Running a 10km road race approximately 6 weeks after vowing never to run again. 10km – that’s ok, yes? You would think so.
The thing I love about these events are the different types of people who take part. There are some amazing people, I like to call them the gems, who chat to you as though they’ve known you all their life. They’re warm, encouraging and totally heartfelt in their love of these events and support of so many charities. They don’t make you feel inept if you’ve never done anything like this before, they applaud you. And tell you that no matter what you say at the finish line – you’ll be back.
Then there’s the other lot – don’t get me wrong – I love them too. But they’re nothing like the gorgeous lovely people I’ve just mentioned. Not at all.
I don’t think these people genuinely are pros I just think they like to think they are. They size you up from the moment they see you, they are dressed head to toe in branded gear – literally. Sweat bands, water bottle belt complete with 4 bottles (it’s a 10k, really? 4?) running socks, running watch, they can be found loudly regailing strangers with tales of their previous success at these events. I try to look as unprepared and incompetent around these people, it tends to wind them up.
You can’t usually speak to these people, their responses are often hard to detect through their mask/helmet/face armour. I have a lot of respect for these lunatics.
Occasionally these guys trick you by dressing like a pro and shooting you a snooty look at the start line because you’re wearing an unbranded top and you’re discreetly scratching off dried baby snot from your sleeve… But 2 miles in, they are usually weeping at one side of the route with a kindly gem, giving up their dream time to encourage their friend.
On this day I wasn’t unprepared (thankfully), I was looking to do about an hour, conditions were good and the family were standing by to cheer me on. What could go wrong? Well…
All was well for the first few kilometres. My husband almost missed me as I *zoomed past them all, waving flags from the local radio station and my oldest daughter couldn’t resist a ‘hurry up’, thanks, love. I was keeping up with the pack, got past my first few unprepareds and even manoeuvred a speed bump without falling in my face.
Around 4 kilometres I did the usual routine, making bargains with myself:
If you do this I will not put you through this again.
If you get past that man in a duck suit you can have a double chocolate muffin.
If you match the pace of the last kilometre you can have a nap when you get home (well, I can dream!)
5 kilometres and the water station was within sight.
For some reason, at that moment, I had a very clear memory of the water station in Bristol when I ran the half marathon in September. I flawlessly manoeuvred myself to the correct side that they were distributing water (a first) without injuring anyone, I grabbed a bottle without a lid, remembered to thank the young cadet handing them out, spent the next 10 metres taking slow, long sips and remembering to breathe in between, then glancing for potential bystanders, expertly threw the bottle to open skip, it ‘dinged’ on the far side and landed in. My god, I was just like a pro. I almost winked at myself.
Not today folks.
Squinting at the approaching station I had a ridiculous thought, there’s no bottles, I can’t see the bottles of water. All I could see we’re the volunteers giving out some weird water pouches. Everyone grabbed them and continued holding the pouch to their mouths and firing the water at high speed. I can do this? Clearly, I can’t. Why would I write about successfully drinking at 2 different water stations at 2 different running events?
GI Joe approached me from the left hand side and got his pouch before me. He’d been close for the last kilometre. GI Joe was an army man, in full uniform, looked super fit, breathing like a pro, carrying his rucksack (the size of my oldest child I might add) which was clearly as heavy from the way he was sweating. I was obviously his pace maker. He was aiming to beat what was a leg breaking, heart attack inducing time for me, nonchalant and calm – easy for him. He looked at me, unbranded, by now sweating profusely, unable to fathom how to open my water pouch… And gave me a look that said it’s on, unprepared.
I tried to look like I was hanging on to my water pouch for a while intentionally. I kept nodding at people a – don’t worry, saving it! All part of the plan kind of nod.
How do I open it, how DO I open it?! I tried ripping the top off, tried using the pointed end like a straw… Nothing.
As GI Joe moved to overtake me again I squeezed the pouch really hard in frustration.
Straight in my eye. I’m sure he sniggered.
Wiping water away, pretending it was intentional. Here comes the – Gosh I feel so mightily refreshed with all this water in my face. That eye was SO dehydrated – sweep of the face.
At least now I knew how to work it: cue one kilometre of violently squeezing the pouch into my mouth to repeat this action and not a drop. I overtook GI Joe again, shooting him a – dehydrated, but still faster than you – look, by now I’d forgotten that a) the man was carrying the weight of my young family on his back and b) he was clearly doing something amazing for charity.
At the brink of a hill I thought now’s the time… forced the stupid water thing through my teeth, bit, squeezed in equal measure finally, the water flew out. Unfortunately it fired out so violently in the back of my throat (you know the huge fire hoses, with enormous pressure? Used for massive mill fires on the news? Yeah that.) With such violent force, the water had to go somewhere, unfortunately for me, it was down my nose in the least gracious manner you can imagine.
‘Oh, I hate those stupid things, they’re rubbish! Are you ok?’ a lovely kind voice appeared from a passing gem, appearing out of nowhere
‘Meuuurgh, ffffsh, hmmmmmm – ck ck ck!’ they kindly nodded as though that meant total sense, before I waved them on. In my peripheral vision I saw GI Joe fly past, giving himself a timely ‘come on!’
This was clearly a – Now come on, this woman has been winding you up for the last 15 minutes. She looks like an unprepared, but she’s clearly more rehearsed than them, she seems like she might die any minute, and more importantly SHE CAN’T EVEN DRINK A WATER POUCH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!
And off he went.
The next few kilometres were spent coughing and heaving, the end was now in sight. I had the finishing line in my mind’s eye, the obligatory – I’ve been running this fast all the way round, I just stopped to help an injured unprepared – sprint (clearly a lie for me) for the last 50 metres.
The family were there, the children cheering (‘You were a VERY long time mummy’) the moment I crossed the line – I was ecstatic. I’d done it, aimed for an hour, achieved 59 minutes 38 seconds, phew. I couldn’t help it, before I knew it, a swear word escaped my lips just in time to see a woman and her children looking at me in horror and disgust. I mouthed – sorry! Her narrowed-eye look returned – You will be, you harpy mother of none. One day, woman, you will have your own children and realise the damage you have inflicted on mine…
‘MUMMY!’ Of course they would appear right at this moment. I threw back a sheepish look of apology and tried to remove my three children from the goody bag they were tearing apart in disgust (‘There is nothing but raisins and funny stuff that looks like muesli in here Mummy. This is rubbish!’)
I saw GI Joe after the race, there was mutual respect there: from me, because he was doing something I could never achieve, running with full kit and a pack full of weights, faster than a northern bird who can’t run and has to train her socks off to achieve an ok time. From him, because, surrounded by 3 grumpy squawking children and a husband still on his iPhone, he now understood why I bothered!
It won’t be the last time, I probably will be back, but at least next time I’ll know why that pro had her stupid water bottle belt on.
*ran at a mediocre speed and shouted my son’s name very loudly, both visibly scaring and embarrassing him. Bonus.