Having ended 2008 strongly, chipping away at my 10K record, I started 2009 with little more than hangovers, a choc-filled stomach and then one of those coughs that was looking like it would hang around for eternity. The result was nearly three weeks of inactivity, only ended with a tentative venture out on the footy field.
But this week I’ve got back into my running again. I remember wanting to keep it up after my ’98 marathon, and then failing dismally. This time, I was determined not to quit, even with no goals to aim for. When you have a break from it, it would be easy to say, “Oh, it’s too hard to come back now. I’ll just play my footy and think about running next time some fool wants to do a marathon.” You know it’s going to hurt a bit after a break. It’s wet, cold and dark outside. You don’t have any incentive to go out and pound the pavement. You probably should get some new trainers. You don’t have the time now you’re back at work. Footy’s always on the telly. I’m still not 100% over my illness. That curry last night probably won’t have been great preparation for me.
The list of excuses were there, but I decided to get back out there on Sunday. Boy, did I feel slow! I did my usual route of 2.5 miles mainly downhill, turn around and back again (obviously then mainly uphill) and at times I felt I was going backwards. Strange thing is, the time – 9:20 pace – didn’t end up too bad, given the conditions. Either my perception of speed was out or I was simply faster in some parts.
The next two days was spent in a bit of pain – my thighs especially – as my body let me know that you can’t just break for a few weeks and expect everything to be how you left it. The fact that footy had to be cancelled on Tuesday due to lack of numbers was probably a blessing…
So to today. I got home from work pumped up for a run. You get those days sometimes, when all those excuses get swept away and you just want to get out there and run. Before you know it, you’ve got your gear on, have done your stretches and are out the door. It was drizzly and misty, but I didnt care. I was on a mission to break my 10K record.
A mile in, and things were going well. I’d stormed off and was feeling fresh. My calves were fine, and the hat was protecting me from the fine rain that quite frankly should be embarrassed to call itself precipitation. Sweeping down the hill before I hit the town centre, my Nike+ wristband was shocked to show my pace in the late 7’s. And then I realised that I wasn’t going to turn around and go back again – I had to go my alternative course to make up the extra mileage for the 10K. Suddenly my two mile burst of speed was looking a bit premature, as the thought of the many uphill sections sprang to mind.
It’s times like this when you wonder what the heck you’re doing on a Wednesday night in the dark and rain with nothing to aim for. Slowing up what must have been the umpteenth bit of hill, I figured that the record was out of my reach. Should I quit? Take a shortcut? No – I decided that I’d never quit a run unless injury struck, so carried on. Even my favourite section was taking it out of me. When would this course end? I’m sure it wasn’t this long last time…
After about five miles, I reached the back straight – a long, easy, flatish section. I put my foot down and went for it. Half a mile later, and I thought maybe the record was back on. I didn’t dare check the time. The display was in miles, and I couldn’t remember what 10K was – 6.8 or 6.2? I decided to do 6.9 just in case (it’s 6.2, as I just Googled it. D’oh.) Feeling like I was sprinting like a madman in jelly, I somehow kept going, excited at the prospect of breaking my record after that fantastic last two miles. So, did I?
No. Missed it by a couple of minutes. Dammit. The uphill sections where my legs struggled must have cost me, and I knew I wasn’t as strong on the middle section as my record run. But…hang on, let’s compare the other stats – I shaved a couple of seconds off my 5K split time and my fastest mile time (however that is worked out) is now under 8 minutes. Hey, I’ll settle for that.
So, the moral is that even if you feel like you can take on the world, sometimes it’s not meant to be. It’s hard to come back from a break and expect to pick up from where you left off. But at least I know I’ll be stronger now, and maybe at the weekend I can have another crack at it. What’s life without goals, eh?