I SPENT most of the day on Wednesday hoping that the 5,000m winter track race would be cancelled.
We were experiencing a spot of windy weather – 60 mile per hour gusts at least. ‘They’ll cancel,’ I told Chris confidently. ‘It’s madness running in this.’
I sat at my desk, with the wind rattling the windows, checking my phone for news that it had been aborted. The news never came. It was on!
The wind was causing chaos. Leeds had been brought to a standstill, so I was stuck in traffic. A lorry had blown over on the motorway, so Chris was stuck in traffic too. After a two-hour car journey, we arrived at the track with only a few minutes to spare.
The race was 5,000m, twelve and a half laps of the Dorothy Hyman athletics track. Normally, 5k doesn’t seem so bad, but on Wednesday it was cold. It was dark. It was January. And it was blowing a gale. I just wanted to get it over with.
Chris’ race went first. He stepped off the track looking like he’d just returned from an expedition in the Arctic. ‘Up there,’ he pointed to the far side of the track. ‘It’s like hitting a wall.’
As I made my way to the start, I formed a plan. I would shelter behind one of the men, possibly two. I didn’t want to be running 5,000m into a head wind.
The gun went and we were off. I was in the lead. Given my very slow starts, this was very surprising. I’m never one to blast off a start line. I just don’t have the fast twitch fibres.
I slowed the pace, hoping that the largest man in the field would run past, thereby acting as my wind break. Instead Jo, a friend from a local club, trotted past. Jo is petite. She simply would not suffice as a wind break. And she was getting ahead anyway.
For a few laps, I took the full force of the wind. It hit me in my face, taking my breath, so I had to run with my head sideways, trying to gulp in the air. At one point it picked me up and blew me into another runner. It was no good at all.
My friend was up ahead. She was first lady too. I’d have to have a bash at catching her. I closed the gap quite quickly, but couldn’t bring myself to go past her. There were a few reasons for this. Firstly, she was going quite fast. Secondly, I couldn’t take a full on battering with the wind, and thirdly, I was lacking a bit of confidence in both my fitness and racing ability. I made the strategic decision to hang on and hope for the best.
With 800m to go, Jo put in a bit of an effort. ‘I’m done for,’ my negative self said. But then we hit windy corner. ‘No you’re not,’ my positive self said. I closed the gap. At 400m the bell went. I knew that I’d have to make a move at some point. I wasn’t sure when.
Coming down the back straight the wind had picked up force. I took a deep breath, mustered as much strength as I could and went for it. I finished first lady in 21.21.
I wasn’t happy with the time, (a minute slower than last year) but I was happy with the race. And how fantastic was it to just get out and race and not be worrying about what pace I’m doing, or whether or not I’ll get a PB. This was just racing. It was my first race of 2017. I loved it.