I honestly believe that "Real Women" come in an infinite variety of guises that may or may not include all or none of the above. However, I am a woman who is proud to drink pints, eats cake and runs a lot.
On Sunday 16th of this month, I ran.
I was one of 3,196 runners that turned up on Brighton seafront at 9.30am to take part in the Brighton Brookes 10K. The weather conditions were perfect - cool, no wind and even the odd golden glow of sunlight breaking through the somewhat ominous black clouds that held onto their watery load until well into the afternoon.
The start of the race was near the pier. Competitors had to run 1.5km out towards the Marina and back with the remaining 7km being out and back in the other direction to finish where you started.
From my position near the rear of the throng, it took 4 minutes to actually cross the starting line which meant that the front runners were on their way back in what felt like no time. It was exciting to see the lead car clearing the way for the elite athletes and the fiercely competitive faces of the contenders for first place. In their wake was the seemingly endless stream of runners, amongst them my husband who shouted his encouragement to me as he passed. I became a part of that stream as I reached the turning point and ran back against the people behind me. It was quite a novelty to see so many people behind me! I am usually plodding along at the back.
I felt really good running. I remember the first 10K I entered and being very nervous about the distance. The psychological boost of having achieved a half marathon is amazing. I know I have 13 miles my legs, so 10K? No problem!
As I passed under the inflatable finish arch and started the second out and back stretch of the course, I could see the Brighton traffic snarled up due to the road closure. There was a little bit of guilt but mostly I felt quite important. This busy road was closed for me (and the 3,195 other runners of course but at that moment I was only thinking of me!)
I took it upon myself to thank the marshals I passed. It helped to punctuate the long stretch of road ahead and it was nice too see their appreciation of the acknowledgment.
When I heard the familiar sound of the lead car, I got myself in a good position to check out the front runners. They were fierce and they were fast and they looked so angry. It was a stark contrast to myself - slow but often unable to contain the grin on my face because I am loving it so much. Their world of running is so completely different to mine.
Hubby was looking good as he passed with a cheery wave for me. It gave me a little boost but it still looked an awfully long way to that second turning point. As is if often the case when I'm running, I start worrying that I'll never make it and then suddenly I'm there. There was a significant psychological advantage to be running back to the finish at last - add to that the slightly downhill nature of the course at this point and I was away!
I was overtaking a few people and running against the flow of people behind me who were now widely spaced out and each fighting their own endurance battles. It felt great.
The pier came in sight. I tried to pick up my pace and maybe managed a fraction of an increase. I had already had a very busy start to the weekend and it was far from over with my father in law waiting for us to visit him and a 5 hour journey still to come. I couldn't find enough energy in my reserves for a fantastic finish and face what we still needed to achieve. I settled for just finishing.
Reunited with my husband, who was not at all put out by my rejection, I watched the remaining runners finish.
In contrast to the half marathon I completed, I did not witness anyone running out of fuel and collapsing. The inflatable finish arch, however, did! It was comical to see the marshals desperately trying to hold the arch up high enough for runners to duck underneath to finish whilst another tried to refill the pump engine with petrol to get it blowing again.
It was a wonderful, well organised, well supported event. The winner finished in an amazing 30 minutes and 41 seconds - about the time it takes me to run half the distance on a good day. I finished with a big smile in position 2,862 with a time of 1hr 06minutes and 30seconds. Not a bad morning's work.