Targets: some people would be lost without them. Archers, for one. Not the long running, agriculturally-themed Radio 4 soap opera, you understand. No, those folk that shoot arrows at multi-coloured circles. It’d be quite difficult without the multi-coloured circles. Unless you go old-school Parthian and resolve only to fire backwards from a galloping horse at an onrushing Roman soldier – a practice both frowned upon and logistically difficult to organise in 21st century Britain. But if we stick to imagining more traditional archery, without the targets it becomes rather unsatisfying I’d imagine: ‘…*TWANG!*…Yep…that one went over there…*TWANG!*…so did that one…*TWANG!*…and that one…*TWANG!*…and another one over there…*TWANG!*…great stuff, Gavin’. No, I’d surmise that the target is something of an archering necessity. Archering isn’t a word, you know. In fact, there’s no verb that neatly describes ‘the act of partaking in archery’. I could make one up. Twanging? Negative connotations there, I feel. ‘Could you put my quiver through the drier, love; I’ve been twanging all morning in the rain?’
Running, as a hobby, for pleasure (well, “pleasure”) has no unique target, as such. Everyone brings their own target. Oof, imagine that down at the archery…pitch. Field? Course? Arrowdrome? ‘Yes Bruce, I’ve brought my own target. It’s the size of a Portakabin. The bullseye? About as big as a tractor tyre. I’m feeling confident this morning, I tell you.’ But with running, the target could be anything from a certain time or distance, to an ascent or a top speed, or even keeping a certain heartrate or split times over several laps. Actually, I’m not giving the archers their due – I bet there’s a target-less ‘who can twang their arrow the furthest, Clive, no target necessary’ world record out there. It’s going to be something ridiculous. I’ll say ‘a mile and a half’. Let’s look it up…
…Right, I’m back. After some thorough research, which included venturing into the pages of that renowned source of chronicled sporting achievements, the Chorley Guardian (during which I confess to being distracted at length by the article ‘Sudden death of much-loved chef’), it appears that the record when shot under ‘World Archery Conditions’ (which must surely equate to ‘whilst dressed as Robin Hood’) is a paltry 283.47 metres. But it appears that people have managed nearer 2,000 metres in free n’ easy conditions. This chap wins though:
“Undoubtedly the longest flight shot of which there remains a record so authentic that it can be accepted without a quibble was that of the Persian archer named Aresh, who stood on top of the mountain Damovend and, just as the sun peeped over the horizon, loosed a shaft with such splendid vigor that it did not strike the earth until sunset, when it landed in the banks of the river Gihon about five hundred miles away.” – From “Archery” (1926) by Dr. Robert P. Elmer
YEAH! 500 miles! In your face, contemporary twangers! But if we can put aside the bow n’ arrows once and for all and finally get around to the topic at hand, that would be super…
So, running targets then. Regular readers may recall me mentioning, back in the carefree days of late 2015 – when the summers were longer, Snickers were bigger and everyone pulled together for the good of the nation – that I had a plan to outfox wily old 2016 Ben and his ‘Running? But it’s dark and cold and I want to stay in with this packet of chocolate truffles and a box set of The Twilight Zone’ attitude. And that plan was to have already signed up for a virtual 5k. And thus have to do it. In January. Which I did. And therefore now have to do. If you see what I mean. DAMN YOU, LATE 2015 BEN!
‘It’s not the legs, it’s the breathing’ gasped a then-acquaintance of mine some years ago, whilst sporting a purple face amidst a near-abandoned attempt to scale one of North Yorkshire’s highest peaks. And for me, the challenge of the January 5k can be paraphrased with ‘it’s not the distance, it’s the speed’. After all, I do more than 5k every other day, at present. But at a gentle pace. When it comes to the Virtual 5k, I need to flog it. I need to. I must earn that medal (I didn’t mention the medal did I? You get a medal horghghghghhgh*) like… Heracles earning his place among the Gods on Olympus. And that means charging round 3.11 miles of Middlesbrough and then putting my time on a shared Google document. Like Heracles did. Possibly.
So, having put it off for 19 days, this morning I decided to go for it. I’d do my usual 4-mile route, but I’d flog the first 5k. Comparatively speaking. Now, I’d not really pushed myself over the 5k distance for quite some time. Plus, I’d been broken by training for a marathon since then. I was all about endurance and economy of effort, not speed. Like a Yugo. Meaning I had no idea how it would go.
And it went alright, actually. No major incidents, excepting the fellow runner that I had to bomb past, despite the fact she was going about as fast as I was comfortable going along a lengthy straight which meant once I’d huffed and puffed past I had to keep up the ridiculous charade in fear of her catching me and exposing my actual inability to run as fast as I was doing over any real distance. Apart from that. I got round in 22 mins and 18 seconds. Which is actually 3 mins 20 seconds slower than my all-time we-don’t-know-how-that-happened-but-witchcraft-was-likely-involved PB and about 90 seconds off where I’d like to be. But Hell, its winter. And to add a little sp(ice) to proceedings, there was still a bit of snow on the ground in places. In fact, if I re-adjust my time to take this into account, I’ve…*calculates*… broken the world record! Well done Ben. When it comes down to it, there’s just me and Aresh The Persian left. And his name isn’t even on the effing Google document for UK Fitness Bloggers’ Virtual 5k. So I win by default. Unless he gets in by the end of January.
* – I’ve never clarified this at any point previously, but ‘horghghghghghgh’ is the textual equivalent of the noise emitted through pleasure on the receipt of, or indeed, the anticipation of, a medal.