This post is inspired by Tom at The Allrounder. He recently wrote a piece about Global Running Day and told the story of his first organised running experience.
This made me think about my first race that pushed me towards running. I not sure which year it was, but it must have been over 10 years ago, as it was before I ran my first London Marathon in 2008.
The race was a Cancer Research 10km based at Hampton Court Palace and I was invited to enter by friends who were also running it.
I’d had a good number of weeks to prepare for the race and set out on what I though was good training. I felt like I was getting stronger and I was going to be able to hang with my fitter friends. At times in training I felt light and fast, that I could hold a fast pace for good period of time.
The day of the race was a wet and grey affair. Everyone have a blue Cancer Research T-shirt to wear on the day and the spectacle was quick impressive as we ran along The Long Water with Hampton Court Place in the background.
I set off well, sneaking down the side as I passed slower runners. But pretty soon I was exhausted and hanging on. I struggled as more and more people passed me. My less than one-hour target disappeared and I ambled in last of my group of friends. It was a humbling experience.
I was deflated and a little embarrassed. I felt like I had put lots of hard work in, but just wasn’t up to it. I still carried the image in my head of being a successful amateur sportsperson that had never failed at anything out of choice.
The first point is this image I held of when I was younger. I was then doing sport about 3 times a day including athletics and cross county running. Either getting stronger physically, cardio-vascularly or improving some kind in hand or foot-eye coordination. I could get through anything on native wit and relying on speed and stamina to be faster and outlast others.
That had all been eroded by years of inactivity, eating and boozing too much through university and my graduate years. I had fun during those times so look back on them fondly and don’t regret anything about them.
The second point is although I thought I trained hard and puts lots of work in, the likelihood is, I probably hadn’t. I was just going out and running with no particular thought involved about distance, times, speed or effort. Like I said, I thought it would all come good, just like it always had before.
The reality was that I was overweight and unfit and had little idea of how to change that. At the time although I said I was embarrassed, I was probably not that fussed. There was probably a party afterwards that involved beer followed by fried chicken and it would all be quickly forgotten. Beer, fried chicken and I are still close friends. We just don’t see each other as much these days.
So that was my first proper “race” and looking back on it, not a particularly happy one that has left more scars than I thought.
Since, then I ran The London Marathon in 2008 and 2010. The first I was prepared for and just didn’t run fast enough. The second I was wholly underprepared for (probably based on how strong I felt in the first one) and only ran 2 minutes slower. I then dipped in and out of running trying to maintain some aspect of being a runner/someone who exercises as my personal life and geographical situations changed.
I found BMF in 2012 and improved my eating habits, some weight came off and running became much easier and my times started to tumble.
I’m still learning though – getting out of that “It’ll be ok” mentality may be a lifelong project. I’m always over-optimistic. I feel that I come out of every race with the proclamation “I took that a little bit lightly, I should definitely prepare better next time”
Maybe some of that is that I’m just running faster and still pushing for PBs/PRs. It’s not getting easier, I’m just getting faster and sometimes that hurts. Which is a good thing.
What was your first race? Was it a success?