Statistically, I seem to run best when it’s raining or a Sunday. Living in Scotland means there’s a one in seven chance of this happening. Yesterday was pouring, so I was optimistic that things would go okay!
I admit I felt a little overwhelmed and under prepared. I’d been training consistently for ten weeks, but little things threw me off. Like forgetting to bring my water bottle. Like waiting til the night to decide what to wear and finding nothing clean, thus having to wear whatever was the least stinky. Like not having safety pins to attach my race number to my t-shirt.
Who the hell has safety pins? My mum, my granny, my supremely organised sister: they have safety pins. I do not have safety pins. Do you think I could find any in the shops on Saturday afternoon? Nooo. I even tried pinning the number with some of those dinky rock band badges to no avail. Finally the Scottish Companion had the brainwave of stapling it on. This took around half an hour and our combined brain power to figure out. It is very difficult to staple a piece of paper onto thick cotton with a flimsy stapler; difficult to do it straight and difficult to avoid stabbing your boobs.
But it didn’t matter in the end. It was raining so steadily that I ended up my shitty waterproof jacket over the top so you couldn’t see the number anyway. The rain seemed to make the crowd even more loopy. It was a great atmosphere, no one was taking it too seriously. There were runners and walkers of all shapes and sizes; many with little pink signs on the back of their shirts with names of loved ones they’d lost to cancer. Every time I’d see someone with My Mum or Auntie Josephine on their backs I’d get a little teary. Except when I saw a wee girl with Kylie Minogue written on her back, I just cracked up laughing.
The rain came down even harder as we were lead through some warm-up aerobics. The water combined with 7000 women jumping up and down made big fat earthworms wash up to the surface. It was surreal. Then the race start was slightly delayed by a guy getting on stage to propose to his girlfriend. Creative, eh?
Finally it was time to line up. They had two big flags, one said Runners and the other Walkers. At first I thought there was going to be a middle-ground Joggers flag, but it was nowhere to be found. This sparked an existential debate with the Scottish Companion as to whether I was a Runner or a Walker.
“You haven’t been just walking these past ten weeks, have you?” he reasoned.
But I was having a last-minute panic and argue, “But I’m not exactly a runner, am I? I can’t run for longer than five minutes without feeling like I’m going to cark it!”.
He told me to just go join the runners and wished me luck. I gave him a kiss on his wet nose and scampered off. By then it was so crowded I ended up near the walkers, beside a girl dressed in a Batman suit. I was so bewildered by the crowd and the rain that I didn’t think to be nervous, just a faint notion that something exciting was about to happen. Somewhere in the distance the start horn thingy went off. It took five minutes to inch my way to the start line, then I hit the timer on my stop watch. Go go go!
It was then my trance broke and I panicked, What the hell!? What the hell!? What am I doing here?! Everywhere I looked there were legs and arms and numbers and puddles. I am not so good in crowds. Julia had advised me to start out slow so I wouldn’t fade at the end, so I did a very slow jog, ducking around walkers and water. Then the course headed up a hill and I thought Holy fuck. Bloody hills. Better not waste energy weaving around people. So I alternated fast walking with the slow jogging. Then I noticed that after that hill there was another, steeper hill. Bugger.
It was then I started to get cranky. Disclaimer: I was cranky already, my period arrived that morning. HOO-BLOODY-RAY for the feeling of piranhas gnawing your guts! So I was cursing the stupid hill and my stupid slow legs and the thousands of stupid runners cluttering up the road. It felt like it was taking forever. All I could think was, What’s so great about this running shit? Why do people rave on about it like it was so damn special? I recalled a comment Meg left on my last entry. She said I would love it! She said it changed the way she thought about herself forever. Well as I slugged up the hill I thought, YOU LIE, MEG! I DO NOT LOVE IT! It felt like I would never get up the top of that stinking hill, and furthermore I had seen no kilometre markers so I had no idea how far I’d gone or how far I had left to go. Bah!
Finally the course evened out and after a minute’s walk, I picked up the pace again. I began to relax. I acknowledged the view – a spectacular panorama of Edinburgh. Then some guy was shouting from the sidelines, “You’ve just passed the halfway mark, girls!”
I looked at my watch and wasn’t too impressed with my time. Julia had told me not to worry about my time today, it was just about finishing the damn thing. But I felt slightly disheartened. It was then I gave myself a wee pep talk. Why are we here, Dietgirl?
- Because my excellent sponsors have given over £300 to cancer research and they deserve value for money.
- Because my husband trained with me all this time and I don’t want him thinking I’ve wasted his time.
- Because Mistress Julia has helped me so much and I want to impress her and make her proud.
- Because I have worked hard and I want to impress ME and make ME proud, dammit!
And I wouldn’t be satisified with taking forever to huff over the finish line either. I wanted to finish as strongly as I possibly could. I’d worked for ten weeks to get to this point, and it would never be My First Race ever again. I’d done some pretty half-assed runs in that ten weeks, so now I was going to stop the whining and bitching. No more bullshit! Just GO FOR GOLD!
I kicked up to a nice steady run. I reassured the lazy part of my brain that I could walk any time, but since the first half had been relatively slow I found that I had plenty of energy left. For the first time ever I really felt like I was cruising, that it was a perfectly natural thing for my body to be running. I found a steady rhythm and my breathing was good, not my usual desperate gasps for life.
The rained stopped and I wrestled off my crappy jacket, somehow tying it round my waist as I headed down the hill. I kept talking to myself, Just run one more minute then you can walk if you need to. But I just kept on running and it felt great.
And there was finally a sign – 500M TO GO. Holy crap! 500 metres! How far is 500 metres, I wondered? Ten laps of an Olympic pool. Ooh that sounds like ages, don’t think of it like that. Half a kilometre, that sounds ages too. Okay then. How about one and a bit laps of the running track. Hey that’s not so bad! I can handle that! So I took it up another notch. I have no idea where that energy came from but I’d never run so fast before. It felt fantastic!
As I approached the finish line I started grinning. I couldn’t help it, I would have giggled had I had enough breath left. I was just so surprised to be there. Grin grin grin. When I finally crossed it I suddenly felt a big sob sneak up to my throat. What the hell?!
I glanced at my watch – 35:15. I could not believe that time. Ten weeks ago I could barely run for one minute, yet I’d just run over half the course non-stop. I was euphoric. I, Dietgirl formerly of the Whole Pints Of Ice Cream In One Sitting, had finished a 5k race. It felt amazing! Meg wasn’t lying to me after all! Bless her cotton socks.
I got my goodie bag and scanned the crowds for SC, wandering around in a daze with trembling legs. It was the strangest mix of emotions I’d ever known. I began making these garbled, gulping, strangled chicken noises – this is what happens when you try and cry and get your breath back at the same time. It is physically impossible.
By the time I finally found SC I had my breath back so I was able to just sob uncontrollably on his shoulder. The poor bastard look very confused. Blame my hormones, blame relief and surprise and intense personal satisfaction, but I was crying for Scotland!
Later on I felt embarrassed by my hysterics. After all it was Just A 5k. It wasn’t even a proper race, it was a charity event. And people run marathons all the time, hell they run across continents or sail around the world blindfolded with one arm chopped off! I was all ready to downplay the whole day and dismiss it as a freak accident of nature and stomp out any sense of achievement. But as I’ve reminded myself countless times during my Lard Busting Journey, you can’t compare your achievements to someone elses. All you can do is compare where you’ve been and where you are now, and what you chose to do in between.
I also remembered a day back in January 2001 when I’d stood at the bottom of the stairs in my flat, trying to summon the energy to walk up the dozen steps to get to my bedroom. That had felt like an impossible task. Compare that to yesterday when I stood at the bottom of a FREAKY BIG HILL and running to the top seemed an impossible task. There’s no denying that 5k was a huge personal achievement.
I cannot express to you how amazing it felt to do something that I thought I never, ever could do. I am so grateful to Julia for helping me, to SC for patiently training with me, and to all you groovers for your encouragement and extremely generous donations. This may sound ridiculous but I am more emotional about yesterday than I was on my freaking wedding day! There is no better feeling in the world than to take your mind and body to some place you thought it couldn’t go; a place you thought it didn’t belong. You should all try it sometime.