Monday, May 30, 2016

The John Carr Series

Being new to world of competitive racing I’m only just getting used to the social politics of the starting line, so for those of you who haven’t entered a race yet, here’s how it works.
Towards the rear of the huddle of runners the starting line is pretty much like club runs, it’s chatty and social, you are free to express feelings of nervousness and to comment on how fit, and fast, all the other runners look.

In the middle of the peloton things begin to change. You become aware of other runners appraising you, and then they edge past you with an “Excuse me” which holds distinct undertones of “I cannot help but notice that you are considerably older / fatter / more bandy legged than I, and therefore I need to start in front of you lest your shambling gait and ungainly manner impedes me in my quest for a PB.”

Down at the actual front line it’s just chaos. People are actually jostling for position, jostling I tell you! On a Wednesday night in Apperley Bridge ! Honestly folks, if we allow this sort of thing to continue then it’ll spread to Sainsbury’s deli counter queue and there will be hummus in the aisles.
The other thing that happens at all races is the pre-race announcement. Tradition here is that you shouldn’t be able to hear a word, no matter if the starting marshal is warning you of a bear pit on the first corner, the standard race announcement always sounds like an angry bee trapped in a metal dustbin half a mile away. Saltaire Striders haven’t got the hang of this, I could hear every word perfectly.

3-2-1 we’re off, briefly, there’s a few seconds of runner concertina as we sprint into the backs of the runners in front, who have en masse adopted the starting line pose of left arm raised, right hand on left wrist to activate their Garmin as they cross the line. Runners who haven’t managed to hit ‘start run’ on Strava will later be seen openly weeping as they approach the finish line.

(Photo - Rachael Smith)

5k is tough, I have no idea how to pace this, there isn’t enough time to settle into a jog, it just feels like sprinting all the way.  There are some small hills, enough to make your thighs burn, and then before the halfway you can see the really fast people flying past on the homeward half.  Legs burning, lungs bursting, I’m ready to chuck it in and just jog to the finish when we hit Orange Corner, a wall of Pacer shirts, a friendly cacophony fills the air, can I run this hard to the finish line, with that support, too right I can.