No sooner had I hauled myself to my feet than I was back on the track again. Unable to stand up, I lay on the warm tartan once more and took in a welcome lungful of sweet oxygen. The second attempt was more successful. Assisted by one of my competitors, I got to my feet for just long enough to stagger off the floodlit track and to a nearby railing. Mark had crossed the line by this point and patted me on the back, congratulating me on a hard-earned win. These moments are always best shared with friends.
Three minutes earlier I could smell blood. Increasing the pace every lap, I had picked my way through the field from 12th after one lap to second after ten. The leader was in sight and with a kilometer to go I realised I had a strong chance of catching him too. I was already on the limit though. Dan had just called my 4k split and it was faster than I had ever reached that point in a race before. A personal best was in the bag; now I wanted to win the race. With 800 to go I was within striking distance, by 600 I was on his shoulder. I went straight past and made one last push for the finish. In the last three weeks I had led at the bell on two separate occasions but been beaten. I was determined not to let it happen again.
Richard and some of the others from the club were at the finish line, roaring me on as the bell sounded. The announcer was now saying my name, not someone else’s. It was a big boost.
My winning time was 15:09, an 8 second improvement on my PB. This is the biggest chunk I have taken off my 5k time for a while and it now puts sub-15 within my reach. I need Tuesday’s conditions as well as the nerve to commit to the pace from the gun rather than giving away seconds in the first few laps. I’m delighted with my improvement; it is hugely satisfying on the rare occasion when everything clicks.
How great it would be if the next post here contained the number 14.