Although I finished on a bit of high after Potterspury, I was still a little intimidated by the prospect of running the next leg of the Tour around an athletics track. Considering that I hadn’t run a track race since I was a teenager, and never for anything over 800m, I had absolutely no idea how to approach the mile. The fact that I was going to be running 4 laps of the same thing also put me off because I couldn’t imagine it being anything other than boring. Even worse, there is no escape on a track. How could I enjoy my workout if everyone would be watching my every step?! I realised that I was probably the only runner who didn’t actually want to race anybody and who truly preferred the mile to be run en masse. I wondered if there was any way that the mile race could be run for fun? But I reasoned that even if some people were really racing, it was a short distance to contend with. It should be possible to run a little mile without succumbing to the pressure of competition. After all, it’s all in your head, isn’t it?
I wasn’t feeling so certain as I arrived at the track on race day, so I decided to ask my teenage daughter for some reassuring advice. After considering things for a mere millisecond she waved away my concerns and said I would be absolutely fine and wouldn’t have any problem, at all. She explained that all I had to do was simply run at a good pace and then speed up for the last 100m. The race ‘plan’ sounded pretty easy and I relaxed because if she wasn’t worried, why should I? Besides, as the race was ordered into several heats of runners, there would be many chances to watch how it should be done before my own race.
As I watched several faster heats set off and finish before me, I noticed that many of the runners were running really slowly around the track. At first, I thought that they must be following a different race plan from my own. However, even as they sprinted to the finish, they seemed to be putting a lot of effort into what looked more like jogging. I couldn’t understand how they could be getting such fast times when they were hardly sprinting. The more I watched, the more convinced I was that this mile business was going to be just fine.
Unfortunately, I found out that it is extremely deceptive to estimate speed when you are watching others running on a track. As soon as I started my race, I knew that I’d massively underestimated the speeds of the previous runners I’d watched. My mile race was being run at a fierce sprint from the go. In fact, it was impossible to keep up with the other runners and it didn’t get any better as the race went on. Despite the cheering for No 1 from the trackside spectators and my family, my legs simply would not go any faster than my breath allowed. It felt as if I was running in slow motion and I had to keep looking down to see if my legs were still moving. I suddenly remembered why I had never done a mile race before, because I had always hated sprinting for races longer than 100m. My brain was swiftly flooded with all the worst swears. As each lap went by, my legs seemed to shift down into even slower gears and gradually, I slipped to the back of the race like an abandoned caboose. I then faced an internal struggle to carry on running and with many eyes upon me, I knew that the mile could not finish soon enough. I prayed that when I reached the last 100m, I could find just enough speed for a final sprint. But I had nothing left in the tank, so to speak, and my number 1 could only cross the line, last of the pack. However, if I felt slightly downhearted, it didn’t last for very long. As the next heats of runners were up, like the rest, I cheered them on knowing that it was going to be tough for them. But as I watched them I also couldn’t help wondering to myself, why they were running so slowly?
It has to be said that I definitely found out the hard way that without question, the mile race cannot ever be described as something that is ‘fun’ to run. It is a highly competitive 4-lap mad sprint and running it on a track only increases the pressure of competition, ten-fold. Personally, that is not something that I would like more of. I may have finished Day 3 surprisingly tired for such a short race and a little frustrated but at least I was officially half way to the t-shirt.
Well, another day means another recipe so here’s a great one for Oatmeal soda bread. Be warned. The smell of this bread baking will tempt any teenager out of their room so you would be advised to bake two.