I ran the Bristol 10K this morning. It wasn’t my first run, I’ve been doing so for a couple of years. This wasn’t my first 10k either – it was my second and I am very proud to say that I knocked a whole 8 minutes off my previous best 10k time. I’m not sure what this is, it’s not really flash fiction, it’s not a poem… it’s just a slice of thoughts. Would that make it a vignette? Either way it is about small beginnings and personal bests.
One step, that’s all it takes to start the journey of a lifetime.
One step onto the concrete, the tarmac, the grass. There’s nothing special about that step aside from that the next one will be quicker than the last… and the next, and the next and so on.
But that first time, that very first time you tell yourself “I’m going jogging” you know that after less than half a mile you will be a quivering and exhausted mass of flesh.
And you are.
You collapse onto the bed saying “never again”, but you will go out, you know it. You have jogged less than a mile and you walked half of that. It took you twenty minutes.
But you will go out again because next week that mile will take you 19 minutes. The week after that you’ll see if you can do two miles and then three miles.
Soon you are caught up in the lingo: personal bests, chip time, split time, pacing, hitting the wall, DNF, DNS, heart rates, runner’s high. An otherwise odd sequence of numbers now make perfect sense to you: 5, 10, 13, 26. You no longer cringe at the calories in energy drinks, you just want to know if they work. You catch the bug and once you have it, it’s all over… there’s no going back. You can’t imagine not being able to do something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other very quickly.
Less than two years later you are coming around the corner of one of the biggest 10K races in the country and there are people cheering you on, clapping you. Wait, what? Did you say 10K? You mean, as in, 6.2 miles? How did we get this far? What’s more this isn’t the first 10K you have taken part in.
People are cheering you on, “You’re nearly there!” they say “keep going”… And then you see the clock time and though your legs are exhausted and your lungs protesting, your brain still functions and realisation dawns on you.
You’ve just set a new personal best, and not by seconds, but by almost ten minutes.
You thought you were running on empty, just coasting to the line but something fires up and adrenaline courses through your body.
BANG, you’re off, sprinting and wondering just where the hell that came from. Not even Usain Bolt could stop you now! It’s ringing in your ears and spurring you on – faster, faster, I can do it. I have done it! And there… you slow your pace and begin the walk. There are people on both sides of you, perfect strangers – people you will never see again but they are as pleased for you as you are. They are cheering you on and it lifts you.
Yes, this is what it is all about (and whichever charity you are running for)
The applause is not just for you, it’s for the 15,000+ people who ran with you that day. As you take a deep breath and realise that it’s over, you momentarily think back to that time when you decided to go out for the very first time, a time when you vowed to never do it again.
Sometimes they say the worst lies are the lies we tell ourself. But sometimes they are the best.
Congratulations to everyone who completed the Bristol 10K this morning.