Back to the start line

7 Apr

On Saturday, the day after World Autism Awareness Day, I officially made my comeback to the world of racing. My previous race had been a ten-miler back in November – a fairly miserable affair in which I had been overdressed, over-complacent, and completely confused by poor course marshalling.  I was scheduled to run in the Resolution Run on New Years Day, but my freshly acquired pinched nerve took care of that ambition.  So now, during the Easter weekend, I was ready to race again.

I did not really have any great expectations. Even if I had been healthy in the interim, I would have expected a bit of a slowdown due to the challenges of running in winter conditions.  You just cannot maintain any kind of speed running into strong icy winds with snow coming at you, while wearing multiple layers and a balaclava that makes you look like a burglar.  As it was, I was out of action for almost three months because of various things that were wrong with me.

So my goal on Saturday was simply to finish the 10km race.  I had a friend with me who was running in the 5km event.  Fran and I have known each other for years, and she has recently been bitten by the running bug.  Saturday was her first race ever, so there was a sense of occasion for both of us.  Although we were running different distances, we had a common goal – to cross the finish line.

Ten minutes before the race started we discovered that the 5km and 10km races were starting from different places.  The 5km runners stayed in the designated starting area, and the 10km runners were sheperded to a different point, about 600m away.  I set my training watch, listened for the starting siren, and off I went, wondering how far I would be from my pre-injury pace of 6 minutes 30 seconds per kilometre.  In defiance of my usual strategy to start slow, I ran my first kilometre in exactly 6 minutes and 30 seconds.  The second kilometre was slower.  The third one was very fast by my standards – 6 minutes and 13 seconds.  There were still seven kilometres remaining; I knew that I was going to regret this early spurt later on.

At around six kilometres, I passed Fran, who was coming in for her final stretch.  She was looking good; we waved at each other and went on our way. And true to my predictions, I started to seriously flag in the eighth kilometre – this unfortunately coincided with a couple of pretty intense hills along the course.

But mental power means a lot in running, and the fact that there were only two kilometres remaining helped restore some energy.  I got a further boost thinking of George, the ultimate reason I’m doing all of this running in the first place.  I used the ninth kilometre to recover, and I was able to run the final kilometre fast and come in for a strong finish.  My final time was 1:06:14.  My pace was 6 minutes and 38 seconds per kilometre – not far off from my pre-injury pace.  I was very happy with how I did.  I am now looking forward to my next race – also 10km – at the beginning of May.

It is now four days after the race.  I have been for one run since then, and my legs have not complained too much.  I must be in better shape than I’d thought!

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