The Goole Riverbank Challenge and The Race
Q: WHO ARE YOU RACING, RACH?
A: I’M RACING MYSELF: MY OLD SELF.
We parked up at the sports complex far too early (just for a change) but we weren’t the only ones. An old-ish bloke – fully branded in his yellow and black club kit – stood next to his car door rubbing gel into both knees. He looked like an ageing bumblebee.
Another chap paced around next to his open car boot. Inside, he had a full-on shoe rack with his carefully laid out selection of trainers: roadies, off-roadies, and… an emergency pair of clown shoes?
“Which trainers are you wearing, Gav?” I genuinely didn’t know what to put on: I’ve done this race for the last two years, and I know the route. It’s mainly along narrow grass banking which is elevated next to the river. However, there are some road sections. The last mile and a half is balls-out flat on road: no time to be struggling with unforgiving footwear.
The rain has pretty much pelted it down over the past few days. Is the grass banking saturated? We went for a short warm-up jog to find out. It was wet, and the grass longer than expected, but nothing to convince me to substitute my roadies for the alternatives – it wasn’t worth the gamble.
I thought back to last year when I was first lady back. I’d won my first EVER race. ME! First female home! On what planet was that even possible?! My mind started racing (excuse the bad pun): What if I have a shocker and crash & burn this year? Shit. I felt the apprehension rising. How do I feel today? What have I got in my armoury this time around?
I still felt uncomfortably full from breakfast and a heavy, milky coffee. It was hours ago, but felt like it still hadn’t been digested. I can’t stand running when my body is trying to digest food. It’s the worst feeling: a heavy stitch/cramp combo I could well do without.
With twenty minutes to go, I felt nervous. Gav was with me today, which was lovely, but I’ve only ever done this race by myself before. I wasn’t exactly up for engaging conversation.
We set off and quickly funnelled into the narrow riverbank tracks. At points, the grass was overgrown and far from an ideal running surface. I knew I was in second place: I was second lady right from the gun. There was no chance of catching the girl in first place, but at least that option was taken from me in the first few hundred metres. I set off well, and felt happy with my pace. My 7 min/miles felt pretty good as we headed out towards the 3-mile turning point…
And then, she passed me. “Ahh shit.” I knew I was in for a battle for the next six miles. I stuck with her, wondering if she’d taken me too early on. She was running well, and strong, but she wasn’t out-pacing me. So, I tucked in behind her. About mile 6, I had an extra ounce of energy and so I nudged past her on the narrow grassy track. “Great job.” She said. “Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again!” was my reply. I tempted fate, and within 400m she’d gone past me again. “…Like now!” I said as she pulled in front of me. She laughed.
I tucked in behind her again, still confident that I could keep with her.
And then I started thinking “Who are you racing, Rach?” Clearly, me and the girl (Helen, she’s called) were in our own mini-race. However, the honest answer came to me. “You’re racing the old version of yourself, Rach! Helen may well be here in person, and we are in some kind of mini-battle, but she is not the real opponent here.”
In that moment, it was perfectly clear to me that I was in fact battling with every single limiting belief I ever had. I was running against self-doubt; battling with an old version of myself who couldn’t have believed I was capable of this. She was far happier melting mars-bars: she felt safe there.
“Are we in 2nd and 3rd place?” she asked me, as we were still stuck side-by-side on the narrow path. “I’d be happy with either, as long as I beat my husband!”
“Me too!” I laughed, thinking what a lovely nemesis I’d happened across.
Right, Rach. Tuck in behind her. Don’t go too soon. When you reach the road, see what you’ve got left. That was my plan. I stuck to it.
On the road, I increased my pace and went ahead of her, but – guess what – she came back and tucked in front again. Bloody hell, she’s not going anywhere without a fight! I hung on, and looked down at my watch. I wasn’t having the best final mile, and began to feel my tummy STILL trying to work out what to do with that fucking milky coffee I’d had earlier on. It stopped me from shifting gears as I’d have liked, and I was stuck in 3rd place.
But, I would be gracious in defeat: she deserved 2nd place. But I was still right on her heels.
And I thought back to the REAL battle I was in. At the last corner, I found that extra 5% and I kicked. I flew past her, and I ran like merry hell. You see, I wasn’t just racing Helen. I was going to defeat Old Me: the one who would have told me confidently, “You can’t do this.”
I beat her, and I beat Helen. I gave her a massive hug just past the finish line. The local paper’s photographer accosted us, and a white envelope was placed in my hand. Written on it was ‘Second Lady – £30’
Helen was lovely and gracious. We really enjoyed racing each other today. However, to me, my battle was actually with my old self and not with Helen from Hull Harriers. That’s the victory for me, today.