Despite the popular belief that I’m fit, I’m not. Or at least not as fit as I’d like. It’s amazing what posting a few pictures of yourself, lycra-clad and looking sweaty, can do for a reputation. It helps that no-one seems to believe that it is possible to complete events such as Tough Mudder, Total Warrior and even Tough Guy with minimal training. Obviously it makes a tad harder, which one could argue is part of the point of taking part in such sufferfests. It’s not really the world’s toughest event if you can breeze through it with nary a bead of sweat in sight. The not-training approach (patent pending) has the advantage of making events take longer, increasing the misery of participation, which means you’re getting more value for money.
Yet, after putting in a not bad effort for the Men’s Health Super Survival of the Fittest in Nottingham, thanks to a month of regular beastings at Barry’s Boot camp. Followed by a dismal performance at the 10k London event thanks to doing bugger all between the two events. I decided that 2016 was the year to not only get fit but try and stay fit. I also decided it was the year that I managed to run a sub-hour 10k. Ideally with ease and more than once.
I am aware that this is not a lofty ambition. I am also aware that I’m not a natural runner and of the importance of setting achievable goals. Part of my cunning plan for attaining this glory to take part in at least one official 10k event a month.*
Today was my third race in 2016. The first was early Jan. A miserable set of loops around Regent’s Park. The event itself was great, well organised, well marshalled and cheap to enter. It was only miserable as it hit home how far I’d let my fitness slide. The second was the much bigger Winter Run for Cancer Research. Again, well-organised, well-marshalled, good event. Extra points must are given for the on course penguins and polar bears giving out high-fives and hugs. Great medal and a better race for me. This is despite it being a far more congested field, around 15,000 runners compared to 300. It hurt less, I stopped less and I knocked four minutes off my previous time.
Today’s aim was to not stop at all and to shave a couple more minutes off. To my utter surprise I did better than that. Or did I? First a quick race report.
The race was the British Heart Foundation Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K. There were a couple of snags before the race started. I have never seen a longer queue for a bag drop in my life. Reminiscent of Russia at the height of a bread shortage; Britain during rationing, or the posh butchers in Chiswick on Christmas Eve. A 15 minute delay to the start was announced, which frankly seemed ambitious. Fortunately someone must have been stuck with inspiration, the process was tweaked and the queue cleared. This then meant most of the runners hanging around in the cold for 15 minutes while we waited for the new start time. Thankfully I’m disorganised and pitched up as late as I thought I could get away with pragmatic. The organised ones who turned up early must have been close to hypothermic.
The other snag was the sound system. These are rarely great but it takes a special genius to position the PA far enough away from the start line that the field could see but not hear the announcer. I watched a well-wrapped up fitness instructor go through the enforced fun style warm-up. This was given a damn good ignoring by 90% of the participants, who all seemed pretty keen to start.
Then we were off. Nice course, it could used as the dictionary definition of “undulating”. I have only two complaints. One, it was pretty congested for the first couple of kilometres as the paths were narrow. It did widen out and the field then strung out but I wasn’t the only runner frustrated by it.
Second, it wasn’t 10k. That has also frustrated a lot of runners.
I know it was for charity. I know it was also a cheap race to enter. I know it shouldn’t really matter. Yet it does. I spoke to a fellow runner at the bag drop. He’s training for the London Marathon and was disappointed that he didn’t get the requisite miles in today. I felt disappointed that I don’t know how I’ve progressed in the past few couple of weeks. There’s a lot of people who think they got a PB, or that they’d smashed it out of the park on their first event. At some point they will realise at some point that they didn’t and memories of the race will become tinged with disappointment.
The reason it should matter to BHF is that there is a lot of choice when it comes to running events. There’s been at least one race event in London every weekend so far this yea. Not everyone picks an event based on the charity. A lot, like me, pick events based on date, location, cost and reputation. Unfortunately, in future I will think twice about a BHF event if there was another option available.
In case you’re interest, the collective wisdom seems to be that the course was around 8.5km. So definitely no PB for me this time.
*Ideally one that has a medal. Sean and Fiona outshinied me by some distance in 2015. The fight back has already began.