Sunday, 4 November 2012

The 5K Challenge

I'm not really a morning person. I joke that I'm not worth knowing until after my second cup of coffee and sadly for the people that have to live with me, there is a lot of truth in that. This Saturday though, I was up bright and early without even one cup of coffee, dressed in my running gear and ready and waiting for my daughter (and running partner) to call round so we could take part in the first 5K Challenge of our Running Club.

The idea of the challenge was to give ourselves a realistic idea of our time for running 5K under race conditions - a baseline upon which future improvement could be measured.

Since starting the beginners programme with the club, my aim has always been to complete the 5K course in 30 minutes. I was still hopeful that this might be possible despite the fact that I was getting over a cold and had missed my mid week training. I held onto my dream but had a gut feeling that my time would actually be a tantalisingly close 33 minutes.

Why 33 minutes? It's odd but whenever I wake up in the night and look over at the glowing green digital numbers on my clock, more often than not, they will display something:33. This is not because my clock is broken! Thirty three seems to be one of those numbers that  crops up in my life with more than random regularity. I have tried to cash in on my mystical number when choosing lottery combinations but without success, not even to the tune of a tenner.

It was a cold and drizzly 9am start to the 5K Challenge but there was a level of excitement amongst the expectant participants and I admit to being a little thrilled by the "Caution Runners" signs in use. It all felt very much more formal than our usual Monday and Wednesday evening jogs. The route was down a lovely country lane, pretty muddy in places, and involved running out to a cattle grid that was the turnaround point and running back.

I set off at a reasonable pace but almost immediately lost my daughter as the runners separated out. I hoped she would catch up with me so we could share the experience but the only times I saw her were once when I passed her on the return half of the route and to cheer her over the finish line a couple of minutes after I completed the course.

It took me about half a mile to warm up properly and find my stride, by which time it had stopped raining. I was struggling with my breathing a little and was grateful for the tissues I had stuffed in my jacket pocket before I left home.

Reaching the cattle grid was a good moment. Halfway. All I had to do was keep going.

Keeping going would have been easier if I hadn't started to feel decidedly light headed and a little bit like I might be sick. I was determined not to stop but I did slow my pace down to barely above a walk just to try and regain my composure. This was not a good moment for me to spot my husband who had cycled out to offer support and take a few photographs.

I want my husband to be proud of me. I want my husband to see me as graceful gazelle striding effortlessly towards the finish. Instead, there I was struggling with every fibre of my being to keep putting one foot in front of the other without keeling over. He smiled, he shouted encouragement and took a bad photo!

I knew that my husband would stay where he was until our daughter had passed so he could offer her the same encouragement as he had me. I found myself picking up my pace a fraction to put some distance between myself and him and the embarrassment I had felt at being so rubbish. The longer I went on feeling faint and nauseous without actually fainting or being sick, the easier it was to ignore it. I didn't have a lot left to give but I was definitely starting to give it again.

A short while later I saw my husband speed by on his bike to wait for us crossing the finish. I allowed myself the luxury to consider how much I wished I had a bike at that precise moment then pushed on, every step a step closer to the end.

I started to look forward to the finish - husband waiting to congratulate me and take me in his arms. I was fairly sure that my 30 minute goal had already ticked away but I did my very best to open up and give it one last push as the end came into sight. I was putting in a lot of effort for what felt like very little actual improvement in speed but I did my best to go for it. Runners who had already finished were there cheering, along with my husband and other supporters. Rather than being spurred on by this, I started to feel somewhat self conscious. My final exertion (and no time to make use of my tissue collection) left me with a snotty nose and I was sure I must be glowing beetroot. I would rather have sneaked in quietly and unobserved!

As my time was called out I was not at all surprised to hear my familiar number: 33 minutes 26 seconds.

I felt a mixture of euphoria for having made it all the way without stopping and extreme wobbliness. I remedied the wobbliness by sitting on the ground  (remedied the snotty nose with a good blow!) and then simply basked in the euphoria.   I was fully recovered in time to cheer my daughter on as she made an impressive final push to the finish.

It is quite hard to explain exactly how I feel about the whole experience. There were times when I was running that all I wanted to do was stop and never run again. There were times when I wondered why on earth I had ever started. But the euphoria upon completing the challenge cancelled any doubts.

I cannot wait to run again.

1 comment:

  1. I'm proud of you, even if you aren't a graceful gazelle :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...