So: my first ever “competitive” run. I say competitive in the sense that, whilst no aspect of the race was professionally timed there was a binary win/loss condition and one man (banana) we were competing with – you either beat the banana, or you didn’t. The banana in question: a 50-something Kiwi runner called Rhys, decked out in full banana regalia. He was quick. But more on that shortly.
James (my friend who works for WCRF, part-time running sensei and full time awesome dude) tells me it was their best year for registration – with over 500 people registering for the ‘fun run.’ I arrived at the Serpentine bandstand about 45 minutes before race time and helped him at the bag drop tent… well, I say “helped”, what I really did was ask people why they thought their bag was safer with James than in the bin, and whether they could guess why his middle name was “bag thief”, so perhaps “helped” is a bit strong.
The start eventually came, more or less on time, following a brief but nonetheless too-long-and-too-ridiculous warm-up from the sponsoring Fitness First banana-dressed coach. Having never been in a competitive run before, and indeed rarely been in any kind of race where I didn’t come last, it was a strange experience; fun-runs attract all types, from the casual runner to the completely indolent, so the keener ones who made it to the front of the starting inflatable post bounded off with (and in some cases, beyond) the banana, whilst I, stuck firmly in the middle of the pack, dodged a bunch of slow moving but well-meaning folk.
Eventually, after about 1.5km, I managed to clear my way of the (rear of the) pack. Thankfully the muscle stiffness that had hit me a couple of days previously was nowhere to be seen and I felt I was getting a reasonable pace on. The feeling that came from overtaking people was pretty heady; I was probably going a little quicker than was sensible but kept pushing on through. Soon after this, however, the more accomplished runners who had just been dandying around the back chatting to friends started to apply themselves, and between 2-3km marks people kept overtaking me… But I didn’t lose spirit and kept plodding along. Runkeeper was giving me some data but I was resolutely ignoring it; I just needed to forge ahead and do my best.
Whilst there were moments (as you’ll see if you check my Runkeeper race log) when I flagged, I managed to find my stride and had a good run to the end, finding brief moments of competition with random other runners. The final 300m became a sprint finish as a fellow-runner decided she wanted to beat me… she ran faster, I ran faster, until it was a hell-for-leather dash for the finish line… …and then she beat me too, jeering me triumphantly (but good naturedly – it was a fun-run after all!) at the end, when I collected my medal and goody bag (containing a banana, no less).
It was a lot of fun and I think I may have something of a racing bug – will look for a 10k now before the half-marathon (I think that distance might suit me better) and see how I do. The scary thing is that this is the pace I’ll need to maintain for FOUR TIMES AS LONG if I’m to break 2 hours on the half-marathon – that’s a way away. Lots of training needs to happen first. And I need to raise more dosh – my sister is my sole sponsor to date!
For the curious, the winner (who had won a similar run with WCRF in Hong Kong) came in at around 15m for the circuit (which GPS tracked as 4.7k), and the banana came in 3-4 minutes before me (around 22m). I came in at about 25m30, which is a new personal best. Big thanks to all the lovely WCRF people for a fun afternoon in Hyde Park.
Here are my (banana? sorry…) splits: