My Fantasy Race

Yes, a bit like fantasy football, if you could specify the ingredients for your perfect race day, what would it look like?

1. I wouldn’t have to spend months planning for it, just keep those running legs ticking over every week and one Saturday, after say, a big glass if red wine, I’d say to myself and anyone else in earshot “That 10K I was half thinking about doing. It’s tomorrow morning, and you know what, I think I’ll do it.”

2. I wake up, in winter, in daylight. It’s just before 9 a.m. and I have still have time to get some porridge down me and fire up the espresso machine. Then spend an hour “pre-race faffing” – getting kit ready, changing my mind, losing stuff and finding it again.

3. In a last minute change of plan, I decide to drive there, risking spending too long trying to find a parking space in a busy part of London. I arrive and find a perfect spot, right next to the gates of the park.

4. I walk the 20 metres or so to the race HQ, wait in a line of one to sign up and get my race number. I pick up my free race t-shirt and am advised to “try it on, if it doesn’t fit, bring it back and I’ll get you a medium”. Passing on the free pre-race massage, I’m ushered into the baggage drop area, ask if I can drop my baggage later and then brace myself for the pre-race toilet stop turmoil. There is a queue of one person to join. Later on I see someone else waiting in a queue of one. Someone from the running club apologises and points out there’s a second toilet around the corner. This is 20 minutes before the race starts.

5. I pass on the plates full of home baked cakes, the tea, coffee and water and head for the start. It’s a dry, cool, autumnal day and after a surprisingly effective group warm-up, we’re off. Four laps around a flat park. My watch is set to a target time I know I could achieve on a good day. Every time I check it, it tells me I’m ahead of schedule.

6. There are 12 marshalls stationed around the 2.5 mile laps. Once I get over the shock I experience in every race (“yes, it’s me, I used to avoid running with a passion, and now I’m running. Outside. In a race! And I’m not last!”) I notice that the marshalls are holding placards with little messages for us runners. Usually I’m cynical about motivational messages, but today some of them make me smile and, how should I put this, motivated?

7. I also imagine that the course must have some hills somewhere, but they’re too subtle to notice. We must be going uphill at some point because there’s a nice long incline towards the end of each lap. I give up checking my watch. I’ve still got time to spare. I’m soon on the fourth and final lap. I overtake a couple of people who’d overtaken me on the third. My energy’s running low but I have enough to step up the pace a lot sooner than I’d usually entertain.

8. Then all too soon, it’s over. There’s a little machine into which I type my race number and get my time on a slip of paper. I’ve done lots of races before but I’ve never got to use a gadget like that before! (It was like the first time I used a Dyson hand-dryer) Almost three minutes faster than my target time. My second PB of the year. I’m beaming.

9. I’m back in the clubhouse. The massages are still free, the chocolate brownies have gone but there are still cakes. Apple and cinnamon or banana and ginger, I’m on such a high that I choose the banana one, the devil’s fruit. And I like it. I pick up a certificate, an Oyster card holder and some more water. I head home – it takes 20 minutes.

That would be my fantasy race. Only I actually did it this morning. I’m going to think long and hard before I let anyone know which race this was and where it took place. In case it was all a dream.

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Good and bad things come in threes

This week I’ve relished three fantastic running experiences:

  • a longer than planned long slow distance run
  • an interval session where my Garmin stopped bothering to pace me causing me to go faster with every interval and
  • a Friday night toughie where I kept going for 6.5 miles at a decent speed with hill after hill

I think my running mojo is back. In the meantime, to take the edge off all this positivity, let’s go through my top three list of all things I either question, or maybe even hate about running and runners:

1. Bananas – yes, the national fruit of the running nation, the jauntily curved Devil’s fruit. Of course, I know they’re jam packed with carbohydrates, they help hydration and have magnesium, potassium, calcium and protein aplenty. They keep your liver’s glycogen store nicely topped up and help prevent cramping and strengthen bones. So, why do they make me wretch and have such a nasty, pulpy texture? One day, maybe I will receive a blow to the head, forget about my bananaphobia, down a couple of bunches, pull on my running shoes and actually win stuff

2. Triathletes – now hang on, I don’t hate triathletes per se. My much fitter, faster significant other is a triathlete. I’ve been known to swim, cycle and run consecutively (only once, I grant you) and those Brownlee boys astound me with their world domination. No, it’s triathletes who enter running races I’m none too keen on. The ones who turn up for a Parkrun in their lycra all in one tri-suit with some oh-so-witty pun printed on it usually substituting the word “tri” for, hang on, yes, it’s coming to me, hahahaha “try”!!! I barely managed a marathon, so I readily admit that doing one Ironman style, after swimming across a Great Lake and cycling across a continent is one hell of an achievement. Yet, halfway through a half marathon, spotting one of those Ironman tattoos on the back of someone’s calf is such a motivation for me and my petty prejudice. I’m proud to say I’ve run two half marathons faster than a couple of unsuspecting Ironmen, who to this day will not be thankfully unaware of how they spurred me on.

A picture of a boxer, running, from www.coastalliving.com

A picture of a boxer, running, from http://www.coastalliving.com

3. Boxer Runners – I love those first summer runs, me. The ones which make you finally ditch the tights and wooly hats and whenever possible, run in little more than shorts and a t-shirt. It’s at this time of year that I start to notice the boxer runners. I assume they’re boxers and a run dressed in a load of layers seems to be part of their training regime. Or maybe I just don’t regulate my body temperature very well. I don’t hate them, mainly as if they were to find out, they might choose to whup my ass. I question them. Boxer Runners come out at the height of the heatwave, when even a technical vest feels like a layer too many and the sweat’s pouring out of every pore. Boxer runners cope with the oppressive sunshine by wearing a couple of sweatshirts, a hoody with hood up, nice fleecy jogging bottoms, hi-tops and ideally, a cagoule and waterproof trousers. I suspect their long runs are very long runs, and when the plastic trousers are finally removed, you can hear the sweat gushing onto the floors of the mythical gyms above East End pubs that they probably hang out at. Why do they do it? Is there some kind of science behind this deliberately making running as tortuous as possible?

I could go on, but that’s enough negativity for now. I’ve got a short list of future running “hates” and incredulities on the go so watch this space if you’re not a fan of raised kerbs, trios of pedestrians, motivational quotes or running while holding stuff.