It all felt like a very good idea a few months ago. Now that I’m actually here ten kilometres seems like an insane distance to run, especially given that my training regime has largely consisted of eating cake and drinking Pinot Grigio. I really wish I’d gone for a different outfit – this sleek Lycra’s all very well but it does rather give the impression I know what I’m doing. I should have worn a baggy t-shirt and leg warmers to avoid raising anyone’s expectations.
I reach the front of the line in which several seasoned runners are jogging on the spot, and hand my registration receipt to the elderly Rotarian behind the desk.
“Number One, eh? He chuckles. “Bit of a pro, are you?”
Oh terrific. My keenness to register online following a few too many glasses of wine has meant my application was first to be processed. Now I’m sporting a deeply smug race number. That’ll be ironic as I stumble in last, nursing a strained hamstring and a perforated lung. I want to go home.
Right, a warm up. I need some sort of warm up. I spy some sporty looking individuals over in the far field, and casually jog over to them. Steady pace, steady pace… Gosh, that’s quite hard going – I’d better take a bit of a breather. Don’t want to peak too soon. Some of the men are doing some complicated sprint manoeuvres between trees – I think they might be a bit out of my league – but there’s a guy over there who’s adopting a slightly gentler pace. I’ll do what he’s doing. I lollop along behind him until I realise he’s heading behind the bushes for a pee. He eyes me suspiciously and I hastily drop to the floor for some stretches. Bugger, I don’t think he was fooled.
Actually, I could do with the loo myself. I’m not going behind a bush though – it took me twenty minutes to get these trousers on in the first place, I daren’t try it in public. There are some Portaloos back near the registration tent so I head back across the field. That’s enough of a warm-up anyway, in fact I could do with a lie down if I’m honest. I check my watch as the queue for the loo inches forward – come on, girls, get a move on! Finally there’s a free cubicle and I wiggle out of my Lycra. Typical – I don’t need a wee after all. Must just be nerves. I nearly fall off the loo as a loud klaxon sounds and a megaphoned announcement tells us to get in position for the start of the race. Oh shit. I throw caution to the winds and leg it from the loo to the starting line still pulling up my pants.
Bloody hell, I’m knackered. I must have run at least a mile already and we haven’t even started yet. Gosh, everyone around me looks a bit serious. They’ve all got running vests on with different club names, and they’re synchronising watches. We’re being held in a sort of ribboned pen with a board at the front. I strain to make out the small writing – estimated time, 30 to 40 minutes… Oops, I think I may be in the wrong bit. I shimmy through the group and duck underneath the tape to make my way to the rear, where I take my place among the three-legged runners and the inflatable bananas. This is probably more my scene.
Oh shit, we’re off! Okay, let’s stay calm, just keep the rhythm… How do I know what rhythm to keep? Everyone’s running differently. I start trying to run in time with my music, but my iPod shuffles from Kylie to Eminem and I’m thrown off beat. We had some friends over for dinner last night who gave me some advice about my running style. They’re both frighteningly fit and the type to do a couple of triathlons before breakfast, so I’m slightly in awe of them. Apparently my strides are too long and I should be trying to shorten them. I mean, obviously this is completely wrong, but I was too polite to say anything. I’m looking to cover as much ground as possible, therefore surely my graceful, gazelle-like canter is the best way to achieve that? I looked it up in my running book and they must have it wrong too.
Blimey, this is hard. I think I must have hit The Wall. I’ve read about it in interviews with marathon runners – I just have to keep going and suddenly I’ll get this huge adrenalin rush. Any minute now… Oh my God, my lungs are bleeding. I wonder if anyone has actually ever died doing this race? I am overtaken by an inflatable banana. Ah, now he’s taking very short strides. Maybe there’s something in that after all. Mind you, it’s difficult to do anything else in a banana suit… We must be half-way by now. I check my GPS – two kilometres? TWO? It must be broken – we’ve done at least seven.
And then it happens – I find my rhythm. I run and I run, and the kilometres pass, and suddenly I’m actually doing it. I pass the inflatable banana with a cheery wave. I realise it’s just like anything else in life – problems at work, struggles with the kids… you just have to keep going. Because if you keep going, eventually you find your rhythm.
I hear my children cheering my name as I approach the finish line and I am bursting as much with happiness as with shortness of breath.
My husband, proud beyond measure of everything I achieve and even of some of the things I don’t.
My children, in awe of everything I do, even if my trainers don’t have flashing lights in the sole.
My family, there at the finish for me, whatever the journey has been.