On Sunday 17th July 2016, it was the Cambridge Race for Life. I had signed up on a whim after a couple of pints, with Colin’s encouragement. Not to do the 5k race, which is a distance I can do comfortablyish enough, but the 10k race, a distance I’d so far not managed to cover.
My training didn’t go exactly to plan, but seeing as I’d signed up, I had to try. Plus, a load of people had sponsored me, which meant that they had faith in me: I couldn’t let them down.
The day dawned hot and sunny. Trust summer to show its face on the one day I wanted it to be cool. Colin and I caught the train, along with a load of ladies in pink. I wasn’t wearing pink: I dislike pink. My running shoes have pink on them, but I can’t help that. We met a friend, who was running the 5k version, and her support crew on Parkers Piece in Cambridge. I wished I was doing the 5k.
We sprayed ourselves with sun screen, before doing a warm-up. The warm-up was led by three people on the stage. It was some sort of dance-type routine, our performance of which seemed to entertain our respective support crews.
Then we lined up at the start line. There was no sort of division into faster runners and slower runners, 5k runners and 10k runners, other than the walkers would start after all the runners had gone. They did only let so many people start at once; I think I was in the third lot to go. I remembered to start my watch as I crossed the start line. This was it: I was to run 10k in front of loads of people, clad almost entirely in Lycra.
The first part of the route was running round Parkers Piece. We wiggled through town, dodging hordes of tourists and summer school students with their matching backpacks. We went along part of the backs, and through Clare College. I’ve never been in there, but there wasn’t much time to sightsee. We exited Clare and ran past Kings College and other pretty parts of town, before reaching Jesus Green. We ran across the top of it, with the marshals telling us we were nearly there, only a few hundred metres to go. No-one spared a thought for the 10k runners, who still had half the race to go.
The part where the 5k runners diverged was the hardest part up to that point. It was so hot and muggy, that it was tempting to join them. But I was there to do the 10k, not the 5k. I turned left where the 5k runners turned right.
We ran alongside the River Cam, all the way to Stourbridge Common. I used to walk that way a lot when we lived in Cambridge; it had never seemed quite so arduous till then. When we got to Stourbridge Common, we had to avoid herds of cows. It’s a common sight to see cows grazing on the commons of Cambridge. I hoped they wouldn’t decide to stampede, along with all these people.
At this point, the race was getting hard. I’d run a long way in the heat, and it seemed like there was still an awful long way to go. This was the first time I really felt like stopping.
It’s just this bit, I told myself — several times.
I kept going, dodging cow pats, thankful that I had some water with me. There had been a water station just after we split from the 5k runners, but I had been sipping my water since long before that.
The route doubled back along the river, back towards Jesus Green. It did seem an awful long way.
It’s just this bit.
Someone waved a sign saying “Almost there!” at me when I was getting close to Jesus Green. This boosted me a little, along with all the other cheering and shouts of encouragement that people had made along the way. I carried on running with a little more spring in my step.
Back on Jesus Green, the end was close. I saw Colin, which helped me no end. I smiled and waved to him, and he cheered me on.
I almost collided with a little boy who stopped without warning on the last stretch of the course, before heading off to the finish line. I tried hard to do a sprint finish; not sure if I did one, but I did speed up a little bit.
It felt great to cross the finish line: it was all over. It took me a moment to twig I could stop running. I was given my medal, and I wandered out to wait for Colin. It was only after a little while that I remembered to stop my watch. It said my time was 1:11, but the real time was more like 1:07. This is about what I’ve done in my last two 10k runs, without the hordes of tourists and herds of cows, so I was pretty pleased.
Colin found me, and we rejoined our friends for a celebratory picnic, followed by celebratory drinks at the Maypole.