Serpentine Handicap - July 09

I'm often made to feel a bit like Forrest Gump when I turn up to some races, and rightfully so. I am often unshaven, I often sport a silly hat and yes I have a reputation for running long distances. However I was not expecting to feel like him for being unable to understand instructions. I registered with great confusion as I was told to give my 10k time and take a number and an "x". 

"So what do I do" I asked

"Well, your 10k time determines your handicap"

"Oh, say 40 minutes"

"Ok - Start at 20 minutes since this is your first time and scratch times have a 10% loading"

"Say What?"

"As it's your first time you don't count in the points and your time in fairly meaningless except it will determine your start time for next time, though you'll still be a scratch runner"

*Confused look*

"We don't allow points to be scored in the first 2 runs as so may people ended up winning on their second go"

"But what do I actually DO?" - Starting to panic

"I suggest you take it easy this time so that your next handicap is not so tight, even with the 8% loading"

"No seriously, what to I actually DO?" - Still no idea

"Just put £2 in here, wait for someone to shout your name and then run two laps around that pond".

"Ahhhhh, Gotcha. Now you're talking my language". Though I did forget to ask which way around the pond.

I am assured the rules of this race series are all perfectly sensible and vital for a fair competition where the consistently improving runners have the best chance of winning. That sounds like a great premise for a competition and the organisers should be saluted for that. However the cognitive load involved for me trying to figure out what the hell was going on felt like listening to a game of Mornington Crescent

The start was very well ordered, all of us having our names called out and lining up to depart in 15 second intervals. I had 6 people in my slot which was cosy. So long as there were plenty of people ahead of me I was pretty sure I wouldn't get lost. 

I was told to go and I did, forwards, following a red top. This was the easy bit.

It was a baking hot morning. I'd spent all week running in the glorious sunshine and was loving the chance to take advantage of an unusually long spell of sunshine. There is not much cover around the Serpentine and I was heating up pretty quickly. At least I knew this would last about 30 minutes, rather than 2 days when I last encountered this weather. 

I started overtaking people quite early on. I think the intention is for everyone to finish at the same time. Heat affects people in different ways and some struggle more than others. This was clear as many runners were having a bad day here. Along the south side of the Serpentine a long queue of red and yellow formed and snaked through the cafe where a guy was putting out chairs right in the way of the running line.

I had no idea what pace I was supposed to be running 4.3 miles at, I didn't take a watch and think I started a bit fast. I wasn't overtaken by that many people(that being the point I think) and managed to catch up with quite a few.

As usual I suffered a barrage of "isn't this a bit short for you" comments. I think 20 laps would be much better, an idea I might put in there for the next committee meeting. I am counting all the times I hear that phrase along with their names. When the number reaches 1000 I will be demanding £1 off each of them an I shall use the money to fund a triathlon (that should cover the entry fee and the lycra). So far I'm on £27.

The race finished in a realtive flash, on the same day that it started, same hour in fact. I did it in 29 minutes which I think is 6.45 minute miles. It's been a long time since I've thought about that ratio. 

Everyone then shielded from the sun and clapped the others in. There was some discussion as to who "won" and what the implications were for some table that was going to define who was winning overall and then there was discussion as to how that was going to affect the results for the whole year. I just concentrated on getting to the cafe.

This is a great way to spend a saturday morning and I shall certainly try and do this more. Basically I get to run 4 miles as fast as I can around a course that I'm almost certainly not going to get lost on and get to have brunch later. I don't think I am even going to try to figure out the rules. Who knows? Ignorance could work in my favour? I doubt it. Good on Mark/Jon and all the others there organising this though.