It was a bank holiday here in Spain last Thursday, a perfect day for a lie in. But instead of sleeping in, for some mad reason I convinced myself that participating in a 5km road race was in fact what I wanted and needed!! I don’t know how I reached this conclusion at 6 am. It was obviously some sort of daybreak trick. A trick I fell for and so by mid- morning, much to my confusion, I found myself at the start line of the race. And not just in the midst of the race line-up, with your local Bob plodder, but right at the very front, surrounded by all these elite runners.
Two things crossed my mind as, in a panic I waited for the start gun to go off. If I have ever fantasied about being surrounded by a whole load of athletic, half naked men, this is not how I had envisioned it. I was surrounded by a handful of elite female runners and a whole mob of guys. In the reality of this odd fantasy, there is no whiff of Hugo Boss or Giorgio Armani cologne, rather smelly armpits and other, not so pleasant, body odours mixed with an overpowering smell of Reflex, a far cry from any erotic fantasy I could have possibly envisioned.
But what concerned me more, on finding myself right up at the front of the start line, is that though 5km may seem quite a distance for some, believe me, a 5 km road race, even for the most amateur runner, is a frantic sprint. The leaders will head the race at a pace of about 22 km per hour (14 mph). Slow for a car, but try and get your legs to go that fast! And I had a good chance of getting stampeded on in the first 100m.
At this point, my internal battle of “What the hell are you doing here?” Because I enjoy it “You’re too old for this” No I’m not “You could be having breakfast in bed!” But I don’t want to... “Seriously?”… takes wing. My mental conflict of why this could or could not be a good idea went on and on, only to be suddenly broken by the race commentator who’d recognised me amongst the mob of people and blasted my name out over the loud speakers. Startled, I found myself turning to the spectators to give a little wave and I hoped to God I don’t trip up and make a fool of myself in front of everyone, because then, those who don’t know who I am (the vast majority may I add) will now know and remember me for all the wrong reasons. Of course my heart beat went up a notch from the stress of it all and the race hadn’t even started yet! Perhaps breakfast in bed would have been the better option.