Pre-race appalled face.
On Sunday morning, as an early birthday present to myself (it's tomorrow), I ran the Worcester 10k. This may sound like a weird thing to give yourself as a birthday present, but I signed up in March as a "get fit enough to do this and you will feel good about yourself on your birthday" sort of thing. Despite many doubts - especially the preceding Saturday night - I'm happy to report that this worked out as planned.
Since we have two children under the age of three, getting up early enough for the race wasn't a problem. However, getting to Worcester turned out to be a bit of a 'mare. The drive down was fine. (We would have loved to have taken public transport but the Sunday train service from our little town of BFN is almost nonexistent and doesn't start until after 10 AM.) Most of the centre of town was blocked off because the race goes down the high street for a stretch, so finding an accessible car park was difficult. I ended up jumping out of the car at an intersection, after a small barney with the bloke, so that I could get to the race start in time. Annoyingly, it turned out that he was right to encourage me to get out and walk because it took him 45 minutes to park. I was as gracious about this as might be expected. :P
I trotted off to the start line and placed myself in the "55 mins to 1 hr 15 mins" corral after passing some extremely fit-looking people warming up. One of them might have been Jo Pavey, who won the women's race, but it was so foggy I couldn't say for certain. It was very cold and I was grateful for my fancy hooded long-sleeved running top with the thumb holes. I tried not to hack up my lungs onto the other runners milling about. Eventually I noticed that nearly everyone was wearing their bib number (with integrated chip timer) on the front. I'd carefully safety-pinned mine to my back. After asking around, I discovered that the instructions had actually specified that the number should be on the front. Er. Oops.
Being so far back, I didn't actually cross the start line until over a minute after the starting gun went. I had decided beforehand that I would not worry about my time and instead try to keep running (or jogging) for the entire race. I run 5k quite regularly and I know I can do it in 31 minutes without killing myself. This was running 5k...and then immediately running a second 5k. As the crowd thinned out, I slotted myself behind a runner who'd activated her phone app to speak her pace aloud, so I knew I was going at a maintainable speed, e.g. slower than I would for a 5k.
As I trotted past the 1k marker, thanking race marshals and cheering people as I went, I suddenly realised something unexpected was happening. I was having fun. Between the 2k and 3k markers, I high-fived a number of kids with their hands out, and also kissed the bloke and the babies, who were waiting near a traffic signal to cheer me. I exchanged desultory remarks with other runners.
Approaching the 5k marker, the fog began to lift and I enjoyed the spectacular view over the river. I also learnt from my pace-setter's app that I'd taken 36 minutes to run the first 5k. I still had plenty of gas in the tank, to my surprise and pleasure, so I decided to speed up a tiny bit. I passed her.
At 7.5k, I sped up a tiny bit more. At 8k, a little bit more. Lots of cheering, thanking the marshals, enjoying views from bridges and high fives along the way. Finally, at 800 metres from the finish, I saw a chap slow down to a walk. I trotted up next to him and said, "Come on! Run with me! We're almost there, you can do it." He smiled and said, "Right, I'm coming," and started up again slowly. We ran together briefly, and then I waved at him, wished him luck and sped up again.
The bloke and the babies had managed to make their way to a spot within 200 metres of the line, so I got a second big cheer from my fan club to spur me on to [the closest thing I could manage to] a sprint finish. My chip time was 1:07:20, putting me near, but not at, the bottom of the pile.
So yeah, I was really slow, but hey, I was ill and I had a baby nine months ago, and most importantly I enjoyed myself immensely. I'm counting this one as a win.
Me with my medal right after the race.
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