Racing is not about me against anyone else. It is about me against the distance. It is about me against the clock. It is about the challenge that I set myself to get round the course in the quickest time I can. It is personal.
This is for me the fundamental challenge of running – the challenge you set yourself. I know myself how easy it can be to become distracted when running in a large group, to look around and focus on others and how fast they are going and to lose focus on what I should be doing. No one else but me is going to get me around the course and everybody else has got their own race to worry about without thinking about how fast or slow I am going, which is why it is so essential for me to run my own race.
“It is not easy… to shut out everything”
I should also say that this is something that I have learned, and am continuing to learn, how to deal with. It is not easy – well I have not found it easy anyway – to shut out everything and remain aware of my own running ryhthm, to concentrate on my breathing, to think about my cadence or to try to blank out any pain I might be going through!!
The other thing about racing is simply about how you feel on the day of the race itself and this was certainly the case as I headed for Edinburgh last Sunday for the Men’s 10k race. I had not felt great overnight so after a restless night with little sleep while staying in Glasgow followed by a one hour drive, ten minute tram ride then ten minute walk to get to the start line I was not exactly feeling in prime condition for any type of racing as we lined up.
“there is no chance I am going to be keeping up with this guy”
One positive was that I was running with my brother and also met up with another friend before the start but as we stood there and debated what time we would aim for, I was definitely planning a straightforward, easy run rather than an eyeballs out dash for a new personal best. It was also a bit chilly as we lined up just down from Edinburgh Castle as the countdown continued for the race to begin. As we stood there, the 55 minute pacer just happened to come and stand beside us. My PB is 54 minutes dead. I thought, “well there is no chance I am going to be keeping up with this guy”.
The opening couple of miles of the course – through the historic centre of Edinburgh – was almost entirely downhill and as we got into our stride, suddenly I began to feel ok. The pace was ok, and after a tight couple of turns at the start, the course opened out and the roads were not too crowded. The added bonus? We were still quite close to the pacer.
The course then levelled out before halfway and at that point we were ahead of 55 minute pace, then we started heading uphill and still we were right there with the pacer himself, doing a great job of encouraging everyone around him to keep together, to keep pushing. The pace felt good, not too much of a strain, and I felt strong on the uphill section. It is amazing how things can turn around. I also think the confidence I have gained this year through doing a number of races is really beginning to feed into my running as well.
“I realised I could actually beat my PB time”
The final couple of miles of the course was pretty flat so as we got to about a mile and a half to go my brother and I pushed on, stretching past the pacer as I realised that I could actually beat my PB time if I pushed on a bit. The course then finished inside Murrayfield Stadium – the home of Scottish Rugby – and my brother and I kept up the pace and we crossed the line at 53mins 27secs. I could hardly believe it. A race that I thought would be a bit of a write-off in terms of pace had ended up being my quickest ever. Fourteen months ago I ran 55mins 22 secs for a 10k and I never thought I could go faster than that. Now in 2018 I have moved that PB down to 54mins flat and now below that. I would also really like to record my thanks to Gordon Gallagher for a great pacing job.
Now I fully realised that more than one thousand people were quicker than me on Sunday. But my time is my definition of fast. It is fast for me. And that is all that should matter. I see it a lot on social media, people worrying about what others think about their pace, and also, and this infuriates me, other runners criticising people for being slow. If any new runners are reading this, please do not get lost in worrying about how fast others are. I cannot have any control on whether I am faster than anyone else. I can only be the fastest I can be – and for that, I am so happy with my time from Sunday.
I also posted a review of the race on the Racecheck website which you can check out here
The rest of my running week was great, but for other reasons. I travelled to Cologne in Germany for work and took advantage of the amazing location to get in a couple of runs. Well with this view, who could fail to be inspired to run around the centre and the city’s historic Cathedral.
And after running at night, when I had already thought the view was pretty spectacular, it was such a beautiful morning that I went out again, this time sticking to the banks of the Rhine River to get in some early miles.
This has been the kind of running week I wish I could have all the time. A personal best followed by runs in stunning locations. It rarely gets better than this, but I think we all recognise that in order to enjoy the good, we also need to endure the bad. It truly is all about balance. There is no doubt the significance of my PB this week is enhanced by the knowledge of how hard I have worked this year to get to this point.
The Edinburgh race is likely to be my last formal race of the year, thought I am looking forward to getting back into the Parkrun routine after a spell of six weekends away from home on the trot. I have a week at home this week. Time to sort out my racing calendar for at least the early part of 2019.