FOR my first session after the Great North Run, I decided to try something different. I’ve signed up to four sessions training with a group targeting the cross-country season. And while I have no intention of setting foot on the cross-country racing circuit, I did think it would help my 10k training and my ambition of breaking 40 minutes.
So, last Saturday morning I went along to meet a different group in a different area, not really knowing what to expect. Despite taking a few wrong turns, I was the first to arrive. I sat in the car with Chris, and waited and waited, and couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous.
I stared out of the car window. A car pulled up and three children jumped out. They raced over to a big rock in the middle of the field, and immediately started climbing it, then they were off the rock and racing back to their parents. I felt exhausted just watching. They were obviously here for a morning in the park. They wouldn’t be running would they?
More people started to arrive. I say people, but they were young people, very young. Children, in fact, aged about ten, and they were all here to train for the cross-country. I remained in the car, hoping that no one spotted me. When they started running, I’d drive away.
A few more children arrived. Some of the mums were in sports gear. Perhaps they were running too? I stayed seated, keeping my fingers firmly crossed.
‘Come on!’ One of the mums was heading my way. ‘You can’t stay in the car forever.’
I’d been spotted. I stuck my head out of the window. ‘I daren’t get out!’ I said. ‘Are you running too?’
She nodded. I did a silent cheer and got out of the car.
I was hoping the coach would separate us into two groups. Old folk to one side, young up-and-coming athletes to the other, but he didn’t. We were one group – young and old training together on a Saturday morning. ‘It’s fine,’ I told myself. ‘It’ll be fine.’
But then the coach gave me the job of pacing. He told four of the boys that they had to stay behind me. I looked at the boys as they bounded about. They looked fast. They looked to have loads of energy. They did not look like they’d been out for curry, cake, and a few drinks the night before!
I was beginning to panic. They’d want me to run fast. They didn’t want some old woman messing up their training. Off we went. They stuck to me: two either side, two behind. I could hear them breathing. It scared me! I went faster, too fast. A glimpse at my watch said under six-minute mile pace. I was going to die. Down the back straight they started racing, pushing on, elbows jabbing to get past. Not being used to the argy-bargy, I let out a little scream.
My legs felt wobbly, and this was only the first rep. We had a three-minute recovery. ‘Was that fast enough?’ I asked. ‘I don’t want to hold you back.’
One of the younger boys said it was too fast. ‘We’ll go slower this time,’ I told him, feeling rather relieved. ‘You two?’ I pointed at two brothers who were super speedy and falling over themselves to get past me. ‘Please can you run with Chris? You’re going to kill me.’
After such a fast first rep, I knew I’d get slower. This was the one consistent thing. I got slower and slower and slower. My stomach sloshed about so much I thought last night’s curry might reappear. Thankfully, I was spared the embarrassment.
I completed the session with the children, who I have to say were lovely and such amazing runners and so competitive. ‘I think I enjoyed that,’ I told Chris. ‘What great kids.’
The boys ran to meet their parents, while I staggered back to the car. ‘I wonder what they thought about me?’ I said. ‘I mean, I’m old enough to be their mother!’