The kilometres tick by, has it really been five minutes since the last one. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 all gone before I even really think that I’m running a half marathon. Looking down at my watch, wondering how I’m managing to keep up this fairly impressive pace. Talking to myself, telling myself that I’ve done it for the first ten and that’s pretty amazing considering my current form.
11,12,13,14 I’m still running the same pace, in fact I just ran a 4:19, my fastest kilometre of the race and for a while in general.
15,16,17 I’m still running sub 5 minute kilometres and there is only 4 left before I hit the finishing line. I might as well give it a go.
18, 19,20 still going, it’s easy from here regardless of the hill they’ve managed to put in the way of me. I follow the 1 hour 40 minute pacer up the hill, he draws ahead slightly but as we descent towards the finish line I overtake him. It doesn’t matter though, I know I’m ahead of regardless, he started 3 minutes before me.
I begin to check my watch for the first time in the race, only 400 metres to go, I start to speed up. 400m, 300m, 200m, I notice the course bends sharp right and I shuttle into a tunnel of sorts. I see the finish line, this is always my prompt to sprint. Its long been a tactic of mine to get the crowd on my side as I finish a race. I’m overtaking 10-20 people on the run in. People are clapping,, I go under a bridge just before the finish and hear people commenting at the speed I’m finishing at.
I cross the line, I put on the breaks and I pull up. An hour and 36 minutes worth of concentration is over.
I look around, I know there is someone waiting for me at the finish, someone cheering me in. I look around, I can’t see them. Where are they? Time seems to stand still for me, as though I’m frozen and all the other runners finishing seem to whizz past me. Then I spot them, time begins to tick again and my world returns to normal.
Euphoria, jubilation and someone to share those feelings with.
Running is a mental thing for me more than something physical. My body can be driven to great lengths by my mind. It all depends if you are willing to accept the consequences for it. It’s a big equation I suppose, is the pain and exhaustion worth those few minutes/hours of euphoria. The feelings of a job well done, of being able to do something not that many people can do. My answer to this question has always been yes.
My focus in races is an interesting one, it’s a quest to quell the competitive streak in me and resist the urge to actually race other people. My focus is on what feels good and right for me. To run with what I’m comfortable with. I readily admit I still run too much within my boundaries, even today when I’m only two minutes off a PB I set two years ago, I only take a couple of minutes to regain my breath after I cross the line. I wonder what I could achieve if I was willing to push myself harder and faster.
I sometimes wish I could say I ran for the fun of it. In fact at times I do, sometimes on a training run, my mind will drift away and I’ll blissfully enjoy the repetitive motion of moving my legs and arms.
I’ve always found that in races, I need a strategy to somehow to distract the mind. I’ve got this down to a fine art after these last few years of running. My initial tactic has always been to break the race up. Standing at the start line in the cold waiting for the gun can be a daunting experience. To think you have 21.1km ahead and maybe 2 hours of running.
However when I hit 2km I start to do the sums. I tell myself that is a tenth of the race already done. I hit 3km I tell myself that’s a seventh. I hit 4km I say that’s a fifth and when I hit 5km I tell myself that a quarter. At 7km it’s a third and then at 10.5km its half. From 11km I begin to count down the kilometres, constantly reinforcing to myself that I’ve covered 10km in training easily and I’m feeling good.
The last few kilometres of course are always the hardest. Its seems whatever the distance of the race, the last 3-5kms are where the real effort is required. To push on, to resist the voice. That talk that says, “you’ve done enough”, “even if you slowed down by a minute a kilometre you’d still run a good time”. You begin to feel like you are running through mud and your only validation that you aren’t slowing down is your watch beeping the ‘k’ times ever kilometre. I’ve never stopped in a race or training for the fear that once those voices have a hold, they will increase their volume and my running will never ever be the same again.
Two and a half months out from the Marathon and training appears to be going well.