Last night I made my middle distance debut over the rarely run distance of 1200 metres.
In the past I’ve only ever raced over 3k and above, but I thought I’d try something new. I turned up and was told that there would be two pace makers, one doing 63 and one doing 68. I didn’t really know what kind of pace I would run, but guessed that it would be somewhere in between. Not wanting to make my first experience a painful one, I opted to follow the second group. In fact, everyone went off so fast that I had to work pretty hard not to get detached from the back of this group. Half a lap in and I was in last position, and stayed there until we had got round the whole of the first lap. I glanced at the clock and it was showing roughly 68 seconds. A bit slow, I thought.
I started to pick people off down the back straight between 500 and 600 and as I pulled out into lane 2 to do so, was exposed to a very strong wind, so strong that I had to start working much harder just to maintain my cadence. It felt strange to be half way through the race already, having only run 600 metres. The next person ahead of me was the 68 pacemaker who I overtook just before the bell, passed in around 2:15. Another athlete was falling off the back of the first group so I made him my new target, a welcome distraction from the pain now engulfing my calves. I passed him with 300 to go and kicked as hard as I could. The home straight seemed longer than it ever has done before, but wasn’t quite long enough for me to catch the next athlete ahead. If I was in pain, the runners I passed on the last lap must have been in even more pain. I adopted the standard post-track-race pose of hands on knees and head bowed; most of my competitors were doing the same.
My finishing time was 3:22.33, a new PB to add to my collection. This was about what I expected, but I also left knowing I could have gone out a bit harder and still been able to kick on the last lap. I could have taken a few more seconds off, for sure. But that’s part of the learning curve, and learning to push myself to the limit over a short distance was the exact purpose of last night’s race, as I prepare to try and take down my 3k and 5k times this summer.
As well as these being the windiest conditions I’ve ever raced in, it was also the most fun I’ve had in a race for a long time. It was completely novel and different, it was fast, and it was also humbling to be taught a lesson in middle distance running by a load of 17 year olds.
I want to do another one.