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Free T-Shirt: tick. Free Beer: TICK

 

I’m training for a long run in September, I’m being careful as I’m prone to an overuse injury in my foot and I really don’t want to spend so much time visiting a physio or hobbling for an hour or so after getting out of bed. It makes me feel old. A long while ago I wrote out a training plan that slowly increased the distance I ran each week, complete with step back weeks every month. So far it’s been working and the injury has been kept in check. This week my plan said that I should be doing about 13 miles and by coincidence the badger half marathon was on this weekend, it seemed rude not to enter. The fact that every finisher is given a bottle of badger beer may have influenced my decision.

Pre-race was a relaxed affair, lots of sitting around in the grounds of Denbies vineyard basking in the sun. It was a good way to relax into the race. Well it was until I met Paul. He has done this race before and started to talk me through the route. The word hill came up a lot in his description. This was starting to sound a lot harder than I had expected. I did get distracted by the woman with the Miro tattoo halfway through Paul’s monologue but not enough to not hear the words “horrible” and “steep”. Of course if it was as bad as he was making out why was he back for more?

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Sitting around trying to look relaxed before the race starts

The first part was fairly benign, a small loop round the vineyard and a flat stretch along the side of a road. This was just buttering us up for the main event, there were hills. The first one wasn’t too bad and there was an aid station at the top which provided the perfect excuse to stop, chug down water and shovel handfuls of jelly babies into my mouth. As the race went on the hills got progressively worse until the inevitable happened. I stopped. I walked. I’ve often been told that if you are running as fast as you could walk that walking is better. I’m not sure. I think this is just an excuse used by people like me for when the running becomes too hard. It’s quite demoralising walking; especially when others are running past. Others that I’d overtaken miles before. The problem is that once you start it’s very hard to stop. At some point the slope starts to ease and somewhere around there I have to run again. I hate walking during a race as it makes me think I’ve somehow failed, but I wasn’t the only one and this made me feel better. I heard the tell-tale exhalation behind me and the change in gait; I knew someone had thrown in the towel before I saw them. A passing runner said to us that this was the last nasty hill. Even though that was a lie it gave me some sort of succour

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How I imagined the finish line would be when I eventually got there, empty…

Running down hills isn’t as tiring but I do find it mentally exhausting. The angles are all wrong and the constant threat of a high speed trip is always there. I’d seen a few runners with dirt covered vests showing that this was a real and present danger. I had no intention of joining them.

I was struggling up the last rise when Paul passed me “The hills will get you in the end” he remarked as he trotted past, my reply was dark, full of venom and under my breath. Sometimes I really want to give him a good slap for being so smug.

Eventually the slopes, rises and hills ended and it was just a nice gentle trot to the end. I’d set myself the goal of finishing in “something under two hours”. I like nice vague goals like that. I crossed the line a handful of seconds adrift of this goal, but that really didn’t matter. Despite all the pain, suffering, hills, slopes and walking I’d quite enjoyed it. As a bonus I was only limping a little bit. I enjoyed the beer after a long shower and an even longer sleep.

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Now that’s what I call a sponsor

 

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