Honesty and cake

Running summary for w/c 26th November
Miles: 13.2
Cross training: Cycling (50 miles-ish), yoga

Today was the third race in the Regents Park Winter Series, a series of 10K races hosted by the wonderfully efficient and friendly Mornington Chasers running club (yeah, they’re my club, so of course I think they’re wonderful…).

After equaling my 48:48 PB at last month’s race I was very hesitant on the start line this morning. Running over 49 minutes just wasn’t acceptable anymore. I’ve been training hard and felt like I deserved to reap some reward from that, even if it was just shaving a few seconds off. I know that it’s just another race, just another run, just another 10K, and it’s not the most important thing in the world etc etc, but for everyone lined up at the start and getting their race on (as opposed to those who were using the 10K as all or part of a training run) running those three laps is like holding a mirror up to your training. It’s an opportunity to find out if your training is working, if you’re working, and if you’re on track towards your bigger goals (if you have one). I have come to learn that running is a brutally honest sport: if you don’t put the work in, you simply won’t perform. There’s no equipment to fall back on and no team mates to pass the buck to. It’s just you, your lungs and your legs.

So me, my lungs and my legs stood at the start line this morning, ready to look in that mirror and feeling decidedly nervous about it.

Luckily I was lined up with fellow Chaser, Sarah, who confessed she was also feeling nervous. There’s a long list of things not to say to a runner in the run up to a race. The most common, and frankly the worst thing you can say to me on the start line is, “don’t worry, it’s only a run“. People say this a lot when you tell them you’re plumping for a particular time/you’re nervous/you’re worried etc. My mum used to say it (until she started running) and my girlfriend used to say it (until she realised I don’t react well to it). I know the phrase is muttered with the nicest of intentions as our nearest and dearest try to be supportive and/or cushion the anticipated blow, but dismissing someone’s goals is not supportive and nor is predicting their failure (because through the warped perspective of a runner on the start line, that is what you’re doing). Befriending fellow runners and spending your pre-race panic in the company of the similarly anxious is a tried-and-tested way to avoid hearing those demoralising well wishes.

Sarah’s final words on the starting line were the most reassuring words I could have hoped for. “I’m feeling nervous” translated to: I know we can run 6 miles, but we are about to run them hard, and that will be hard, so it’s ok that we’re nervous. You see, us runners learn to love the honesty of this sport. We have to. Stopwatches don’t lie.

Here is a list of suggested responses to typical runners’ pre-race woes that I have compiled. Non-runners may wish to consult it in the run up to their loved ones’ races:

I’m really nervous.
Get over it and run.

I don’t think I can run that far/fast
You’re going to have to.

I feel really hungry/heavy.
Have a banana/poo.

I feel sick.
No you don’t.

The rule of thumb is to be brutal. We thrive on it.

Sarah told me she was feeling nervous. I said I was too. That was all that needed to be said before we set off. 1km passed in reasonable comfort. 2km passed comfortably, but more slowly. 3km passed with a knot in my shoulder. 4km passed with a niggling nausea. 5km passed with a shadow of a stitch. 6km passed with a heavy breather on my tail. 7km passed as I was passed by a veteran runner, who must have been in his seventies. 8km passed with a feeling of euphoria as sub-50 came in sight. 9km passed as I leapfrogged the veteran (though there was no glory in that). 10km passed in a blur and an attempt at a sprint finish. I crossed the line in 47:10 (chip time pending) and honestly thought I was going to be sick. I wouldn’t have minded if I had. I would have been vomiting evidence of how hard I have worked.

I still haven’t found the words to describe how thrilled I am with my shiny new PB.

Highlights of the day include:

  1. The heavy breather who started tailing me from 7km, played leapfrog with me, and ultimately made me run faster.
  2. Running past the water station on the last lap and hearing my clubmates shout my name.
  3. The marshals and volunteers who stood clapping and cheering, despite the bitter cold seeping through their multiple layers.
  4. The homemade cakes supplied by Chasers and the last slice of fudge cake sold to me in the cafe.

And, in the name of honesty, I’m going to let you in on the Mornington Chasers biggest secret – the secret of good post-run recovery: cake, and lots of it.


I hope you have all had a fab weekend’s running too! Did any of you make it to your local parkrun, or to a race? Did you make the time for a long run?


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