Tomorrow morning, according to the calendar, I will become a veteran and regular of the Baldock Beast. Except, of course, I won’t. I’ll be lying in bed, glaring at the invisible but deadly stress fracture, sneering at me from my left shin.
The Baldock Beast was the first scheduled half marathon of my faithfully followed marathon training schedule in 2012. It was also the first race I’d done with a deliberately intimidating name (I’d previously avoided races with names like the Greenford Grievous Bodily Harmer Half Marathon or the Levenshulme Leave You on the Roadside to Die 10K), it was also the first ever Baldock Beast.
After some half hearted and failed attempts to persuade running club acquaintances to join me I went alone to deepest Hertfordshire and lined up on the start line with a few hundred other race pioneers.
This was the third half marathon of my late starting career. I wasn’t expecting fireworks after the triumphant personal best I’d achieved at the pancake flat Great Eastern Run the previous autumn, what with this race being a hilly, multiple-terrain Beast and everything. Some moments I may have been able to recreate tomorrow, if I’d had the opportunity to demonstrate everything I’d learnt from being an “experienced” runner of the Baldock Beast:
1. If you find a stranger carrying or wearing merchandise for your favourite football team, offering to kiss said badge is a great way to bolster your chances of a record breaking run.
2. Pretending not to notice the official race photographers so you look relaxed but focused in the official race photographs tends to lead to no one bothering to take your picture. It also causes you to spend days afterwards searching fruitlessly for the relaxed but focused runner amongst the hundreds of photos on the photographer’s website.
3. Hertfordshire villagers are friendly and encouraging. However you’re even more likely to be helped along to a personal best if just one old woman, her Sunday morning shattered by a few people running down her high street, shakes her fist at you, repeatedly shouting “Get out of my village!”.
4. Developing private, irrational grudges against runners you’ve never met is a great way to boost your performance. The man who looked a bit like Russell Brand in exactly the kind of trainers Runners World tells you to ditch before thinking about starting your sofa-to-startline programme proved to be one such irrational target. Men in triathlon kit, especially those with Ironman tattoos on their calves were also red rag to a bull for the uncharacteristically angry in-race persona I adopted (I eased past Mr Ironman mid race and wheezed past Mr Inappropriate Trainers on the downhill stretch to the finish).
So Baldock Beast tamers, 2013, I’ll be with you in spirit. Bear my tips in mind – some of them helped me to a personal best (1:53:33 since you’re asking)