About a year ago the race that I had returned to serious training for was supposed to happen.
The weather was dreadful; the skies were leaden, leaking. The grey pavements were soaked. I sat in my car, windows steaming, spiralling into the zone. I had arrived early, nervous energy propelling me out of the door in too much time. I then stood in the starting pen, once again in too much time, in just a skimpy vest. A lonely energy gel was perched precariously in my shorts. There was more waiting, and then some more, as I began to get wet, cold. At some point it was announced that the start time was to be delayed. I got wetter. Then it was delayed again, and again, I think, before eventually it was called off. There was a threat to the safety of the race, and it was decided that the right thing to do was to call an end to the whole thing. I went home, shivering, and got in the bath. I had come so far to even be ready for a half marathon, and it was pretty devastating to have it be cancelled.
But the journey had begun. I deferred my entry to the next year and decided that I would be even fitter, even faster, next time around.
Early in the lockdown days the race was cancelled again.
But I am fitter, I am faster, and on a day which was reminiscent of that intended return race, I was able to race: a track 3000m at an open meeting with my club. I didn’t really have any huge expectations, having entered fairly late and also having never run a 3k before, but I figured I would be around 10 minutes, hopefully just under it. I came in at 10:05 (having misheard the times at the end, I thought I was agonisingly close to being under 10, as it happens those 5 seconds are actually less frustrating than the fractions that I at first thought they were).
It is always easy to say that I could have run it a bit faster, but I was burning up by the end. It didn’t feel like I had a lot left to give in the moment, but there’s always doubts once the lactic has faded away – we have a short memory when it comes to self-inflicted pain.
In any case, the time isn’t particularly important, but the experience was. There wasn’t the usual bevy of spectators that you might usually find at even a low key track event, and there were no other clubs in attendance, but it was proof that covid-secure track events can happen, and the compromises didn’t wholly detract from the experience. I still got pre-race nerves, still felt that excitement of pinning my number on my club vest, still cherished the thrill of standing on the line in wonderful, terrible, British weather.
Once again I found myself hemmed in by my steaming car windows as I took shelter pre-race, summoning energy, summoning focus, enjoying the painful build up as much as I enjoyed the equally painful execution of the effort.
Racing, blissfully, is back in my life.