On Sunday, I completed my first official run since the NYC Marathon in 2008. It was an awkward race, 16 miles consisting of two 8 mile laps around Kingston and Hampton Court Palace, but I completed it and managed to exceed my expectations.
The morning of the 11th was quite cold, the sun was not out and the winds were high. I find racing a logistical nightmare, especially in the UK where the weather can be so unpredictable: do I take a jacket? Where do I leave my bag? Will I need gloves? Suffice to say, it always works out in the end.
Close to the start line, my Garmin gave in, I was under strict instruction to run at a 7.5 mile/min pace as I had a tendency to push myself too hard. What to do? Well, the distances are clearly marked along the way so all I need to look out for is a clock of some sort. We set off at 8:25am. It was a great feeling, a little cold but the crowds were out and I had my gloves to warm my fingers up.
Halfway through the race and no clocks in sight. How fast was I going? And then I remembered Coach Fi’s advice: "halfway through the race, take an energy gel and some water". I reached into my back pocket and took out a pack, vanilla, not coffee, yummy. In it went and a few meters later, out it came. I could not stomach it. I tried to take in some water and energy drink, but my body rejected everything.
At mile 12, the sun came out. I was nervous and overheated; with my full-length black lycra pants and long-sleeved black lycra top. I took off my gloves and, having nowhere to put them, rolled them into a ball and tucked them into my pants. I picked up my pace; “go for it”, I told myself, “you only have 4 miles left”. And I ran, at my most comfortable pace.
I crossed the finish line 1 hour and 48 minutes into the race, beating my 2 hour run estimate and, despite the setbacks, obliterating any doubts I had in my running abilities. I came 10th in my age group.
Queueing to collect my bag, I had a smug look on my face, and people noticed. Stares came from all directions; first there was eye contact then, wait a minute, they were staring at my crotch… my gloves! I quickly yanked them out of my shorts and ducked for the closest shelter. “Is that how you fetch your prey?” remarked a runner next to me.
Well, we can all dream of having successful and multi-faceted careers like Mae West, but until then, the hope that I am that one step closer to being an Ironman should suffice.