Sunday 7am, the alarm rings. YIKES!!! What on earth went through my mind when I signed up for this race at the other end of London at 10am on a January Sunday?
Nah, just kidding. Actually I don’t mind getting up early. Without the alarm I would probably have gotten up before 8 anyway. Yes I’m a lark, and I’m happy about it: it leaves me plenty of time to do lots of things. Successful people get up early. Take that, owls!
Back to my story. Sunday 7am, alarm rings, eyes open, body leaves the bed quietly to avoid waking up the other occupant (who’s an owl) and dresses up quietly, mouth gives a light breakfast to stomach, hands prepare a thermos bottle full of hot tea because skin tells it’s freaking cold outside, brain manages the commute alright with a little help from smartphone, reader is tired of terse sentences so author switches back to legible style.
I arrived very early at Hampton Court because I was afraid I wouldn’t find the race start. In the end it was really easy to find but I didn’t regret arriving early because it gave me enough time to go 4 times to the bog to empty my bladder from all that hot tea. It also gave me time to warm-up a little, even though I don’t have a set routine yet. Apart from a little jogging and that silly dance we invented with a Polish bloke, one of these nights we ended up as drunk as lords (the French expression is “as drunk as a Pole”, it may be derogatory but it’s appropriate here) raising our knees very high up one after another on the beat of the music.
The race begins. We’ve been warned that the track is muddy and slippery at places but the first kilometre is good. Too good even and I have to restrain my enthusiasm as I had decided to underperform slightly for the first 5K lap in order to save myself for the second lap. The marker for kilometre 3 shows up and shortly after, the muddy part begins. I struggle to keep my pace but I have to if I want to reach my target. My feet get bogged down at each step and it becomes really hard. I manage to stay at the same pace but my heart pays dearly for it: it rushes up to 206 bpm, that is 16 bpm more than my previously recorded max HR! The deer on the side of the path chew some grass, they clearly don’t give a fuck.
The second lap begins and we return to a more passable terrain. I follow the plan and speed up a little bit. Even though I was running alone most of the first lap, I’m now following a dude in a black tracksuit with red edging. I realise I should accelerate even a bit more. So I overtake black-tracksuit and my new pacemaker is a girl with an orange top. Clearly she’s a better runner than I am and the distance between us grows little by little. Then comes the dreaded marker for kilometre 8. If you follow and if you remember your maths from kindergarten you know it’s the same as kilometre 3 of lap 1. It’s where the muddy part starts.
My shoes stick to the mud, my heart goes crazy again, the deer still don’t give a single fuck (do they ever?) and black-tracksuit overtakes me. That’s a bit of a downer innit? Soon the finish line is in sight, I hear another guy catching up with me, the volunteer in the last curve shouts something like “Sprint now, don’t let him catch you up!”. So I do. I don’t know where I find the energy but I do.
I cross the finish line, check my watch, 44:47, I did it! I ran a 10K under 45 minutes and almost 2 minutes better than my previous PB! I love you volunteer! I could kiss you! But you’re a dude and anyway the one I really want to kiss now is probably rubbing her eyes in our bed at this very moment.