I run marathons because they’re easy. There is lots of time to think about your strategy and make fine adjustments accordingly, and I often feel like I could go on forever at a steady pace. The distance doesn’t bother me.
So when a friend recently instigated an online discussion regarding the Wroxham 5k (the Norfolk County Championships), followed by some fighting talk from his rivals, I didn’t like the sound of it, but wanted a piece of the action. Despite maintaining a reasonable level of fitness, I hadn’t done any targeted training for a number of months but, when it became clear that some of the running club’s ‘new boys’ wanted a chance to put their recent training efforts into practice, I (reluctantly) figured I had to give it a go.
As race day approached, everyone was getting their excuses ready – with some even going so far as to spend time in hospital. The preparation for those involved was mixed, and evening races can be quite awkward to judge. What should I eat? When should I eat it? When should I stop eating? How much ‘work’ should I do during the day? Weekend races, on the other hand, are simple affairs where you just get up, have your breakfast and go; they utilise tried and tested regimes that have been perfected over time.
So as we were stuck in traffic en route to the race, the rainclouds started to gather, talking to us during our preparations and distracting us from our pre-race routine. We arrived at the race HQ soaked from the walk from the car, but had to get ready to race, so warmed up on the soggy grass track, while becoming wetter with every stride.
We were called to the start line, about 10 minutes before the start, as the rain continued, and as we became more cold and miserable, at least our minds were being taken off the task in hand. But eventually the race started. I executed my start plan perfectly – sprint to the sharp corner 30m from the line to avoid the hordes and settle in from there. That was the easy part.
I passed through 1k in 3.30 and felt surprisingly good. Doing the maths on the run would give me 17.30. I had only been expecting to sneak under 19, so I thought that I may as well continue and see how things unfolded. I went through 2k in 7.02, which was good, but when 3k approached in 10.38, I was hurting. I was now slowing and it was becoming difficult. I eyed up the runners further along the road and used them to help me. It was hard work, but I went through 4k in 14.18 and by now, my mind had focussed on sub-18. I couldn’t slow down any more, but it would have to be painful. This was worse than a marathon; much worse. There was no time to think about the effort, to be tired, or to crunch numbers. It was just a case of keeping going. And finally I crossed the line in 17.55, my third pb on the road on the bounce.
And my reward when I arrived home was to discover my cheque had been banked (confirming my entry) for the London Marathon. Roll on next Spring.