And so, slightly belatedly, I find myself reflecting on last year. Because of this wonderful thing called recency bias we tend to pick songs, films, tv shows, games, races, from the latter part of the year as our favourite thing of the year. This is how I find myself, as I reflect, thinking of the most significant events of my year and find them all to come towards the back end of it.
In order, starting in November, I:
Got a new job.
Ran my first half marathon.
Caught Covid and had a lockdown Christmas.
A couple of highs and an immediate low. I don’t have anything particularly erudite to say about covid, or lockdown, or even really anything more to say about running my first half marathon, but they were, in all likelihood, the most significant events of my year.
Yet, it was a long year.
When the lockdowns were raised in Spring I made an attempt at my 10k PB, and fell way, way short. I remember being particularly disappointed by this because I felt like my training had gone so well throughout the lockdowns, but I was way off the pace I expected. I put it down to lack of race experience. In any case, I am yet to progress my 10k PB. Indeed, I haven’t really made much progress on any of my PBs this year. I did snatch a rare 5 mile PB on a mixed terrain course as I progressed towards the half marathon, and the time I achieved at St Neots Half was very pleasing as well. But the two, traditional, markers of speed – the 5k and 10k – have remained immovable.
Why is that?
Something to think about, to reflect on.
But I don’t know, is the simple answer. If I was going to brainstorm it a bit, the first thought I have is that I’ve shifted around a lot, switched up my intentions. After my spring disappointment I reset in summer in order to readdress the 10k situation. I ran as many races as I could to build up my experience to then blow that PB out of the water in one final, fell, swing. But it didn’t happen. That final race was a good performance, I think, but it was nowhere near a PB. I did do a lot of racing though, and I did have a lot of fun. The Thetford trail 10k was particularly enjoyable, although it did end with me in a St Johns ambulance at the end. The Garendon Gallop was another highlight. The gallop landed on an absolute scorcher of a day, the hottest I’ve ever raced in. It also does that wonderful, cruel, thing of ending with a big fat hill. I have every intention of racing both of those courses again this year. And within those positive memories is perhaps the real reflective takeaway: both of those courses were off-road.
That is where I’ve found my attention drawn. Although I haven’t raced a huge amount off-road, I sure have hit the trails hard, in the Lake District, Peak District, Norfolk Coast, and many, many, many, new local trails.
And that is where I am aiming myself as 2022 actualises itself around us. The trail calls! Bit dramatic, but it does. In March, on my birthday, I will be racing the Endurance Life Sussex Half Marathon. It features over 2000 feet of ascent across it’s 13 and a bit miles, on rugged coastal terrain. Fair to say, I have not raced that sort of course before. It is slightly terrifying, and a lot exciting. I haven’t given up on the road, absolutely not, but the best thing I did last year was enter the St Neots Half Marathon. It gave me a focus, a centering point, a structure. 10ks and 5ks aren’t…big enough to create that hold on me. Now I have a – literally – bigger half marathon ahead of me, I’m hoping it provides that same focal point. Perhaps on the way I’ll even shift some illusive PBs.
Beyond that, well, I suppose we go bigger again.