Terry Pratchett had humans pretty much sussed. In The Thief of Time, he states: “some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you it a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World-Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry”.
One of the reasons I set myself these challenges this year was simply to see if I could do them. I knew that I would immensely enjoy the physical challenges I have set myself this year, but the last thing I imaged was coming third in a cross-country 10k race. And it definitely helps when people tell me not to do things along the way..
I came third, partly, because of the course, and the age of the race. It was a tough course with uphill – and as a cyclist, I am good at uphills – and it was also the inaugural race of a small village community, so word hadn’t spread beyond local running clubs.
I also came third partly because someone told me not to.
The day started pleasantly enough – with a warm-up of a ten-kilometre cycle out to the village on a bright sunny day. The start of the course was somewhere I would choose to jog if I lived there, along car-free paths. Despite being a small village race, it was excellently marshalled and you couldn’t have taken a wrong turn if you tried.
I was running a decent pace behind a sinewy lady in a local running club vest, who looked much more runner that I. I used her as a bit of a pace marker if I’m honest, as she looked like she knew what she was doing. We leap-frogged each other a few times, me overtaking her on the uphills and her beating me on the downs.
It felt a little unsporting that all the marshals seemed to know her and gave her a cheer as she ran by, but I pretended they were cheering us in general to egg myself on. Then, we turned a corner. A bald race steward making sure we didn’t run straight ahead into a corn field cheered loudly. “Watch out, you have a Ginge on your shoulder. Pick it up!” he shouted to her by name.
Having lived in Scotland, I am used to crueller comments than, I suppose, the statement-of-fact ‘ginge’. But Scotland has also taught me that when British people refer to you as ‘ginge’, it’s not a compliment. To hear it from one of the course stewards was also a bit unsporting, regardless of how it was meant. Nowhere near the comments I got at the Bubble Rush, but still irksome.
So I decided to overtake.
And that was all it took. I probably finished about two minutes ahead of the village golden girl. It wasn’t a good time by any means – about 48 minutes, and I need to get 45 minutes or less for me to consider myself to have run a decent 10k. The first-placed woman was under 40 minutes. But considering the course and the field of a few hundred, I was pretty happy with this position.
There’s a moral in here somewhere I guess. Something about turning others’ hate (ok, too strong… others’ ‘unsupport’?) into positive energy. Something about shaking hands at the end of the competition, but still never forgetting that it’s a competition. Use the away fans to your advantage. Read Terry Pratchett as part of your training schedule. Either way, it certainly felt great to finally, after half a year of competitions, to have achieved it. Perhaps more away fans is what I need.
The second-placed woman wasn’t actually far in front of me, either. Perhaps if her fan club had shouted at me on the course, I might have come even higher in the rankings….