump through was off-putting. The last training run I ran was 1 hour 48 minutes – 17 minutes faster than my registered time, and I was aiming to shave another 3 minutes off that with other runners around me for encouragement. I thought that I could just play catch up – a very very VERY big mistake.
Because I knew I had some catching up to do, I got to my pen early and had a 3rd row place. No big stress, looking around at the other people there, I was deffo in the wrong place but as they staggered the starts I would soon make it up – or so I thought.
By the time I crossed the starting line, the race had already been running for more than 16 minutes! The sheer mass of runners on the streets meant that I was having to dart around like a whiley old fox dodging the hounds just to find passing spaces to get into open ground to run at my own pace. Before I could get my legs stretched, I would be blocked in again by slower runners. Little did I know but it would be like this for the next 10 miles.
I wanted to shout at people ‘come on’ to get them moving, get them out of my way but it was hopeless – I was getting frustrated. Just after the 1 mile mark, I started to pass people that were already walking…..! 1 mile into a 13 mile race, and you are already walking??? Please tell me what time you registered with to be walking at 1 mile in and to have started in the pens in front of me. A lot of liars I think. I was getting annoyed – more so with myself.
I pushed on – my run keeper in pace run mode telling me I was ahead of target pace. I had set it at 5m 10s per kilometre for pace and each kilometre it would chime in with my instant pace and average for the distance covered. If I wanted the magical 1h 45m I needed to maintain 5 minutes per kilometre or less. At one point, it told me I was ahead of my target by 20 seconds per kilometre. Ironically, the slow runners that were pissing me off, were actually helping me stay ahead of my minimum pace – I was having to do lots of little sprints to get past them and all of these little sprinty bits were going great guns for dragging my time down. But I was only half way around and no Superman. I needed to conserve some energy.
7 mile marker appeared and I had caught and was passing a man running with a full-sized mountain bike strapped to his back – I was perplexed. At 5 miles, I had passed a Pink Dinosaur and was still trying to work out how that could have had a better finishing time than me, but a man with a mountain bike – there seemed no logic to the start order.
By 9 miles, my legs were starting to feel the distance as we started what must have been a 2 mile or more climb. Just before the 9 mile marker, Runkeeper also gave me the call that I was now exactly on my 5m 10s per kilometre pace. With the hill looming, I was sure now to fall behind.
At the 10 mile flag, I was suddenly 5 seconds per kilometre down and resigned to the fact that I just had to keep plodding up the hill – my pace now a minute per kilometre slower than it needed to be – and clearly all about damage limitation – I have tried before to recover a 5 second deficit at three-quarter distance and it just ain’t happening.
11 miles and still on the hill when someone shouts ‘it’s all downhill from the water station’. I grabbed a banana from one of the Toon Army lining the roadside and a fresh bottle of water from the station and then realised the woman who shouted the downhill encouragement was being at best, economical with the truth. More hill!
Then finally, over the crest and a view of the North Sea that I had been dreaming about for the last hour and three-quarters. The last turn was also the 12 mile mark and the run home was parallel with the sea.
Somehow I managed to pick up my pace again and started struggling to get around other runners, there was even one person being carried by two other runners – of course, I never slowed but breezed past in my last push for the line.
When I started the race, the timer at the start line was 16 minutes and some seconds in. In my mind, I had been hoping to see the finish clock at 2 hours which would have given me the right aggregate time – not my day !
10 minutes outside of my target time, 7 minutes SLOWER than the organisers estimated for me. What the f**k just happened?
Distraught? Not quite, despondent – most definitely, dizzy from all the effort – yep and sweating like a rapist too! Best of it was, after running a Half Marathon – I had more than a 2 mile walk to get to the Metro.
Sitting on the train, a local lady asked me if I was ok. I explained what had happened and she patted me on the shoulder and told me than men are far too hard on themselves.
You think that is the end ? Not yet!
On the way home, I think I may have actually gone too fast. Those average speed cameras may have caught me out. After sitting at 50mph on cruise throughout the whole roadwork system, I spied the national speed limit sign a hundred yards or so in the distance and floored the Rangie, only at the last-minute to see just one more camera system right before the speed limit sign peering out of the darkness – I now have a two-week wait for the NIP to drop through the door.
Still – Belgian beer in the fridge after a week without any.