I’ve never cheated. Ever. Well, not since the time I played tennis with my brother as a 10 year old and I told him his shot was out when, in actual fact, I was just too tired to go chasing after the ball.
I’ve grown older and wiser since then and learned that there’s nothing to be gained from cheating – other than a hollow feeling of shame as I cover up the fact that I didn’t really win.
I’ve subsequently taken up running; the only person I can cheat is myself. I have been running for many years now and have never ever contemplated it. The sport is occasionally tarnished by drugs, but it is a sport that I enjoy tremendously and hate to think about the time that I am unable to do it. The thrill of continually pushing myself to my limits and subsequently stretching those limits further. The great feeling after a good run and the comfort it provides when I put my feet up later in the day and dive into a cake [note that I refer not to a piece of cake, but to an entire cake]. Running can be an addiction, and much like a drug itself.
This takes me to today’s run. The Beachamwell Half [marathon]. It is the highlight of the Beachamwell running calendar and attracts the best runners from Beachamwell and some very good runners from further afield. It is a mixed terrain route but, despite this, is frequently run in times under 70 minutes. It was my debut at the classic event and I felt the pressure when I was introduced to the course record holder on the start line.
I started steadily and soon found myself in second position. I was a long way ahead of third place so, in my mind, it had become a two horse race. As the race progressed, the leader was pulling away, but I was feeling strong. At a junction without a marshal, a race signpost pointed left along a route I was familiar with and I followed it. I questioned it in my mind, but I had been followed by a cyclist on the same route, so presumed it was right. There was nothing to indicate I had gone wrong, so I kept heading straight until I saw the next marshal.
Fifteen minutes later, I was at a crossroads without a marshal or a signpost. I now knew I had gone wrong, so I waited and conferred with the cyclist and we decided that we didn’t fancy an extra half hour, so forwards was best. We headed for the finish area and after a total run time of 67 minutes, I was cheered along the finishing straight and crossed the line in first place.
I couldn’t live with myself. That hollow feeling had returned. I owned up straight away. I had essentially cheated – albeit unwillingly. My first gold medal and I had cheated. I hung my head in shame. I may as well have taken EPO.
This didn’t stop me taking home the certificate that said I ran it in that time, but it certainly will not be placed above my mantelpiece. I will file it in this blog for history’s sake and no more. Technically the certificate only suggests “participation” and not “completion” but either way, I don’t deserve it.