parkrun wouldn’t be parkrun without 37 little kids underneath your feet at the start line ready to bounce off like coiled springs. Off into the distance they fly as all the grown ups settle into a pace they know they can sustain for 5k. Soon enough all of these uncoiled springs moving at high velocity will wither into dead slinkies, wheezing and heaving and trying to take a mental note that this time next week they should sit indoors and watch Paw-Patrol instead.
Here I was on that start line of a parkrun, I actually felt quite good. Not in PB shape but ready to give some beans. As close to 19 as possible was the target. I even did a warm up jog, it was that serious, though not quite as serious as doing the flappy leg arse kicking that I see people doing before the race. Run.
Off we went, along a nice straight that usually clears for me after about a minute as I settle into my place. There are a lot of fast people here today, more than usual. The first k is busy but I work my way though the dead slinkies. I can still see a few ahead of me. No bother. Slowly slowly catchy monkey.
I pass a young boy who is practically walking after 1.2k. Then onto the gravelly bit where I hope the relative size of the pebbles will hold up the smaller-footed runners. 2k in and I have a slight battle with group of three boys from a running club. Running club ones are harder. Their coaches have probably shared with them the parkrun secret.
“Don’t set out like a fucknugget”.
They seem to arrange themselves into formation, blocking my path. They appear to me as skittles and my momentum could easily plough through and make a spare of this but parkrun is not about wasting other competitors. I think. Maybe I’ll check the rules.
So I bide my time, waiting for the moment one falls out of position and then vrooooom! Right through the gap. Schoolboy error schoolboys!
And that was it, job done. Only grownups in front of me now. I pick out the next target, a woman about 100m ahead. I’d do well to catch her now, it’s quite a gap but I’ll give it a go. I press on and then OMFG! I am not chasing a woman 100m in front of me but in fact a little girl about 20m in front of me. I’m trying so hard my perspective has blown. She’s about half my height, a third of my weight and does not look out of breath at all.
Don’t panic. More than half way to go. She’s bound to blow. She’s so small. It’s a 2 lap course which means I pass all the volunteers and spectators as I’m trying to overtake a small child. I have to do that thing where I try really hard to make it look like I’m not trying. Quick wipe the sweat off my face before they can see me, lower my cadence, unclench my fists and chat to everyone I can “Lovely day for a little jog! Such nice weather, taking it nice and easy. Can’t wait for the cake! Joggity joggity”.
I am dying inside. And she increased the gap! Shit! This isn’t going to be easy. Back onto the tarmac, no one can see me now. Doesn’t matter if I cry/bleed/shit myself I can still do this.
But the gap stays just as wide. I’m starting to doubt myself here. I’m starting to think about what I’m going to call this run on Strava. Will have to mention cobwebs and some sort of virus and maybe a hangover and some #brutal wind. No one needs to know.
But 4k in and it’s back on! She’s slowed a bit. On the gravelly section. Maybe she’s tiring or maybe she’s not got the best shoes on but I don’t care, I can take her now!
And I do! I don’t care how loudly I’m grunting anymore, right now beating this child is all my life has ever been about. I pass her and keep my foot down to create a gap. I’m not having her drafting me. I feel pretty pleased now, about half a k to go and I think I’ve got this and then shit! she passes me back! How utterly disrespectful.
No passbacks. That’s a parkrun rule isn’t it? (Will check the rules)
So I push even harder, now starting to lap some of the runners on their first lap and paranoid about losing her in the crowd. I get past again and I think this is it. I could never hear her footsteps anyway but I’m sensing it’s done now. There is a slight incline towards the end (0.0001%) where I reckon I have the advantage. I was going for “as close to 19” as possible and it’s looking like I’m going to hit 19 on the nose. Looking over my should a lot to “make sure I don’t clatter into the other runners on their first lap” I run through the finish in 19.03. I delighted with that time, but not as delighted as beating a little girl. That was special. She crossed the line in 19.10. Behind me, 7 seconds after me, a place below me, cos I was in front of her.
I’d love to tell you that my celebration for beating her was more graceful than Martin Keown here.
I’d love to be able to tell you that.