This time hopefully it is here to stay. Hopefully, alongside the hairdressers and the pubs and the restaurants, alongside our good health and lower infection rates, hopefully.
About two weeks out from a race is when I have my doubts, and after such a long time without racing they have been more pronounced. I know this seems a bit far out for pre-race jitters, but that’s because that’s not what it is. The doubt is more like: why bother? Don’t I get enough of a kick out of training? Out of running trails and working hard at the track? Why do I need to cap it all off with this 10/10 balls-to-the-wall effort which I know will hurt?
I don’t need to race. I would run anyway, that is clear to me now, as I’ve run more than ever without them being around. The race is just something else. It is as much about the nerves beforehand as it is about the event itself: the tension of the night before; the skittish hopping and jumping on the line; the butterflies in the silence before the sound of the gun.
Those moments before are more memorable, usually, than the race itself. The running part of a running race can be a blur. There isn’t much time to make a record of what is happening around you when you are focusing your entire body and mind on one goal.
The end too is something to remember, especially if the clock is looking good. That tension that builds up before the race disappears during the exertion of the run, but when you cross the line is when it returns to be resolved, and a runner can be struck by a rare sense of catharsis. It doesn’t hang around forever, that feeling, or all runners would run one race and call it a career, but in that moment of completion is a complete pause. The page is turned, and we are blessed with a clean sheet. Most runners get to filling that page pretty quickly, choosing the next goal, sketching the next training block, but for the slightest of moments there is fulfilment.
The action of running is a joy, but the joy of racing is completely it’s own. If there’s no racing, I’m still going to run, but if there’s racing then…