If you’ve been keeping up with No More Mr Fat Guy news, you will know that yesterday I took part in my first ever 10km fun run. This is the story of how the day unfolded…
early to bed, early to rise
I was determined that everything would go smoothly, I had no idea how these events worked, so I made sure that I registered in time for the race bib to be delivered by post. 9pm on Saturday I had everything ready to go; sports top, shorts, running shoes, socks, compression shorts, spare t-shirt and towel packed in a little rucksack…
Heading to bed by 9:30pm would normally ensure that I was awake around 3:30am, and that was what I was aiming for, but I was taking no chances. I set the alarm, had a large glass of water and laid down for a decent sleep.
I did manage to get a reasonable sleep in, but it took a while to drift off (nerves, excitement) and I actually woke up just before 3am!
After finally accepting that I wasn’t going to get any more sleep in, I got up around 3:15 and had a nice hot relaxing shower, before heading to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. I remembered reading somewhere that you should have a good breakfast at least 3 hours before the run, so with 4 hours to go I cooked up some bacon, eggs and toast, washed down with some orange juice.
Shortly after I quickly checked email and Facebook, and happened to find the article I had read previously; the ACTUAL advice was “have a good breakfast 3 hours before, but limit it to 2 pieces of toast, a banana and a cup of tea or coffee”.
Oh well – I was sure that 4 hours would be plenty of time for breakfast to be processed, and avoid having it again in reverse…
I had a Facebook message from Britt (personal trainer) – she’d lost all her numbers from her phone and wanted me to call her. We had a quick chat about the preparation I had done (mainly that consisted of a bit of running, a 30km row and 48 hours of rest). She wished me luck, told me to enjoy it and to take photos!
It was now about 5:30, and my mate Steve was due to pick me up at 6. We were aiming to be in Freo between 6:30 and 7, with the race starting at 7:30. Fremantle is about 20 to 30 minutes drive from my place.
I slowly got dressed, still not fully believing that it was ME who was actually getting dressed in running gear, preparing to take part in a frigging 10 kilometre run!
My mind was surprisingly calm – probably helped by the fact that my only “goal” was to complete the run without walking any part of the course. I had run 10km in the gym twice, and once on the local roads, so I knew I was capable of doing it…
are we really doing this?
Just before 6, Steve showed up and it was time to leave the house and face up to the fact that we’d registered to run 10km in Fremantle on a Sunday morning in spring! The weather forecast was good, though it would mean running in warm conditions for the first time. This was clearly going to make hydration more important than it would be at the end of Winter at 4am (roughly the time I had run 10km on the local roads).
We were both a little bemused that we were actually doing this – only 6 months ago, attempting to run 10 metres would wear me out for the whole day, while running 100 metres would probably have carried the risk of me needing emergency treatment. Steve wasn’t as out of shape as me, nonetheless it did transpire that he hadn’t been to the gym for 2 months, and had done nothing to prepare for this.
So we set off towards Freo, two complete idiots who had decided this was a great way to spend a Sunday morning…
We arrived at the start/finish location at about 6:30 – there were very few people around, and we sat in the car joking about how stupid we really were. I started to wonder if this was such a good idea, had a few worries about doing this in quite such a public way (it’s a whole different prospect than anonymously jogging around your local roads at 4am) but those thoughts didn’t last too long, thankfully.
Around 6:45 we headed over to the main table where Steve picked up his race bib, we started having a look around to get a feel for the standard of our fellow runners. It quickly became obvious that most of them were quite a few levels above us, and we started making a bigger effort to spot people who might feasibly help us avoid finishing last (only for a laugh to be honest).
I spotted a familiar face in the crowds – a guy (Ryan) I know from a couple of networking events, and from Facebook. I knew he was a fairly regular runner, so I wasn’t that surprised to see him. I think he was a bit shocked to see me though. We chatted briefly before he went off to do a spot of warming up.
I joked to Steve that I planned to do my warm up for the first 5km of the run. We actually did a bit of walking and limbering up – it seemed like a sensible thing to do!
last minute nerves and preparation
10 minutes to go and we were asked to assemble behind the start line. Holy crap – this was it!
Following the advice of the race organiser, we made sure we were fairly close to the back of the crowd so we weren’t in the way of people who were faster than us. Based on visual impressions of relative fitness, we stood behind people who were pushing prams, running with small children.
In all seriousness, I was keen to not have too many people behind us. I had a gameplan that consisted of plugging in the earphones, turning up the volume and simply running at the pace I knew I could handle. I didn’t want the occasion to get to me and cause me to set off too quickly.
3 minutes to go and I became very aware of a developing issue – I needed a bloody pee! So off I dashed to the portable loos and fumbled with the various layers of shorts, compression shorts, boxer shorts…
1 minute to go and I was ready, I was going to do this and it was going to be FUN!
I shook Steve’s hand and the crowd started to join in the countdown 10, 9, 8……
and they are off!
The start was a bit of an anticlimax in some ways – we walked most of the way to the starting line as the crowd (about 1000 people I think) squeezed through the starting area. But we were soon jogging the first few paces, flanked by lines of spectators and the somewhat alien environment of a proper starting line, gantry, race clock, PA announcements… we were actually taking part in a real, proper race (even if we weren’t actually racing as such).
We could see front runners heading off at a decent pace (we’d already gasped earlier when we heard that the course record was about 29 minutes) – I very quickly locked into the mode I had planned; music was playing, I had started the “Map My Run” app and I settled into a nice rhythm.
The course itself was an elongated T shape, it was nice and flat and comprised of a small number of long straight sections. I held my pace and not long after I made the first 90 degree turn (into the trunk of the T) the “Map My Run” voice announced 1.6km and a pace of around 7minutes 15 seconds per kilometre.
At that point I did some quick mental arithmetic and figured I was on track for a time I would be very happy with (about 10 to 15 minutes quicker than I had recorded on the treadmill last time around).
I was enjoying the run so far, the weather was very pleasant, the environment and scenery were relaxing and I was putting no pressure on myself to do anything except complete the course.
Every now and then I would find that my focus had gone “external” – it was at those moments that I felt the jarring of joints and muscles a little more keenly, could feel a gentle stitch building up… The cure was to force a switch back to internalising everything; literally going inside myself, letting the music flow over my eardrums, my eyes mostly fixed on the road a few meters ahead and occupying my mind with activities like mental arithmetic, reviewing the progress made since January or simply counting to 4 or 10 over and over.
By keeping the mind occupied with relatively simple tasks, it could not focus on the boredom or physical discomfort of the run.
At the 3km mark I had my first experience of a drink station – I successfully grabbed a cup of water without really breaking my rhythm, actually taking a sip or two proved slightly more problematic and I’m sure it looked hilarious as I managed to take a mouthful or two.
The other significant event that occurred at the 3km mark was being lapped by the race leaders, including Ryan. The fact that they were heading into their last 2km, just as I had reached the 3km mark was incredible (to me anyway).
From the 3km mark there was a single straight section that headed almost all the way back to the start – there was no break in the monotony of that stretch, no trunk of the T to go down and back up. It had the potential to be fairly soul destroying as you could see an unending road stretching out for miles in front of you. My strategy and approach to the run overcame that because I wasn’t looking that far ahead!
here we go again
A few hundred metres or so from our staring position, we veered off to the left and started lap 2 of the circuit. At that stage I knew I was going to do this, I had got to the half way mark, the Map My Run voice had informed me that I was still holding a steady pace of around 7:15 to 7:20 per km, and I felt that there was enough in reserve to get me across the line.
I had worried that doing 2 laps of the same course might work against me psychologically, but the reality was I was now fully aware of EXACTLY what was left to do. It held no fear or concerns for me, I knew it was completely flat, and I was able to track my progress because I was now familiar with my surroundings.
The trunk of the T arrived again – it seemed a little longer this time to be honest, but the race marshalls were great, just having a few people clapping and encouraging is surprisingly beneficial and motivational.
When we came out of the trunk it seemed as though the second lap was much quicker than the first – this was just a psychological trick of the mind in the same way that a car journey home always seems shorter than the outward journey to somewhere new. Map My Run reliably informed me that my pace was amazingly consistent and I allowed myself a brief moment of self-congratulation on that fact!
After a second time through some lovely coastal parkland, I reached the 3km water station for the second time and knew I was now in the home stretch, albeit a long, straight, boring home stretch…
I still hadn’t broken my stride, the little voice in my phone had reassured me that I was still holding roughly the same pace, but now I felt my mind starting to focus on the finish line. Again I had to force that external focus back inside, fix my eyes on the raod just ahead and simply (and literally) plod on.
I resisted the temptation to push on prematurely, even when I got to the sign telling me just 1km to go.
finish with a flurry
I felt great inside, I was going to finish this run and it was going to better my previous best by 10 minutes. The music played on, I plodded, I continued to count 1,2,3,4, 1,2,3,4, I mentally calculated what my overall running speed was, I did everything except think about how far I had left to go.
Then the long straight bit came to an end – I could see the very edges of the green of Esplanade Park. I could see runners who had already completed their 5km and 10km runs (most of the other 1000 people to be honest) stretching, unwinding, walking away… it seemed that everyone was encouraging those of us still running, I could see people applauding. I have since been told that Ryan was shouting “1km to go mate” but I was still in my internal world at the time (appreciate the encouragement though mate!)
As I hit the green lush grass of the park I knew there was just a few hundred metres to go and I started to increase my pace. I was determined to have a great finish – while I knew I couldn’t hold a much higher pace than I had for the 10km, I knew that the months of training had delivered a rock solid cardio engine that had plenty left in reserve, and would recover quickly too.
I cannot describe the feeling as the course started to narrow into a finishing channel and the race clock came into view – I could see people lined up either side. I knew they were going to see ME running across the finish line. I was going to complete a 10 frigging kilometer run, in public, having jogged the whole way round, and do so in a respectable time.
All those years of NOT finishing the school cross country course, all those years of hating the idea of running, all those years of being Mr Fat Guy.
Gone in one moment of ecstasy. I crossed the line, the race official thrust a certificate in my had as proof that I had finished and I was on top of the fucking world!
on top of the world with a well earned brekkie
After a little stretching, a change of shirt and some hearty swigs of water. Steve and I took a walk into Fremantle. We plonked ourselves at a table on the Cappuccino Strip and ordered breakfast number 2 for the day.
As I waited for the pancakes (with banana, strawberry and maple syrup) and Long Macchiato to arrive, we chatted and reflected. We reflected on the fact that it was just after 9am on a gloriously warm (about 23 degrees by this point) and sunny spring morning, we were on the Cappuccino Strip in Freo, we’d been awake for 5 hours and we had just successfully completed a 10km run.
It wasn’t quite the warm afterglow of sexual intercourse, but it was damn close.
Ah Fremantle! Whatever the future brings, you will always be my first; I will remember our time together fondly…