Within 3 steps, I knew this was a mistake. In fact, I strongly suspected it was as I filled in the form and handed over the 40 francs, but it would have seemed so silly to go all the way to Hitzkirch, lugging my sports bag, walk up the long hill from the station to the village, and then NOT do the race......... and that FOR THE SECOND TIME. Yes, that is precisely what happened a couple of years ago, when I decided during that uphill walk that it was too ridiculously hot, and I was going to wimp out. So I had let J set off on his own, while I sat on a wall in a welcome patch of shade, cheering in the returning runners as they toiled in from their 10 mile jaunt round the lake. J didn't give my welcome much of a response, just croaking "Damn me!" as he made a beeline for the fountain near the finish, pushing small children out of the way as he immersed his head in the water. With this recollection, I had a pretty good idea what I was in for.
I started about 3/4 of the way back in the field, but within seconds, people were overtaking me in droves, and after the initial round of the village, I thought I must be almost last. When I heard someone cheering the cyclist bringing up the rear, I KNEW I was. Well this is embarrassing.......! But so be it - this is no day for heroics. I picked up 2 places on the way down the hill to the station (the same one I had walked up, an hour and a half earlier), though one of them was a relay runner, not doing the full 10 miles, and briefly hoped I might be able to make up a few more, but it was not to be. Klara, another runner in my age category who I know from a running group I once dabbled with, and from the HM at Sarnen, had been one of the more recent overtakers. She remained in sight, but out of reach, for the next few kms. Immediately ahead of me was a man in a nondescript grey tee shirt, and I concentrated on trying to catch him, but the gap never lessened, and eventually grew. It started to feel strangely lonely at this end of the field!
After Richensee began the long, straight road along the far side of the lake. On either side, open fields; no shade; the sun beating down; the heat shimmering up from the asphalt. I just don't react well to hot conditions - I'm a northern lass, much more at home in the cold and drizzle. It felt absolutely brutal. I forced my leaden legs to keep going, but the pace was dropping - this felt like an impossible task today. Just as I thought my blood might start to boil, I spotted the welcome sight of someone walking. Alleluia! - if he can, I can too! Pride will have to go in my pocket today. Grey tee shirt cruised past him and into the distance. After walking for about half a minute, I forced myself back into a lumbering run, and overtook the walking man (blue vest), which felt like a small success. Ahead now was another man, in turquoise, also walking. Blue vest man featured no more (*though wait......), but Mr. Turquoise and I made a good duo as we ran/walked along that endless road (the km markers seemed discouragingly far apart), taking it in turns to leapfrog each other. We spoke once, as we briefly toiled along in synch. There were water stations, oases in that asphalt desert, and I so looked forward to them. I paused a little longer by the one at the end of the lake, and my companion-in-adversity definitively escaped me. Now I was truly on my own, and less motivated than ever to endure the unendurable. I tried to distract myself by thinking about other things (including wondering how Emelie was doing in Stockholm in similarly roasting conditions - if she could do a whole marathon, surely I could manage a piddly 10 miles?!), but the walk breaks were becoming more and more frequent as the energy levels dipped towards 'Empty'.
Baldegg station. There is an underpass here which in previous runnings of this race has always been my nemesis; I would go into it feeling fine, still full of running........ and emerge feeling as though some mysterious power of the darkness in those few seconds has sucked the energy out. This time it was my saviour. So cool and lovely! Emerging into the glaring sunlight again, I could have cried! But at least the brief danger of a DNF was past - had my arrival at the station happened to coincide with that of a Hitzkirch-bound train, I might have been seriously tempted........
The next km or so is alongside a busy road, and not pleasant. I would have liked to have run faster, to get it over with, but my legs weren't having any of it. I rewarded myself with a lengthy walk break once I turned off it onto a path. And then came The Hill. Another walk break, naturally. (I was past caring now - I just wanted to get the thing finished.) Another pause at the drinks table at the top (Isostar this time - I thought it might help the seriously flagging energy levels), then off along the hillside, through fields and orchards. The nicest part of the course, and even the occasional feather of breeze up here! But it was too little, too late - I was well and truly done for. Run - walk - run - walk, just keep going. I will make it, but this is truly one to forget. No-one else in sight now, either in front or behind. IS there even anyone behind any more?
The descent to Gelfingen; back to civilization, with little knots of spectators clustered by the roadside and sitting in their front gardens, some of them (lucky b******s!) enjoying a beer. Their applause and encouragement is something of a two-edged sword: every time I think of taking a walk break, there they are, cheering me on, so I feel I can't. I begin to feel desperate for a quiet, unseen bit of road where I can enjoy my guilty lapse in peace! - but on the other hand, it's so nice of them to hang around even for the tail-enders, and greet me with as much enthusiasm as if I were the winner. (Or is it the pity effect? Do I look THAT dreadful and exhausted?!)
The race has a sting in its tail: rather cruelly, most of the last km is a long, steady, uphill drag. But what is that I see as I turn the corner at the bottom of the hill? - yes, it's J, come to dispense moral support over this final obstacle. A few years ago, I paced a friend round her first-ever 10 miler round this course; when we reached the bottom of this final hill, we were with a group of 3 others, who I knew would see her safely in, so I ran on ahead to be able to greet her at the finish. I fairly flew up that hill, probably to their surprise - probably they thought I could only plod. Not today. Run/walk all the way. To add insult to injury, I was overtaken halfway up it by a blue vest. (Remember him?) He greeted me nicely, though, so I forgive him. J insisted on taking photos all the way up, though I begged him not to, but on reflection afterwards, I realized they do tell a story, so here are some of them.