Doing It The Hard Way

Sunday 3rd March 2013

I get mad at shit when it doesn’t go my way
but I’m finally learning
you can’t always do things the easy way

Apologies, I Have None – 60 Miles

This morning I ran the half marathon in the town where my parents live, and I did it in the most painful way possible: going out hard and hanging on.

Looking round at the start I saw the athlete who came second to me last year. Three hundred and sixty four days previously we had a really good battle in terrible conditions and this year it looked like we were going to be duelling again. This was confirmed when 200 metres into the race, the two of us were side by side with a lead on the rest of the field. We looked at each other and laughed. For some inexplicable reason I decided that I didn’t want to wait until late on to make my move like I did last year, so I just hammered it from the gun. We went through 1 mile in 5 flat, too quick for athletes who haven’t even broken 70 minutes before, but I decided to try and break him early on. I kept pushing and a few minutes later I had a gap. This mile was slightly uphill and I went through 2 miles in 10:15. This is going to come back to bite me later on, I thought.

The gap remained as I dragged myself up the first hill of the race (it’s a very hilly course) and by 4 miles I was already starting to feel the burn in my calves. I didn’t look back at all. I didn’t want to show any sign that I was struggling. Several spectators by the road side commented on how big my lead was but naturally I didn’t believe them. Why would I? They were lying. I hadn’t seen the other runner when I looked back at the last corner, but that’s because of the trees and the crowds, surely. I convinced myself that he was right behind me.

Around 5 miles I caught the distinctive scent of iron. Maybe I was supporting myself against a rusty railing when I did my pre-race stretches, I thought to myself. Then, after wiping my nose with my hand I realised I had a pretty nasty nose bleed and my hands resembled those of a knife murderer. Fortunately red doesn’t show up too well on a black vest. It didn’t hurt though, unlike my calves and quads which were now being forced to move quickly downhill. I went through 6 miles in just over 32 minutes. Don’t look back.

The next big hill was approaching now. I suppose in reality I was approaching it, but it all depends on your frame of reference doesn’t it? In any case, I certainly felt like I was the passenger now, not controlling the pace at all but hoping no one would catch me. I pushed myself up it, trying to summon some strength by imagining I was connected to the lead car by a tow-rope. It didn’t work.

The next few miles were a drag and I just wanted to get the thing over and done with by now. I passed ten miles in just over 55 minutes. I was just taking the odd glance at the car’s clock and wasn’t too bothered about the time, but some quick calculations told me I was slowing down. With the finish not far off I allowed myself a look over my shoulder and silenced the irrational part of my brain which was telling me I was being closely pursued. I was going to win, and after a long downhill stretch to the finish, did just that.

In the changing rooms afterwards, another runner told me that he had decided not to go with our stupid early pace; he also told me he came second and that the athlete I was with at the start had dropped out about 3 miles into the race. He must’ve been hurting too. Why did I do this to myself? I didn’t need to run that hard early on. All I did was turn a race I normally enjoy into an 11 mile suffer-fest. The course has lots of hills in it and is the kind of course that isn’t much fun to run on if you’re hurting. I could have run a much more even pace and still won, and probably in a quicker time than I ended up running.

Next time I’m doing it the easy way.

PS. My mum ran the 5 mile fun run in 50 minutes. Heroic.

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