Back in April I learned of the Park Run scheme. 'Great idea' I thought, 'must do that'. Then I forgot/didn't bother until now - the Autumn, and I decide I want to get fit again, just as the mornings are getting darker and the afternoons getting shorter. But, who cares? No time like the present and anyway, this year can hardly be called Autumn. The leaves are flopping off the trees, exhausted. Not a puff of wind in sight, all they can do is throw themselves onto the ground in submission.
Saturday 27th September
"I'm going to do the Park Run Mike"
"What's that then?"
"Well, it's a 5k at Eaton Park, loads of people go, I think it would be great for me to have a challenge to make sure I get running again"
"Don't you need to have done some training?"
"I've heard anecdotally that people of all abilities go, even walkers. It's all about taking part."
"Anecdotally!! There's a word for a Saturday morning. Do you want a lift?"
I present myself at the bandstand in the centre of the park for the newbies' welcome chat. The important pieces of information I took in were:
- At the end you'll see the funnel, take your plastic finishing bar code from one of the volunteers.
- It's 3 1/2 times round the park, you cross that bridge over there 4 times.
- Good luck.
Fast walk to begin, got to warm up my muscles, did that for 5 minutes, then a spot of jogging. 2 minutes, don't want to get shin splints. As I walk I overtake a group of people wearing Lotus sweatshirts and jeans. 'That's good', I thought. 'Perhaps a charity effort'. Then I jogged past a mother with a pram and another real runner, (I knew because she was wearing team gear) who, as she walked was explaining to the mother that she had had an operation and was injured. 'This is great, I won't come last.' I was still smugly congratulaing myself as I jogged over the bridge for the first time. Onlookers shouted encouragement and I felt proud of my efforts.
Bridge crossing number two went ahead no problems and then I became confused.
'How many times have I been over that bridge?' I reassured myself that with such a high level of organisation I couldn't possibly go wrong, there were signs marking the route anyway.
'Have I done 3 or 4?' I asked myself. Round the bend I went, and the sign directed me to the finish.
'Wow, this is great - I'll stretch my legs for the final straight' I saw the funnel ahead and then tuned in to the runners around me.
"Come on Melissa! Great work! You're gonna smash your PB"* A man was shouting encouragement to his running partner.
I was delighted, it had all gone so much quicker than I had expected....
Then I looked at my stopwatch....
It clearly said 27 minutes. I knew that couldn't be right and wondered if I should just go over the finishing line. They would never know, I'd never been before. Dishonesty is not my bag and so I looked longingly at the finishing line and turned round to face the pack of runners. Stepping quickly to the left, off the path, I walked back to the final corner with my head held high. I jog/walked the last circuit. The bridge was silent, the well-wishers long gone, no doubt supping coffee and munching on cakes with their sporty clique.
Once more, I jogged towards the finishing line. The volunteers clapped, congratulated me and gave other words of encouragement.
Later that afternoon I received my email from the organisers. I had come 609/609.
I now feel ashamed and sorry. I held up the volunteers who must have been longing for coffee and cake. It was for serious runners after all.
Will I go again? Yes, indeed - but not tomoorow. I need to be able to jog continuously for 5k.
To celebrate my latent desire to be a runner, I decided that I should aim high. So I've signed up for the Norwich City Half Marathon; 23rd November, gives me six weeks and I did that after I learned of my 609th place.
Only one way to go, and that's down the pub - beers and curry tonight.
Have a great weekend,
*PB. Abbreviation for personal best