This blog guest stars my good friend Jess, who is a big part of the reason that I have actually stuck with running this year. Flash back to a rainy evening in early January, the two of us met for dinner right after I had been to buy my first ever pair of running trainers. One hundred and twenty pounds worse off, my anxiety levels were through the roof, and I spent most of our evening reeling off my worries to her, which she masterfully rebutted:
“But what if I can’t do it?”
“You’ll be fine.”
“But what if I personally have some sort of genetic problem that means that I can’t run.”
“You’ll be fine.”
“OK, but what if I injure myself or fail spectacularly?”
“You’ll be fine.”
And so it continued; the conversation flowed like this for most of the evening, and I am lucky that Jess is incredibly patient and was happy to offer reassurance to my anxious mind. On that night, she suggested that we sign up for a 5 km race in the summer as something to aim towards, but with no pressure, as it’d just be me and her and we’d have a fun day. And so we did; we signed up to The Colour Run (apparently the “happiest 5k”), and I started training…what could go wrong?
Alarm bells started ringing as soon as we got off the tube in Wembley, and we saw one of our “competitors” wearing a pair of jeans, and another one in a skirt. Between us, Jess and I had failed even at the most basic level of preparation, and had no pins to attach our race numbers to ourselves. We walked into the pre-race area and were confronted with Justin Timberlake blaring out of the speakers and people smoking and sipping on beers, while a couple of incredibly enthusiastic aerobics teachers led the crowd through their warm-up. This isn’t what I’d imagined the beginnings of a race to look like, but I didn’t let that faze me. Neither of us being big fans of organised fun, we decided to get stuck right in to the race, and queued for about 20 mins in a sea full of people to get to the start line.
All geared up on the start line, I thought “this is the moment I’ve been waiting for, all that training about to come to fruition”. I looked around me at my competitors, who were fighting over a pair of multi-coloured socks and some fluorescent sunglasses that the DJ had hurled into the crowd. And then said DJ shouted “GO” and my heart fluttered….and then nothing happened. Basically nothing at all. People started shuffling slowly forwards, but it became very quickly apparent that Jess and I were in the minority in our intention to actually run the 5 km distance.
The race itself was pretty weird; imagine trying to weave through a mass of people walking, skipping and stopping for selfies when you’re trying to run seriously, in what was, essentially, a concrete estate. In the rain. And then imagine at the end of every km, someone lobs a load of paint into your sweaty body and you can’t see anything, much less breathe. Worse still, we finally made it to the end of the 4th km, and the crowd halted. Turns out, there was a 1 km queue to cross the finish line; the happiest 4.1k then. Suffice to say, we didn’t hang around and came straight back to South East London, eager for showers and to distance ourselves from the claustrophobic and sweaty crowds.
Now call me a scrooge if you must. We did wonder if we were being overly negative, but it just wasn’t our vibe I guess; it sort of felt like we were in an episode of the In Betweeners, or what I imagine it would be like if they held a 5k race in Magaluf. But I had been working towards this race for months, and didn’t even manage to run for the full distance, so the disappointment was potent.
Anyway, in order to offset all of this negativity, I’ve found a way to take some positives from this experience:
- I got my quickest time for 1 km to date (5 mins 41, if you’re asking).
- Once Jess and I parted company, I was so excruciatingly embarrassed about the state of myself, that I ran home from the train station, which was—yes, you’ve guessed it—1 km distance, so my cumulative total was still 5 km.
- Such was my disappointment at the anti-climax of the event that I’ve signed up for my local Park Run on Saturday morning (WHICH IS FREE BY THE WAY AND THEY DO THEM EVERY SINGLE WEEK), so that I can prove to myself that I can actually do this, safe in the knowledge that I’m not going to have paint lobbed at me or have to walk for the crucial final furlong.
Wish me luck, and I’ll catch you on the flipside.