I have only run four 10k races in my life and two of those were before I was running with a club. The first was a 5 or 6 lap jaunt around a local park about 4 months after my first Half Marathon and I think it took me just over an hour. To be honest I can’t really remember, there was bling and it was OK but not totally memorable. The second 10k was through some woods right next to my favorite Parkrun, I ran it with the mate I did that first Half with and that was definitely a sub hour, around 56 mins I think. I stayed with him for the first 4 or so miles and then just belted off to reach the end, I treated the whole thing as a bit of a jolly. Then came track training and club running.
Running with a club has given me the opportunity to do some proper track work and I know it has improved my pace. While this is good I really needed something to measure that progress against. Most of the track work is done with 10k training in mind and it seemed from all my work that I should be able to run a sub 50 time. I should be able to run a fair bit faster than a sub 50, but track times and race times are not the same, so a while back the opportunity came up to try out my 10k time in a proper race. ‘The Heron Way’ was organised by a local school as a fund raising idea and I have to say I was really impressed. There were a lot of entrants and the event had a bit of a carnival like feel, still there were some fairly serious runners there. I certainly pushed myself just to see what I could do. I ran 49 minutes with some loose change on an undulating trail course that had a totally unnecessary lap of the school field at the end. All in all I was quite pleased especially as I was a tad quicker than others I had always thought of as being fast. Still I had set a proper benchmark and this is where the competition comes in.
When I run, especially when I run in an official race I know I am not going to win but, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a competitive element. I am competing with myself. So when I signed up for the Crowborough 10k deep down I wanted a new PB. I was warned it was very hilly and there was a ford, but it was on road so at the very worst I did not want to be slower than 50 minutes. Publicly of course, knowing how much people dreaded the hill I said I would be happy with sub 1 hour. Well to say it was grim is an understatement, the first mile and a half was fine, a 6:30 mile, downhill of course then a few lumps, and to myself I was thinking ‘these hills aren’t so bad’ but I should have known. The real hill was yet to come. Through the ford, wet feet all ready for a humongous push up a hill with three false summits. Halfway up the second stretch I realised that I would probably be just as quick if I walked. To be honest I wasn’t but, I conserved some energy for the next loop making maximum use of the down-hills. I have worked out previously that you make more of a gain time wise from an energetic downhill than you do by really pushing yourself on the up-hills.
When I hit that hill on the second and final loop something happened which reminded me why I love running and runners. Even though I was really competing against myself there is still some element of representing your club. We wear club colours and they gain points as a whole depending on who turns up and where they place, so when halfway up that second stretch, while I was once again walking a hand just touched my back and said, ‘Almost at the top one last push’ I was mildly surprised to see another club shirt. Still I should not expect anything different, that chap could see someone just struggling with themselves and the hill, and did his little bit to offer support. It was all I needed to get my feet going and make the top of the hill without breaking out into another walk.
That I guess sums up how I think of running and competition, beating somebody else is never going to mean as much as beating yourself, and basking in the glory of somebody else’s PB is always going to feel better than beating somebody with one of your below par performances. I have friends who run slower than I do, I don’t relish being faster. It doesn’t give me satisfaction to watch them eat my dust. With those who have a bit of a slower pace it is ultimately more satisfying to help them do better than they thought possible, and that is what the chap who gave me a boost on Sunday was doing. Where I have paced people round Parkrun to get that buzz of helping out, he got the satisfaction in knowing he had helped push somebody a little faster than they had gone before.