French Bloke Runs

Shut up and run!

Tag: 10K

Middlesex county 10k

Oh my word! I’m such a lazy bum, I haven’t written anything in a month now, that’s as bad as Lanky Pole. But at least I ran and I even raced! This time, I made sure to control my alcohol consumption on the days leading up to the race, to the point of not drinking at all for a birthday party. If that’s not self-control, I don’t know what is. OK, Draculito gave me his gym-rat trick: drinking a Virgin Mary, that’s way better than non-alcoholic beer and it lasts longer than a soda.

Anyway, I made it to the start of the race well rested and not hungover for a change. The Middlesex 10k championship was organised in Victoria Park by the Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets Athletics Club (that’s a mouthful!) but it was also the Serpentine club championship. So let me tell you that the level of the runners for this race was much higher than your average 10k for charity. It was nothing like I had experienced before: every single runner was wearing their club’s vest, mostly VPH&THAC and Serpentine but I spotted runners from many other clubs including a Mornington Chaser (not the one I beat at the Beer Mile World Classic though).

After my usual warm-up routine, I made my way to the starting line. As we had no chips, I guessed that only gun-time would count this time so I tried to start very close to the line. It took me only 2 seconds after the loud BANG to cross the starting line but I soon realised that the level of the runners was really good: half the people behind me overtook me in the first few hundred metres. And after that, there wasn’t much overtaking, club runners know their stuff and they sure can be regular! As usual, I ran my first kilometre way too fast then I tried to contain myself for the first half. Then I tried to accelerate but I didn’t really manage. Good thing I had found a pacemaker by then, otherwise I would probably have lagged behind. I tried to overtake this pacemaker for the whole second half of the race but I never had the energy until 200 metres before the finish line. I managed to pull a sprint out of my hat and finally overtook him! I released my signature scream on the finish line and waited a few seconds to shake my pacemaker’s hand. He then congratulated me but deep inside I was a bit disappointed because I knew my gun time would be 42 minutes and 1 second.

Just a couple of seconds faster and I could have claimed that I run 10k in less than 42 minutes! That’s so frustrating, especially knowing that if the race was chipped I would probably be there. Since then I put things into perspective and after all I’m quite happy because I got to beat my PB by 21 seconds. I take this as a good omen for my half-marathon next week.

Middlesex 10k Championship

A shed load of Serpentine runners at the Middlesex 10k Championship

Bushy Park 10K in August

As part of my training for my next Half-Marathon, I have to run a couple of 10K races and I decided to run the Bushy Park 10K again. I already ran it last January and I accomplished the feat of establishing a new PB despite the cold and the mud, so I thought I could repeat this achievement in the summer. But I had a sub-optimal preparation for this race: I ran all my hills, intervals and easy runs but I spent the past 2 weeks drinking – first for a stag do, then with a very good friend who came visiting for a whole week. Not only that, but I had to get up at 5am the day of the race to bring said friend back to the station, so saying that I was tired before the race is an understatement.

Deer at Bushy Park

Deer at Bushy Park

Anyways, I arrived at Bushy park early, which gave me time to rekindle with my friends the indifferent deer who just care about chewing grass. As part of my usual routine, I went to the loo, tied a double-knot on my shoes and I then warmed up for the race with the usual 10 minutes easy run followed by some dynamic stretching and some more funny running warm-ups (skipping, side steps, high knees, high heels, etc). I then showed up on the starting line with my brand new Serpentine running vest, it feels good running with colours to represent. There were runners from other clubs but I was the only one from Serpentine and I figured I had to do well for the club.

When the start signal was given, I started running a bit too fast so I paced myself. I was aiming towards beating my PB so I kept a pace between 4:00 and 4:10 minutes per kilometre. By chance, another chap was running at the exact same pace right from the start! So I used him as a pacemaker (or maybe he was using me as a pacemaker), we ran alongside each other for the bigger part of the first 5k lap. It was hard but I though I could sustain it. Then, a few hundred metres before the 5th kilometre, my legs didn’t want to carry on and my pace dropped slowly. My pacemaker carried on and I saw him take the lead on me little by little. I finished the first lap in 21:09, which was perfect for my target of beating my PB: I just had to catch up on my pacemaker and that would be it! But my legs really didn’t want to carry on and my pace continued to drop. At the 6th kilometre, another bloke caught up on me and asked me if I was alright, to which I answered that I had started too fast and that I now didn’t think I would be able to run under 42:22 as originally planned. He too overtook me after a while, with a bunch of other runners. After the 7th kilometre, my legs were so reluctant that my only goal was to finish the race and not to give in to the desire to walk. My pace continued dropping and I was now even slower than my Half-Marathon pace and I was dangerously approaching my easy run pace. But my legs were hurting more and more and I was just fighting to continue running. The 2 weeks of non-stop drinking really took their toll on me. But because I was wearing the club’s colours, I had to carry on at all cost. One of the deer even jogged alongside me for a couple hundred metres and this gave me a bit of courage. And I did it, I ran until the end despite the fatigue. I finished 14th with the lame time of 44:56 but I was happy anyway because I hadn’t given up. It seems I wasn’t the only one to under perform: I had a chat with a guy who finished 2 minutes slower that he expected. Had I finished 2 minutes and 30 seconds faster, as originally planned, I would have finished 9th or 10th, I would have loved it!

So the general feeling after this race was disappointment, but it also gave me motivation to get back to a healthier and less alcoholic lifestyle. Hopefully I can beat my 10K PB in September!

Drinking & Running Races

I’ve already spoken of the intimate relationship between running and drinking, but sometimes this relationship is just too strong. Indeed, some crazy runners (or geniuses?) organise races involving running and drinking at the same time! I put together a list of such glorious races:

Beer

You already know that there are non alcoholic beers specifically brewed for runners, but there are also races for beer lovers:

  • Beer Mile: it is the most famous race that includes drinking in its rules: 4 laps, 4 beers. Each beer must be consumed before the lap begins. There’s even a Beer Mile World Classic (🇬🇧) in London next month, of course I’ll be part of that! And if you miss it, there’s the Flotrack Beer Mile (🇺🇸) in Texas next December as well as the Beerfit Running Series (🇺🇸) all across the USA.
  • Kastenlauf: this is the historical parent of the Beer Mile. This tradition dates back to 1982 in Munich and has many variants, the main one involves teams of 2 runners carrying a crate of beer between them and having to drink all of it before the finish line. Races include the Zurich Bierathlon (🇨🇭), the Welde Bierathlon (🇩🇪), the Schöndelter Bierathlon (🇩🇪), the Büdesheimer Biermarathon (🇩🇪) and probably many more.
  • Beer Lovers Marathon (🇧🇪): it obviously takes place in Belgium, in Liège to be precise. It is a standard 42.195 km marathon but you can find local beers at the rest stops along the course. Fancy dressing is mandatory and it looks like great fun with proper Belgian beer.
  • Great Breweries Marathon (🇧🇪): once again, the Belgian having the best beers in the world, only them could organise such an event: racing through several iconic breweries including the ones that brew Duvel and Karmeliet (yummy)! You can drink during the race, and you come back with a gift basket (full of beer, of course).
  • Shamrock 5K Beer Run (🇺🇸): unlike the name suggests, this one doesn’t take place in Ireland but in Indianapolis and Chicago in the glorious US of A. There is beer served at each stop and a pint at the end. It might be worth a detour, especially since the sponsors are not those brewers producing some infamous American light beer (which in my book equals to donkey piss) but a selection of some of these wonderful American craft brewers that gave rise to the revival of proper craft beer in the past decade.
  • Beer Belly Running (🇬🇧): not really a race, it is more an organiser of various running and beer drinking events in good old London, UK. I particularly like the Beat the Barrel race, which is a real team effort. But this year it has been replaced by the Great British Beerathon, which also involves eating on top of the drinking. What a shame I can’t make it on that day…
  • There are plenty of other running events involving beer, like the Brewery Running Series (🇺🇸) and the Alamo Beer Challenge (🇺🇸), but not during the race, as far as I could gather.

Wine

If beer is very much a thing in Germany, Belgium, the UK and the USA, a lot of wine runs will be found in France (of course) but not exclusively:

  • Marathon du Médoc (🇫🇷): as it claims on its homepage, it’s the longest marathon in the world. For those who don’t know, the Médoc is the superior kind of Bordeaux wine. So the day after the run, you’ll have a posh hungover and posh sore legs. It was created in 1984, so now it is quite an institution!
  • Marathon du Beaujolais (🇫🇷): the wines of the Beaujolais region don’t have quite the same reputation as the wines from Bordeaux, but it is my native region so I have a particular affection for this one, even though it doesn’t run through my village. I know people who ran it and it is epic.
  • Marathon du Vignoble d’Alsace (🇫🇷): if red wine isn’t your thing but you’d sell your mother for a glass of white, this is the race for you! Alsace is renowned for its luscious Gewurtztraminer, Sylvaner and Pinot Gris. And after the race, you can fill up your belly with the best sauerkraut and sausages.
  • Wineathlon (🇬🇧): this is actually a series of 10K races where wine will be served at rest stops. Even though these races are close to me now, I wouldn’t dare going there, knowing the quality of the wine that’s usually served in the UK.
  • Half Corked Marathon (🇨🇦): well Canada, that’s unexpected of you!
  • Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon (🇺🇸): yeah, there had to be a race in California in this list. Nope, not even moaning about it.
  • Wicked Wine Run (🇺🇸), The Ultimate Wine Run (🇺🇸): Run and drink bad wine all across the USA, yay!
  • I could find some other wine related races, such as the Maratona delle città del vino (🇮🇹), the Media maratón por los caminos del vino (🇦🇷), the Idaho Wine Run (🇺🇸), the Texas Wine Series (🇺🇸), Fuelled by Wine (🇺🇸), the St Clair Vinyard Half Marathon (🇳🇿) and the Winery Run (🇦🇺) but it seems you can only drink after the race. What a shame.
Marathon du Médoc

Marathon du Médoc Photo by Kinolamp

Spirits

You’d imagine that there would be a whisky race in Scotland or a whiskey race in Ireland but I couldn’t find any although it seems prizes in these lands are more often in the golden liquid form than in real golden monies. No tequila run in Mexico or rum marathon in the Caribbean either. Anyway, there are still some race based on spirits:

  • Vodka Trot (🇺🇸): I thought the Russians or the Poles would come up with such an insane race concept, but it had to be the Yanks…
  • Although I couldn’t find many races where you could drink spirits during the race, there are some races where you can enjoy a good spirit after the race such as the Semi-Marathon de l’Armagnac (🇫🇷) and the Marathon du Cognac (🇫🇷), and there’ll be good food too.

I’m sure I missed plenty of running events involving drinking and if you know of any, please add it it the comments!

Updates

London 10,000

Here’s the beauty of the Metric System: 10K is also 10,000 metres. Although usually a 10,000m race refers to a track event and a 10K race refers to road running, so the organisers of the London 10,000 screwed up a little bit here. Anyway, once again it was Lanky Pole who recommended that I sign up for this race and I wasn’t hard to convince: this race passes through central London and features the city’s most iconic landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, etc…

Lanky Pole told me to be there early and I met him at Embankment station where he was already with a bunch of friends from the Serpentine Running Club. He’s trying to convince me to join and I resist, but I may give in eventually. All of these guys run really well and really fast, almost all of them had targets way under 40 minutes (34 minutes for one of them!) and I humbly wanted to renew my current PB of 42:39 and was secretly hoping for a time sub-42. To be honest, I wasn’t really optimistic because I had the feeling that my running hadn’t improved in the past couple of months and I had put on a kilo or two during my holiday in France and that doesn’t help running fast.

We walked together to the starting line, had a nice chat (about running of course) and lost each other at the bag drop – as you can imagine, the bag drop for 10,000 runners is an easy place to lose someone. So I went on warming up alone. Same as usual: 10 minutes easy jog, dynamic stretching, some sprinting and other exercises. At the starting line, I saw Lanky Pole again, who was late and was heading towards the front, we high-fived and wished each other good luck. I sucked on an energy gel and the race started.

As usual, I was a bit ambitious and aimed for a pace of 4:10 minutes per km that would give me a final time under 42 minutes and would ensure me a new PB. I knew it wouldn’t be easy because the course wasn’t flat and because I had ran a mile race the day before. The first kilometre was a mess, like all races with a huge number of runners. Some people just don’t belong in the first pen and I was hindered by a few many runners. The organisers should really think of having smaller waves at the start. Anyway, I passed the first kilometre mark after 4 minutes and 20 seconds and I wasn’t really happy with that. I forced myself to repeat a positive mantra in my head (something like “I will win”) to overcome my negativity of the day and when I finally managed to overtake a bunch of slow runners I pushed a little bit and achieved running at my desired pace.

At that point, I was quite happy because I saw the London I know from a totally new perspective. Running in the middle of the street on the Strand or on Holborn near my working place isn’t something I usually get to do! Around Bank, I saw a bunch of guys walking on the race course with a banner saying “10K in 1 day”, they were with a dude walking very slowly behind his wheelchair, probably to raise awareness for his disability. I didn’t have the time to see what kind of disability he had but I felt admiration for him. All this helped my morale going up again and I kept my target pace.

But at the 5K mark, my legs decided to remind me the 1 mile race I ran the day before and told me: “Hey you plonker, if you really think we’re going to carry on like that for another 5 kilometres after the way you treated us yesterday, you can sod off!”. After 4 minutes and 23 seconds of exchanging insults with my legs and my slowest kilometre of the race, I finally won the argument (I’m resourceful when it comes to insults contests) and regained a reasonable pace, although below my target.

An old lady – well, not that old but old enough to be my mother – overtook me and I decided she would be my pacer from now on. And it worked! We ran mostly side by side for the next 4 kilometres then I decided to leave her behind for the finish. I ran the last 1000m in 4:03 minutes and managed a final sprint with my signature finish scream RHAAAAAAAAA! Yes it was at least nine A’s and it gave me a new Personal Best of 42 minutes and 22 seconds. At first I was a bit disappointed because of all the negativity I had that day but after a while I realised it’s a PB anyway and that’s pretty awesome!

Lanky Pole & French Bloke at the London 10,000

Lanky Pole & French Bloke at the London 10,000

After a long queue to get my backpack back (that’s a mouthful!) I found Lanky Pole, we stretched together and we took a victory picture. We found his Serpentine friends and we headed to the pub where we filled our stomachs with good food and good ale while talking about running (surprisingly), and that was one step forward to my joining the club.

Travelling and running

Since I’m away from London this week, I thought it would be a good idea to write about travelling and running. Some people travel specifically to run and visit famous running places – here I’m certainly not referring to Lanky Pole who’s been to Ethiopia, Kenya and the USA just for running, no, no, no, he’s not a mad person and he’s even writing about it. But he’s not the only one: Mad Cook is planning a trip to Lanzarote to run the Ocean Lava triathlon with her company, and I’m pretty sure there are plenty of other people doing it. I might even have done it myself (oops) although running isn’t generally the purpose of my travels, but I now try to run wherever I go.

Lyon, France

This is the obvious running destination for me, even though I’m not sure it counts as travelling because it’s my hometown. I’m currently there and it always brings back old memories, this week I’ve been running with Lanky Frog and with my sister and it made me happy to realise that for the first time in my life, I’m at least as fit as they are. I also came here for my first 10K race last September (note to myself: I have to write about that one) and I set my first PB ever. I love running in this city because the river banks are really adapted for running, they are car-free, plenty of trees and go from one park to another.

French Bloke at Run In Lyon 2015

French Bloke at Run In Lyon 2015

Auckland, New Zealand

Yes, I know I’m bragging, but this post is all about bragging isn’t it? This one was back when I still hated running, but at least I had my sister (who was living there at the time) to keep me company. It was a tough run: I had old shoes, weighted 15 kilos more than today and hadn’t ran for a long time. I couldn’t even push myself to finish the run because the end was up a steep hill. Now I would love to do it again (more because I’d love to go back to New Zealand than because I’d like to compare my new running self to my old fat self). Anyhow, this was a sporty holiday with lots of hiking, rafting and swimming.

At the top of the Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom)

At the top of the Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom)

A Guarda, Spain

Whilst visiting Wonder Woman and Superman in their home town, I had an impromptu barefoot run which became a defining one. I want to write a specific post about it so I won’t spoil it here.

Bucharest, Romania

I actually ran in several places in Romania, during a tour of Draculito‘s native Transylvania and although it was unplanned, I even raced there! Running in the cool forests near Bran Castle or in the picturesque Sighisoara was definitely nicer than running in the steaming hot streets of Bucharest – although it was a great way to discover the city.

Race in Cluj-Napoca

“Crosul Companiilor” race in Cluj-Napoca

Llan-Maes, Wales

This run in the quiet Welsh countryside was definitely the highlight of the week-end I spent near Cardiff and saw France being beaten hard by Ireland during the Rugby World Cup.

Annecy, France

While visiting Wonder Woman and Superman in Chamonix, Brainy Owl and I stayed for a while in this lovely alpine town, did some hiking but I didn’t forget to stick to my holy training plan and we did an lovely easy run together, in the freezing mountain cold.

Rome, Italy

OK, I’m mad too, I have to admit that sometimes I travel just to run. But I have a good excuse: I was also visiting the Quiet Roman to whom I had promised to run the Roma-Ostia half-marathon if he came to Lyon for our first 10K, which he did. And I wrote a report about it.

French Bloke and Quiet Roman

French Bloke and Quiet Roman in Rome

Cologne, Germany

This one was a bit unexpected. I was lucky enough to travel to Germany for work and I decided to stay in Cologne for the weekend. I ran a cool 23 km, just for fun and to visit the city’s amazing green belt, the Rhine’s banks, as well as the major sights – including the famous Kölner Dom.

Bordeaux, France

Not only Bordeaux has some of the best wines in the world, it’s also where Jack of all trades lives. These are 2 great reasons to travel there, but these are not reasons to stop following the holy training plan. So we had a beautiful run along the Gironde together and a good stretching session afterwards.

Missed opportunities

I also went to Poland for new year’s eve with Lanky Pole, but with a chilly -18°C, guess where the holy training plan could shove its intervals sessions. Even Lanky Pole didn’t run for 4 days (yeah, I know that sounds unbelievable).

And because it was a tough hike, I didn’t run in Morocco where I climbed the Djbel Toubkal, highest peak if the Atlas. But Lanky Pole ran anyway. I already wrote an account of this trip on this blog.

Future opportunities

The Pencil Witch is getting married with Grumpy Grampy, so we’re going to Scotland soon to wed this lovely couple, so that should be an opportunity for running while travelling although I doubt I’ll be in a condition to run the day after the wedding party. Maybe they’ll invite us to a second wedding in Brazil! That would be a great opportunity for new running horizons…

Inspiring runners: Emil Zátopek

Emil Zátopek is certainly the first legendary runner I’ve ever heard of. I remember him being the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question during a family game. My grandfather was surprised I didn’t know the famous ‘Czech Locomotive’ (hey, I was just a kid and he was a runner from the fifties!) and went on about how he had won everything in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. I recently checked these facts and even though he didn’t win any medal in hammer throwing, diving or gymnastics, he is still the only athlete to have won gold on the 5,000 metres, the 10,000 metres, and the Marathon in the same Olympics.

Schade Mimoun Zatopek 1952

Herbert Schade, Alain Mimoun and Emil Zátopek racing the 5,000m at the 1952 Olympics
(and Christopher Chataway, the poor sod who’ll be remembered in history for his faceplant)

I love the story of how he won the marathon in Helsinki. He had originally only enrolled for the 5,000m and the 10,000m and had won both of them (in both races, fellow Frenchman Alain Mimoun finished second because of this damn Czech). After that, he had nothing to do for the rest of the Olympics and had never raced a marathon, so he said “What the heck, I’ll just enrol for the marathon then”. He had nothing to lose, and lose he didn’t! He decided to use Jim Peters as his pacemaker (at the time, the dude was holding the world record for the distance). Zátopek being of a chatty nature, after 15k, he asked Peters what he thought of the race. Peters took this opportunity to try and nip the competition in the bud and replied “too slow”, when he was actually going too fast to try and exhaust the inexperienced Czech. Zátopek was a trusting character so he followed Peters’ advice and went faster. Eventually, Peters was caught out at his own game and didn’t even finish the race. Zátopek went on winning the race only 2 minutes slower than Peters’ record at the time. Not too bad for a first Marathon.

There’s another bunch of anecdotes about the Czech legend in Born to run, once again I strongly recommend you buy this book and you’ll read even crazier things about Zátopek. Like how gruelling was his self-inflicted training, how friendly and wholehearted he was (he gave one of his medals to an unlucky Australian runner he’d just made friends with). It’s no surprise he was selected as the Greatest Runner of All Time by Runner’s World Magazine.

Inspiring runners: Paula Radcliffe

The way I see it, Paula Radcliffe is to British running what Jeannie Longo is to French cycling (the Brits will see it the other way around): a living legend who’s been there forever, who’s won everything and who won’t age, to the greatest despair of the younger generation of athletes who could not hold the candle to her. She’s not just part of the landscape, she is the landscape for long distance runners.

Just imagine. Her 2003 marathon World Record in London is north of 3 minutes better than the second best time for a women’s marathon, and it has been holding since then! As a comparison, the ten best times for men’s marathons all fit within a 90 seconds range. Oh, and just for fun, the same year she set this historic record, she also set the World Record for women’s 10K on road in Puerto Rico, this record still holds 13 years later. Yep, that one too. Cherry on the cake, in 2003 (same year again!) in Newcastle, she also set the World Record for a Half Marathon. It hasn’t been ratified by the IAAF (the world’s athletics ruling body) because the Great North Run goes slightly downhill. The record held for 11 years anyway.

Paula Radcliffe, Berlin 2011 - Photo by Ramon Smits

Paula Radcliffe, Berlin 2011 – Photo by Ramon Smits

But it didn’t start that well for her. When she took up running at 7, she was anaemic and asthmatic (and she still is because asthma doesn’t just go away). Way to go! It didn’t prevent her to join the elite before her twenties despite multiple asthma crises and other injuries, running distances between 1500m and half marathon. She then went on winning so many medals nationally and internationally that I gave up on counting them in the Wikipedia article. But it wasn’t enough so she decided to give a go to marathon running in 2002. On her first competition on that distance, she immediately set a record for a women’s only race. Later the same year, Paula set a new World Record for the distance. Easy Peasy. And of course, there’s 2003, the year she set her 3 World Records, 2 of which still hold. Alongside all that, she also went 4 times to the Olympic Games (1994 to 2008) and when she ended her career in 2015, her times were still good enough to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio!

What did you expect? Of course she became a legend! So much that when she runs, her bib doesn’t have a number printed on it but her first name. When she ran her last marathon in London last year, the crowd chanted “Paula! Paula!” for 42.195 km. And because I’m a dick, I’ll end with my favourite moment of her career, when Denise Lewis tried to interview her on the same day, but Paula’s marathon pace was faster than the journalist’s sprint pace (despite her being an elite heptathlete in the past), which left the journalist breathless after the shortest interview of her life. A moment to watch and watch again on the BBC.

The tale of my Olympic Park 10k

Once upon a time, in a far far away land at the fabled end of the Jubilee Line, in a remote place called Stratford, there was a strange tower called the Orbit. At this tower, there was a race. Not just any race Dorothy! A race between legendary creatures, a race where I met Pinocchia, Bluebeard, as well as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. I’m pretty sure Goldilocks and Shrek were here too, but I couldn’t see them in the crowd. This race was the Olympic Park 10k, organised by the RunThrough fairy.

The Orbit and the Olympic Stadium - Photo by Martin Pettitt

The Orbit and the Olympic Stadium – Photo by Martin Pettitt

This Sunday was supposed to be a great reunion with all my running friends at the Olympic Park, but they deserted me one by one. Brainy Owl had had a bike accident (it turns out that car bumpers are tougher than human knees), Lanky Pole wanted to come but his coach had decided that a 10k race wasn’t in his training plan that week, Grumpy Grampy had bought his bib but “forgot” to train before the race so he had to throw in the towel, even Mad Cook who had made the trip all the way from France couldn’t race because of a nasty health issue, to her greatest despair.

So get your hankies ready. On this cold and windy day, I had to go alone: I took the tube alone, I arrived at the race alone, I collected my bib alone, I drank a coffee alone, I warmed up alone (remembering Lanky Pole’s advice and slowly building my warm-up routine) and I went to the starting line alone. Emotional.

A few minutes before the start, I took an energy gel, not because I needed it, but to test them and see the effects it would have on my race. The ultimate goal being to take some during my first half-marathon in 3 weeks time. In all honesty, I didn’t feel the kick I was expecting. I didn’t feel anything at all really, but it may have had an effect on my race, as you’ll see.

Countdown to 0, I start running. Too fast but I don’t care, my strategy for this race is to ‘under-perform’ for the first lap, but at the pace of my previous PB, and then to ‘over-perform’ even faster for the second lap. It didn’t work as I expected: I ran really fast for the first lap, but I couldn’t run faster for the second lap, so I kept the same pace.

My first pacemaker was Pinocchia, a lady running like she had wooden limbs. I thought to myself: ‘with such a stiff running style, she can’t possibly go fast, I’ll overtake her quickly’. WRONG! She was doing much better than me and my self-righteous poorly executed mid-foot strike: she was already far ahead of me after the first kilometre. I soon found another pacemaker, a bearded dude in a blue shirt. Bluebeard is a heel-striker, I can hear his slow and heavy pounding from a distance, but his pace is incredibly close to mine. When the course goes downhill he’s a tad faster than me, but every time it goes uphill again I overtake him. For the next nine kilometres, it’s a real race between the two of us. Does Bluebeard pace me, or do I pace him? I don’t know, but the competition really pushed me.

Just a kilometre before the end, we overtake Tweedledum and Tweedledee (two funny ladies with orange wigs) who struggle to finish their 5k. I wish I could give them some sort of encouragement but I have my own battle to fight, so I’m sparing my breath to overtake Bluebeard. Eventually, I managed to sprint and overtake him just before the finish line! I let out a manly scream of relief, making the audience laugh in the process, and I crossed the line after 42 minutes and 39 seconds! OK, that was actually 3 seconds slower than Bluebeard’s chip time, but I beat my previous PB by more than 2 whole minutes! I think that deserved a manly scream followed by a manly hug to the guy.

In the end, between my energy gel and Bluebeard, I don’t know who I should thank more for this performance. But I’ll bet that the competition was the greatest motivator. So thank you Bluebeard for making me less lonely, and thank you for helping me set a new PB!

Bushy Park 10K

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.

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