Sunday, 16 September 2007

sub elite

I dislike the nomenclature "weekend warrior", but I have to confess that us middle-age almost-fast runners with thinning hair and Swedish cars do have a competitive streak in us. I was at the Cardiff 10k this weekend, feeling sprightly, and almost gleeful at the thought of the prizes for the first ten places, plus one each for age groups. It's the fourth time I've run this race (the first was only my second race), and I've never made a good time, mainly because I can't run 10ks. I run them at the same speed as half marathons. But I was feeling quite up, and strangely sleepy before this outing, which is usually a good sign. Maybe I could even get placed. Then the announcer read out the names of the elite runners who were participating. There were twenty four of them. This is my home town. You can't go and flood it with ringers. No prizes then, but the weather was fine, mild without being warm or sunny, and the air clear.

I'd sliced almost twenty seconds off my 5k PB at Haverhill on the preceding Thursday, coming in 8th at 18:06. That felt pretty good. And I'd put in some miles on Friday morning. These races aren't targeted for good times. They're just stepping stones and speed workouts and fun events on the road to Berlin. The Berlin marathon is now only a fortnight away, and that's the target. Not that I've got sufficient miles in ...

They changed the course at Cardiff this year. Instead of a hairpin turn followed by a couple of loops around the museum block before heading into the park, the race started in Sofia Gardens -- the castle grounds -- and headed towards Llandaff, before turning into cathedral road -- and even this looked good at this speed -- looping around the castle and back into the grounds. The various contiguous parks around the castle, and the river banks that curve through them, are a wonderful resource, that we don't always appreciate. I appreciated every step as, at 6k, I checked my watch and realised that I was going to break my target of 37:59 even if my pace dropped off to a relatively easy four-minute-kilometres. Instead they kept rolling in at around 3:40, and I gained enough confidence to pass some pretty decent runners. The clouds were rolling back, and it was proving to be a glorious day.

I came in at 36:42, 58th place, shearing 100 seconds off my PB. I enjoyed every minute. Even though I didn't win a prize. But by now I've learned something great about racing. Running knowing that you're always going to lose, and running hard anyway, is a statement of character. It's a perverse and valuable conception of "competition".

So, despite the low mileage, the speed is looking good, and maybe Berlin will be ok.


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