It’s nice having a 10k race right on the doorstep. Well, relatively speaking. It’s actually 3.26 miles from my doorstep as the crow flies. I’ve just measured it. Alas, not with an actual measuring crow (although that would have been awesome). Still, without a hefty commute needed to get to the start line, I was free to have a bit of a lie in and relax into the morning before the race – which is probably for the best, as I’d spent the evening before watching Universal Soldier and drinking several bottles of lager. For the carbs. Obviously.
Despite the relative nearness of the race to my abode, I still opted to drive there. And for reasons that can’t really be explained beyond simple idiocy, I still ended up with about a 2-mile walk to the start from where I parked the car. Which meant, rather ironically, I rocked up to the race with mere minutes to spare. Mere minutes, I tell you. So there was no chance to soak up the atmosphere, be charmed by the verbal encouragement of local radio legend Ali Brownlee or go to the bog. Ever the forward thinker though, I’d anticipated the last one and had stopped to utilise ‘nature’s latrine’ on the walk to the start. Which, I must stress, was a wee behind a hedge in the middle of deserted field. Just so we’re clear.
Anyway, many hundreds of runners were already corralled into the starting pen so I duly joined them at the back in the ‘happy to finish’ area. The plan was to ‘take it steady and enjoy it’, which was a departure from my usual ‘must needlessly try to bomb it and almost kill myself’ mentality. However, I knew that starting at the back I’d likely still be picking my way through the field for the majority of the run. But that would be good for morale. Surely. All that overtaking? I’d be like…Emerson Fittipaldi.
With the commencement hooter squeezed we were underway. The Boro 10k* is run on closed roads, so quite quickly there was plenty of space to find my own pace. And a fair few people had turned out to watch too. As ever, I ended up running at a similar initial pace to someone who seemed to know everyone in the crowd. After the 17th cry of ‘Well done Sue!’ I became irrationally enraged and had to fight the urge to tell Sue to either speed up, slow down or stop having as many fucking friends. But after giving myself a stern talking too – after all, Sue’s relative popularity was in no way indicative of my social ostracisation… – I decided to let it go. Perhaps Sue’s vocation meant she met a lot of people. Maybe she was a GP. Or a motivational speaker. Or a sex worker.
By the time I’d come back to planet earth I realised I’d left Sue some way behind** and I was free to concentrate on the task at hand. Which wasn’t the 10k run, you understand. Oh no. I had some chewing gum in my mouth and I needed to find a bin for it. Mid-race. Now, ‘who favours chewing gum whilst running?’ is a debate for another day. A boring, pointless and banal debate. But I don’t. And I needed to get rid of it, and I refuse to just chuck it because I’m not a cretin. In short, this meant a diagonal, last-second, multi-lane-crossing detour to a passing dustbin (technically I was passing it – had it got up and walked I might have passed out amidst a horrifying trip down memory lane to meet my old nemesis Dusty Bin) which at least kept me and the runners around me on our toes.
At just over the halfway point the route heads through an estate where the residents usually come out to watch the proceedings and cheer on the participants. Which is nice. However, many of them usually do so whilst still in their pyjamas. But everyone was fully clothed this year. In clothes. Not in leopard-skin onesie’s or dubious peach dressing gowns. I for one was disappointed. But you can’t be disappointed for long when there’s a steel band lining the route. And it was just one of several musical acts by the roadside, my favourite being the band who appeared to be called ‘Bosoms’ from a weary glance at their banner but surely can’t be.
With Bosoms behind me there was only a mile or so to go, and I was well aware that my ‘steady’ pace had been relatively fast for me in the end. I was determined to keep something for the ‘pointless sprint finish’ though, so as the crowds thickened towards the end of the race I resisted the urge to sprint until about 200 yards to go. Now, I’ve said before and I say again – the only person you should ever be racing is yourself. That said, I took a look at the 8 or so people between me and the finish and passing them all became a possibility. An exhausting, undignified possibility. The inner monologue – which had gone quiet since the Sue debacle – decided we would indeed be sprinting past these 8 strangers if it killed us and it ultimately made the difference as I shaved 4 seconds off a season’s best 10k time of 43:25, crossing the line at 43:50 – the course was over 10k, according to the Garmin. Which I’m always inclined to believe if it tells me I’m running quicker than the course does…
And that was that. T-shirt collected, goody bag snaffled (complete with medal…horghhghghgh) there was time to watch some kids play ‘bubble ball’ (kids in giant bubble suits urged to charge at each other whilst a game of football appears to get in the way) before a 2-mile stroll back to the car. The sun was out too. Another nice race, firmly on the calendar for 2016.
* – Sorry, ‘Tees Pride’ 10k.
** – IN YOUR FACE, SUE!