As long as it means I don't have to run too far the next day...
So yesterday I finally donned the old New Balances and set out running in anger, taking part in the Ageo Half Marathon, my first competitive race. This was the first time I had run a race with other people since, probably, secondary school, so it was a bit of an eye-opener.
So, some thoughts and observations about running...
1. Everything I've read about it, which is a bit in recent years, says that at the start of a race novice runners tend to get carried away with the moment, so try to curb your instincts and don't rush off. This was not a problem for me - I had very sensibly headed for the sign saying 1h40m-2h00m, thinking that most people in front of me would be faster. Oh how wrong I was - now the people right at the front were seriously fast, fair enough, but most of them were not, so that for about the first 3 to 4 kilometres I had to run at quite a slow pace (for me) as I dodged around slow moving other runners who should in no way have been up near the front at the start. All the dodging and stop-starting meant I couldn't get into anything like a normal slightly under 5-minute kilometre pace, most frustrating. It might sound poncey, but even my breathing didn't get into the proper rhythm for about 20 minutes.
2. Running with other people is weird. As I said, I haven't done it for a long while, so having thousands of other people around doing the same thing (there were about 6,000 of us) was quite off putting to begin with - again it's all about getting into your own rhythm and with all these people around you with weird breathing or funny footfalls it really puts you off. Now I realise that to someone else I was quite possibly the most annoying person there (actually no, that would have been the bloke in the AC Milan shirt who sounded like Monica Seles with a heavy cold during a long baseline rally) anyway, other people are annoying.
3. But not as annoying as little bands playing music - especially playing traditional Japanese music, which is a few drums, a flute and some clicky stick things. The natural speed and tempo of this 'music' is so completely out of sync with running that it it really fucks you up and, naturally, they were all placed at strategic points where you'd just found your own natural running tempo and now you're thrown off kilter. And it's not like you can tell them to shut the fuck up as they're so happily enthusiastic about playing.
4. Fast runners can run really fast. This, you may think, sounds obvious, but you don't realise quite how fast they run. It's a bit like watching cars around you on the motorway and then stopping and watch them whizz past you - on the TV marathon runners look like they are running, yes, but as the cameras are on motorbikes you don't get a feel for their actualy velocity. The winner was running sub 3-minute kilometres, that's about how fast I sprint, for 21k!
5. 21kilometres is quite a long way, but not nearly as long as 42k, a full marathon, and whilst I enjoyed the run yesterday, there is no way I could contemplate running the whole thing again immediately afterwards. OK, I'd do more training if I was going to do the full monty, but really, it looks crazy.
6. But it was a good day. On my watch I did it in 1h49m53s and later my official time came in at 1h50m01s. I was aiming for about 1h45m so I was a little disappointed by the time (but happy to have finished, not got lame or gome home in an ambulance, as some runners did) but knowing more about the start I will edge closer to the line next time so as not to get too boxed in. And yes, there will be a next time as it was enjoyable in it's own way - indeed there was a section from 10k to about the 16k mark that felt really good (mainly, as I think, it was quite an empty, relatively, bit of road so not too many other runners to put you off and no dinky little drum bands to piss you off). Actually I think I could break the race down into sections:
Pre-race: ok, nervous, waiting for the race to start but having to listen to Ageo bigwigs saying stuff for 15 minutes - get on with it!
0-5k: dodging and weaving, slightly frustrated with other runners, quite slow pace. first drinks at 5.5k mark
5-10k: get into rhythm, relax, felt good, lower-left shin pain from previous runs disappears. Pass the front runners at about 8k mark as they had started the double-back, realise quite how fast they run. Seond drinks at 10k
10-16k: head out into the countryside, nicely spread field, good rhythm, stretch legs, everything felt smooth, best bit of the race. Third drinks at 16k
16-19k: gets busier as people in fron start to slow down whilst I am happy at regular pace, annoying AC Milan bloke, long straight bit of road that we ran down earlier, feels like it's going on for ages, calf muscles begin to feel heavy. Last drinks at 19k
19-21.1k: back through the underpass and on the home stretch. Calves and hamstrings begin to feel heavy, but then pass a few drop-outs and second wind hits (will not end up like them!). Into the stadium, one lap to the finish, looking around for the Guru and Marcus, see them just after crossing the finish line. Older Japanese bloke comes and thanks me, he'd been following me for the second 10k (good to have someone to pace you, for the first half I followed a woman in very pink running gear as she was easy to see in the crowd, went past her at about 12k mark - very useful to get your rhythm going), made me feel good that he made the effort to say that. Happy but shagged out. Off for pizzas for lunch in Omiya...