Alternative title – How not to prepare for a race.
There is a bit of a backstory to this one.
In October 2006, a couple of mates asked me to join a startup business with them. With it being the run up to Christmas and more importantly the start of a global economic downturn seemed like a perfect time to leave a secure well paid job so that’s exactly what I did.
By the end of January with no customers and not one penny of profit, my colleague Alex and I had very little to do so one day as he came back in the office (one room in a soon to be condemned building right next to the exceptionally smelly Gents toilet) from the pub, he suggested that we enter the Great Manchester Run.
In a fit of enthusiasm and overconfidence we both filled in the application. Having never run for several years and then only within a 10 metre radius on a football pitch, we had no idea what time to put in as a predicted finish time but we didn’t want to be behind any hippos or similar so we both went for 40 minutes. You have to provide proof of a time on the website if you haven’t done the race before and so the inaugural and completely fictional WhartonSteer 10k came to be, with only 2 runners, both with exactly the same time. Amazingly, our application was accepted and I duly forgot all about it.
Alex took training seriously from that point on but it seemed a long way off to me so I pushed it to the back of my mind. Plenty of time I thought.
It’s amazing how quickly ‘plenty of time’ passes and before I knew it, my entry pack appeared through the post. With only 1 month to go and not having done 1 step of training, I had two options. Give it up or Have a go.
Being a bloke, and knowing the stick I would get in the office if I jacked it in, the only option was to have a go. I quickly devised my own training plan to follow in the remaining 4 weeks before the race. I was aware of the importance of building slowly and acclimatising to the distance, so I started the first week with a 4k run. I was determined not to stop and walk, which I managed but it was a couple of days before my legs stopped hurting enough to run and I went out again for another 4k run. Week 2 and time to step it up with a couple of 6k runs. Week 3 was a couple of 8k runs and by then I had read about tapering which seemed like a good idea and with the thought that if I can do 8k, I can do 10, I treated myself to a rest week.
Time to check out what that Orange number meant in the invitation pack. It turned out that in our ridiculous enthusiasm and blatant lies, Alex and I were just behind the elite runners in the first wave. On the plus side, there were probably not going to be any hippos except us. Even if there were any, they were likely to be much faster than us anyway.
The day arrived and I got my first experience of that ‘now familiar’ feeling of pre-race nerves with the resultant effect on my bladder. I had to stop just on the 40 minute drive into Manchester. I found Alex and together we joined the toilet queue for our second visit. Finally comfortable, we joined the Orange wave. There certainly weren’t any hippos but there was a load of lycra, expensive shoes and complicated warming up procedures. Alex and I couldn’t have been more out of place if we had been stood there holding a pie and a pint.
With 10 minutes to go to the start, unbelievably we both needed another visit to the loo. By the time we had been and got back to the Orange zone, the start had been and gone but there were so many to get through the start line that we still had time to join the back of the group. And so we crossed the start line at the very back of the elite runners group.
Alex was soon out of sight but before long I found myself actually passing other runners. Granted they were stood in the bushes at the side of Chester road, having not had the foresight, or perhaps the level of bladder pressure that Alex and I had before the race, but I did feel at least a little gratified at passing someone.
I had decided on my targets for the race. The first was to finish without stopping. The second was to finish under an hour. Anything else would have been a completely undeserved bonus but in reality I had no idea how I would do and part of me expected that I would get better acquainted with some members of St Johns Ambulance.
As it turned out, I managed to hit both my targets, finishing in just over 56 minutes but they were a hard and painful 56 minutes.
While I was running, or towards the end, shuffling quickly, I had absolutely definitely decided that I would never run again. Within a few minutes of finishing I was feeling a massive sense of achievement which had changed my mind and immediately I decided that I was going to train properly next year and try to beat my time. I’ve got used to this feeling in the middle of some races these days and knowing the feeling when I finish has made sure that racing has become an important part of my life.
The obsession had begun.