First of all, I know I said I was taking a few week’s break from blogging, but I’ve popped back on for a very good reason, and that reason is that I have a confession to make: I am a bad, bad person.
Last Saturday saw me take part in Sport Relief 2012, in which towns across the country held events where people could come together and walk, jog, saunter, sprint, shuffle, stroll or run, all in the name of charity. There was a choice of three distances (1, 3 or 6 miles) but beyond that it wasn’t a serious race by any means. It couldn’t have epitomised the term “Fun Run” any more even if every event had been headed up by Peter Kay dressed as an emu. A nice, relaxed family event. Nothing heavy.
Well, that’s the way it should have been, only nobody told my brain that. Those of you familiar with my progress as a runner will know that I class myself entirely as a plodder, a bottom-feeder of the running world happy to amble along at my own pace with the grace of a gazelle, albeit a gazelle that was a bit too slow off the mark and now all four of his legs are in Mr Lion’s tummy. As I wandered around the market square a few minutes before the race I was surrounded by non-runners. No vests, no sinewy sub-6-min-milers, no athletes – these were plodders through and through. These were My People.
My training’s been going well so far this year. For starters I’ve started referring to it as “My training” rather than the usual “Just nipping out for a bit”. Secondly, the combination of structured training and weight loss has seen my mileage and speed creep steadily skywards. I’m still a rank amateur, but now I’m verging on being an intermediate rank amateur. I wonder if I get a special hat. The fact that I’m seeing big improvements and, crucially, still loving every second of it can only be a good thing. But when I stood in that market square, looking around at the mass of non-runners with not a Garmin in sight, I couldn’t help but feel like a fish out of water. If I’m honest, as I stood there in my technical running gear, hydration belt and GPS watch, I found myself glancing at the sea of deely boppers and novelty socks and getting a little bit frustrated that nobody else seemed to be taking the event seriously. That’s right, the light-hearted charity fun run event.
The race (except it wasn’t a race, was it?) started and as I silently tutted at all the people walking along slowly and holding me up, it suddenly dawned on me that I’d become the type of runner I’ve always hated. Before I started this running lark I had a preconception that all runners were elitist and obsessive, sneering down their vaselined nostrils (don’t ask) at anyone who didn’t spend every waking moment doing endless laps of the local park clad in fluorescent lycra. Of course, from the moment I immersed myself in the wonderful world of running I quickly realised that we’re actually quite an affable down-to-earth bunch, and for the record I’ve only ever lubricated my nostrils on special occasions. And yet here I was, pouring scorn on a load of people who’d had the decency to step out of their comfort zone and spend a Saturday afternoon running around for a good cause. This realisation that I was (shudder) one of the baddies was enough to snap me out of my grouchiness, and I mentally gave myself a gentle slap and got on with the matter in hand – sticking some money in a collection bucket* and enjoying the run-not-race.
And it was a great run. My pace felt comfortable for all six laps (even though my Garmin insisted that it should have felt anything but comfortable), and I soaked up the combination of glorious weather and fantastic atmosphere with a big cheesy grin plastered across my face. My family were there to cheer me on every time round too, which was a massive buzz and also distracted me from the fact that I was getting a bit lap-dizzy.
I continued on, basking in my runners high and generally feeling like I was gliding through the crowded streets. Looking at my fellow runners (and on several occasions lapping them, which was a genuine first for me) all of my earlier curmudgeonly grumbling was a distant memory as I considered the ones plodding their way through a single mile and reminded myself that it wasn’t so long ago that I was in their shoes. Actually, that’s not entirely true – at least they were out there having a go at it; a couple of years ago just the very thought of jogging a mile would have caused me to break out in a cold sweat and hide in a hedge.
A moment of brilliance happened near the end, when I found myself running behind a girl who was wearing earphones, and clearly hadn’t gotten the hang of volume management. We came up behind a lovely old lady perhaps in her sixties, and Earphones Girl helpfully shouted out “YOUR SHOELACE IS UNDONE!”, to which the aforementioned lovely old lady replied something like “Thanks, but I’m fine. I’m nearly at the finish now and I’m only walking”. Earphones Girl: “YOUR SHOELACE! IT’S UNDONE!! I’M TELLING YOU THAT YOUR SHOELACE IS UNDONE!!!”. Lovely-old-lady: “Yes dear, thank you, but I’m fine”. Earphones Girl (her mouth now mere inches from slightly-irritated-old-lady’s ear): “SHOELACE!!!!!!!!”
And off she sped past her bewildered prey, with me matching her pace out of morbid curiosity. Sure enough, the entertainment wasn’t over yet. As she approached the water station manned by Freddie Mercury**, Earphones Girl bellowed in his face “I NEED WATER!!!” while at the same time completely ignoring the bottles of water he was holding out to her and continuing on her way. This was getting a bit weird, and I decided to distance myself from EG before she went a step further and punched an otter or debagged the mayor.
The run wasn’t officially timed, but according to my Garmin I finished the 6-mile course in around 52 minutes. I was quite chuffed with this, considering my personal best over a 10k distance had only recently shifted from a long-standing 60+ mins to a more palatable 57 minutes. But the perfectionist in me wasn’t happy that I’d run a flat 6 miles, and I decided to leave my watch running until it’d ticked over to the all-important 6.22 miles (or 10km in new money). So a fifth of a mile was spent talking to my family, giving my daughter a piggy back ride around the market square and generally milling about, and somehow I still managed to come in at 54:36. You certainly won’t catch me grumbling about that.
It’s a shame that in my pig-headedness I started the run on such a negative, but (now suitably chastened) I shall run it again next year. Dressed as a flump.
*At least I think it was a collection bucket. I may have inadvertently tipped a window cleaner.
** Or someone dressed as him. I didn’t think to ask.