Wednesday night was the final race in the Barnsley AC winter track series. So far, we’ve run 5,000m and 3,000m, but Wednesday was the big one, the 10,000m. I wasn’t looking forward to running 25 laps in the dark and cold, but I absolutely loved it.
It was a fantastic race. On a few laps I was even smiling, not so much from running round in circles, but from the camaraderie. It was such a lovely atmosphere.
For the first few laps I led a group in the middle of the pack. When my pace slowed, someone else stepped in. We worked together. I was trying to keep focused, counting the number of laps we’d completed. I lost count at number six, or was it seven?
‘How many laps have we done?’ I asked the group.
‘Don’t worry about that,’ Mark said. ‘Just count the number of times we get lapped by the leader, and then deduct that from the board.’
This seemed a sensible approach, but when the leader whizzed past every couple of minutes, I soon lost count of that too.
Round and round we went, not really sure how many laps we’d done or how many were left. Round and round, until it was just me and my friend Jo. Jo got in front at around the half way point and, as always, she pushed the pace on. I tucked in behind, hoping that I’d manage to stay with her through the wilderness laps. I kept my eyes on Jo’s back, which is when I noticed two letters printed on the back of her shorts.
‘GB’ it said. And there was a little flag printed next to it. A red, white and blue flag.
‘Bloody hell! Have you run for GB?’
‘Yes,’ Jo shouted over her shoulder. ‘In duathlon. I do a lot of cycling.’
I was very impressed. ‘That’s fantastic!’
Imagine getting a GB vest, running for your country. How good would that be. And then I began to realise that I was competing against a professional, a GB professional, and that made me panic.
My internal thoughts started working in overdrive. You’re not good enough. You’re too fat. Too slow. Not training hard enough. Not doing this. Not doing that.
I was mid-conversation with myself when my friend Fiona lapped me for the second, or possibly third, time.
‘Come on, Liz!’ She said. ‘Be confident.’
‘Be confident.’ I stepped behind Fiona, got in her slipstream, and put in a bit of an effort. I surprised myself and Fiona by almost overtaking her. Obviously I couldn’t sustain Fiona’s five something mile pace, but I was pleased I’d had the confidence to pass Jo.
Unfortunately I didn’t have the confidence to keep going. I didn’t have the confidence to keep pushing. Within a few laps, Jo was back in front, with me hanging on behind.
We carried on running. The faster runners were on their final laps. The bell was ringing. Words cannot describe how I felt when I realized others were finishing and I still had four laps to go.
I told myself to stay focused and keep going. Four laps became three laps and then two. I needed to make a move. But when? I didn’t dare go at 800m. I daren’t go at 700m or 600m. With 550m to go, I went for it.
I sprinted down the straight. Chris was cheering for me, thinking I was finishing, when I had a lap to go. I pushed on and on. ‘Keep going,’ I told myself. And I was actually rather pleased that I managed to, because my legs were wobbling and my lungs were gasping. But I did it.
I finished second lady in 42.10 and immediately wondered if I should have had the confidence to make a move sooner. Had I worked hard enough?
I wasn’t sure I had. Could I have pushed more? There’s a fine line between giving it everything and being sensible enough to finish the race. I’m still trying to get the balance right. I’m still working on my racing confidence.
I don’t want to over think things. The 42.10 time isn’t the one I would have liked, but this race was great fun. I really enjoyed it. And that’s what racing is all about.