TWO hours before the Wombwell five-mile road race on Sunday and I was writing an essay that should have been handed in last Thursday. I was so focused on talking about Virginia Woolf and feminism that I forgot to get nervous for the race. I simply turned up and ran.
Until I was actually standing on the start line, my thoughts had been totally consumed by university deadlines and panic about how I’m falling behind with everything. But when one of the officials shouted ‘Go!’ my academic stresses vanished and the physical pain began.
I was determined to get off to a faster start than I usually do. The first lap of the go-karting track was great. I felt strong and confident, running alongside my new teammates from Barnsley Athletic Club. Once we were out on the roads, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay with them, so settled into my own pace.
Snake Lane hill was looming. Over the past few years, I’ve been really strong on the hills of Wombwell, but with a lack of hill training, I wondered if I’d even be able to get to the top. Thanks to a friend from Sheffield Running Club cheering me on, I managed to not only get to the top, but work quite hard and pass a few people too.
That said, I’m so pleased no one was at the top of the hills taking photographs, because it was not a pretty sight. It really hurt. I wondered what I was doing. Not only was it painful, but there was also the internal voice telling me that I should be at home writing four-thousand words on Virginia Woolf.
At the moment, studying and training are competing for my time. I want to do well at everything, but don’t really have the time. By trying to do everything, I’m not really excelling in running, studying or writing. In my running, I’m ticking along nicely, not getting any faster or slower, but holding a kind of middle ground. In my English Literature degree I already have my degree classification, but still need to finish the course. That means there have been a lot of last-minute panic deadlines. And in my MA in writing I need to have 40,000 words written for the third of May.
All these thoughts were whizzing around my head at the top of the Wombwell hills. I took a deep breath and tried to forget about all my worries. As I did this I moved to the right, heading for the other side of the road. Unfortunately, I hadn’t noticed the chap running behind me. Our legs got tangled and I tripped forward ‘Aaaaahhh!’ I didn’t fall, but I knew I had to focus.
I’d just got back into a rhythm when Lee from Kingstone came up behind me and tried to trip me up. ‘Aaaaahhhh!’ I was very loud and dramatic in my shouting. Lee obviously didn’t mean to trip me up, him being a friend and everything. Lee and I have raced lots of times. What usually happens is that we work together during the race, and then he’ll out sprint me at the end.
We started running together. Lee ahead, then me pushing on. I was working as hard as I possibly could. We turned onto the track, my body was moving but every step was slow and painful. Instead of gliding gracefully across the track, I planted my feet like an elephant.
People were shouting for me, telling me to keep going. I couldn’t acknowledge them, but it really helped (thank you people!).
My mind and body were in a haze of pain.
‘You can get Lee,’ someone shouted. At this point I was hanging on. I did not care if I finished before or after Lee; I just wanted to finish.
We ran one lap of the course. Only half a lap left. We could see the finish line, which is when Lee came past me like he was running a 100m sprint. The speed of the man.
‘Balls to that,’ I thought. There was no way I could match that pace. But the competitive me did not give in. I was a wobbling mess of a runner, but I pumped my arms and moved my legs, and tried my best to sprint.
I crossed the line in 33:22, behind Lee and four seconds short of my 33:18 personal best. Lee, as a result of his Usain Bolt finish, got a PB by one second. If only I’d managed to stay with him I would have too!
I was both happy and unhappy with my race. Happy because I’m not too far off my PB, but unhappy, well more frustrated really, that I’ve not been able to dedicate more time to training.
‘You’ve taken a lot on,’ said Chris, which wasn’t really very helpful at all.
‘But,’ he added. ‘You’re managing to juggle everything.’ Here he redeemed himself, and I felt better and a little bit proud of myself for managing to juggle things and not have a nervous breakdown.
I finished seventh overall and first vet 35, so got a lovely plastic trophy that I will treasure forever.
I was part of the Barnsley AC team that won team silver. AC also won team gold and a silver in the men’s race. Chris finished first vet 40 and there were lots of prizes and PBs for my friends too. It was a good morning’s work!
As always, we were the last to leave. Chris and I ran down the trail towards the car park, our arms full of medals and trophies (to hand out to others), looking like we’d just burgled the local church. It was only when we were back in the car that I remembered about Virginia Woolf. I was too tired to pick up a pen, never mind write an essay.
‘Note to self,’ I told Chris. ‘Racing and essay-writing must never be done on the same day.’