Ever since I can remember, I've always got a kick out of personal achievement in sport. Scoring a goal or making a save, hitting 50 or taking a wicket, running a PB. In the backyard on my own, on a playing field with my mates, at a major event in front of a crowd. Where is immaterial - what matters is that I achieved something special in my eyes - and the emotional "fix" I get when it happens can leave me glowing for days before it slowly dissolves away leaving me in search of my next "high". Nothing outside sport, no academic or business achievements, have ever come close to that feeling. Today, following yesterday's Yateley 10K race, I'm glowing - but not for the reasons I expected. Here's my race report:
Pre-race: After 3 good nights sleep, I'm feeling refreshed and race ready. I eat my usual pre-race bowl of porridge which seems odd when the temperature is 27C! I arrive at the race in plenty of time to warm up and feel that pre-race buzz amongst the runners that I've missed so much. I line up, sensibly, at the 1 hour marker. My target is to run 9:30 for the first 5 miles, 10:30 for the 6th mile up the hill, and then sprint for the line.
Mile 1: The pace is slow as we funnel our way out from the sports field onto the road. This first mile has some short, sharp inclines and some big drops the other side but I settle well into a good rhythm, although I soon feel thirsty, despite hydrating well throughout the day. I complete the first mile in 9:12, a great start.
Mile 2: This is largely uphill but with lots of other runners around it doesn't seem to affect my pace too much. I'm conscious of not running too quickly. Because of the heat, an extra water station is in place just before the end of the mile but I ignore it, even though I'm thirsty, as I don't want to disrupt my rhythm. I wonder whether I'll regret this later. I complete the mile in 9:22 - ahead of schedule.
Mile 3: This is a largely downhill section and my pace increases. I'm surprised how relatively easy I'm running, my breathing is relaxed - I normally go almost flat out and hang on at the end. I'm very thirsty now and looking forward to the water station at the half-way point. I complete mile 3 in 8:54.
Mile 4: I stop and walk at the water station - I never do this normally - and get a full cup of water down me (that never normally happens either!). I'm quickly back in my stride and an even 9:15 pace seems to come easily to me. This mile is a long, straight but flat stretch into the sun, and usually I find it a long haul but today I'm in the zone and I soon complete it in ... 9:15. I 'm looking good for sub-58 minutes.
Mile 5: I continue serenely on maintaining my 9:15 pace. I reach the 4.5 mile point and I'm just about to turn for home when ... bang ... the calf has gone ... no, not the right one, the left one this time. I have to stop and walk for a few yards before I try and run but it's so tough I just start walking again. Desparation sets in. I'm just so disappointed. I start hobbling along and complete the mile in 11:08.
Mile 6: It all becomes a bit of a blur. I'm carrying on because I just want to finish the race ... but it's getting harder ... every step is painful as if a dog keeps biting my calf ... if I was a horse, they'd shoot me. But despair is replaced by determination as several "slow" runners pass me ... I so do not like that! I manage to run/hobble the entire stretch up the hill by Waitrose, drifting past several runners who've stopped to walk (I'm secretly delighted). I finish mile 6 in 11:31.
The last stretch: This is almost all downhill and my mind convinces me I can still dip under 60 minutes. Total madness. But I still begin to increase the pace. Complete and utter idiocy. I think I'm sprinting but as the 400m is reached another runner - No 157 is all I know of her - seeing my efforts begins to encourage me. "Come on!", she shouts, "You can do it!", "350m", "Come on!", "300m to go - keep going!", "250, 200, 150m", "100m to go, come on!". I'm completely out on my foot as she counts down the last 100m in 10s. At last, it's over and I stagger across the line in a time of 1:01:47. I thank No 157 and shake her hand.
Post-race: Pride at finishing is soon replaced by despondency and despair. I've suffered calf injuries in my last 3 races, the latter two resulting in horrible finishes. Running is supposed to be fun - is somebody trying to tell me something? I realise I won't be running again for 4-6 weeks ... and as for running a marathon ...
A few hours on, though, and I'm feeling much more positive. It wasn't my right calf so it looks like that is fully recovered. I've got good experience of recovering from a calf injury. And my cardiovascular system is in great shape.
But most importantly, I got my fix ... which means I'll be back for more.
Enjoy your running!
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