This last weekend was my final race for 2018 and although there is no Medal Monday to show for it, my Garmin route and Trail Events buff serve as medals enough. As it turns out, it was the kind of running event where the other runners looked very fast; short shorts whatever the weather kind of fast runners who’s french baguette legs and strong quads make you question your decision to start running at all and consider whether maybe there’s another sport out there more suited to you.
The weather was everything you don’t want on race day: rain coming down in sheets so hard it bounced and winds that make standing straight a challenge not to be messed with. The start line was on the beach with a clear stretch of hard wet sand to the estuary which wound up just above my knees deep. This river crossing was what I was most apprehensive about due to the cold I anticipated (I had no idea how shit my head torch was at this point). I don’t think I need to explain the cold; it was as cold as you most likely imagine it to have been complimented with lashings of wind and pelting rain pellets trying to penetrate your skin. This was a moment for using mindfulness to zone out of some sensations and into the task in hand. I breathed through it slowly and focused on the water just ahead of me. Each time after a while, the water became more shallow again as I waded towards the other side.
The crowd were all seemingly very friendly with numerous encouragements of “well done” more times than I can remember by other runners who were essentially lapping me on the return loop. This was all very friendly and well meaning, but with the course being a turn around loop I did feel rather inadequate and uncomfortable with my own performance. I know I often says “comparison is the thief of joy” and I stand by that statement. It really is, however after a while, and once I got to the turn around point it was just me and the woodland trail running along the estuary.
I really enjoyed the peace and quiet of the trail and it was a really nice antidote to a week of exams, excessive socializing and generally being quite busy. Even when I was alone in the pitch black with just my phone torch I was able to take this in my stride. My head torch died, although was also absolutely useless even when it was working. The only sounds were birds, the flowing water that morphed into waves and strong winds as I edged closer to the beach again, the creaking of enormous trees swaying in the wind and my feet squelching along the trail.
With this being the area I grew up in, being in the woods after dark is nothing new to me. I spent half of my teenage years deep in the woods at night with my friends in these areas. A trip down memory lane was the initial attraction of this race for me, and in bringing me some of the calm I found in woodland when I was younger it served it’s purpose well.
The final stretch across the sand was the most difficult stretch despite being essentially flat and able to see the lights of the end up the hill. It was at this point that I kept imagining myself on a documentary about my life and running, and imagining how the people on Gogglebox would be cheering me on through the wind and rain. Having an imaginary cheer team from the warmth of their imaginary sofas whilst I faced the elements seemed to really help. A hot chocolate in the refurbished old school house was a good end to a grueling and good day out.
Although this won’t go down as a best performance run it is definitely a learning curve and experience under my belt kind of run. Maybe next year I won’t have the apprehension about crossing such deep cold water. To top it off, I saw some crabs in the estuary water – now there’s something you don’t so on a road race.