Monday, 25 May 2009

Why I race...

The start of the Dunblane Hydro 7.5 mile road race was abrupt. We'd lined up, and I was chatting Red Head, a woman I'd met at previous races. She, like me, is something of a race junkie. The race could be in the middle of nowhere, it could be snowing, and as likely as not she'd be lining up. Like me, on the surface, she seemed normal. But underneath I suspect that she too was haunted by the same obsessive thought: when can I run another race?

The horn sounded almost as soon as everyone was lined up, and we were off. I wished Red Head well, and then made my own way into the crowd.

My first mile was 6:55. I'd felt a bit trapped by the crowd, but didn't want to go out too hard. 6:55 was a little on the slow side, but the crowd seemed to thin a bit after the mile marker.

Mile 2 was 13:44. Better. It was sunny, but cool. The course headed out along a river on a country road.

3 was 20:25. Still making time. Between mile 3 and 4 the road crossed the river and headed back into Dunblane. We now were running into a strong wind.

In a 10-mile hill race late last year, I toiled away through boggy and cold conditions to the summit of a bald Scottish hill. It was windy, and my arms, exposed in a short-sleeved shirt, felt numb. I eventually reached the summit of the climb, and was pleased to begin the 5 mile descent back to the start/finish line.

As the descent progressed I began to feel, inexplicably, exhuberant. A phrase from the Origin of Species began to drum in my head "There is a grandeur in this view of life".

Legs fully extended on each stride, I stomped through the mud and bog and sprinted towards the finish. In the cold, in the mud, as I passed other runners, I felt terrific.

This, in part, is why I race: for those occasional moments of stepping outside of myself, for elusive day when you just feel great, for those fleeting moment within a race when you feel the joy of running hard.

Doubtless this is just hypoxia.


I began feel good at mile four. It was windy, but perhaps the gradient was slightly downhill, because I felt like running faster.

Mile 5 was 34:23. I was running sub-7 minute miles. Now there were only 2.5 miles left in the race, so there was less of a worry of running out of gas before the end. I was running one of the strongest races of my life.

At mile 6 I was back into town, and was at 41 mins something. I pushed my legs out in front of me, and the road felt great under my feet.

At 7 I was 48:35. There was a steady climb - not as bad as feared - back to the Hydro hotel. There, however, was a steep climb up to the finish.

I crossed the line at 52:22 on my watch. 37th out of 323. For me, one my my best races, in percentile times. I could not have run this faster, and I doubt that I'll be able to beat this time on this course again.

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