PUNCHING ABOVE MY WEIGHT…
It was only a training run, but I was dreading it. ‘Shit, Gav – what are we doing here?’ I asked, posing the question as much to myself as I was to him. The deal was this: we would rock up to the Group 5 Halifax Harriers Thursday night training run which left at the slightly earlier time of 6pm. This would give us an additional hour on the back end of whatever torture may lie ahead to go home, eat our body weight in carbs and slowly die in a darkened corner.
Group 5 is the ‘fast’ group. We’d tentatively tried our hand at a couple of Group 4 runs (still fast), both of which had kicked our backsides from here to the other end of Halifax – via at least one offensively long hill – and back again. And on both occasions we’d been shocked at the pace. These guys didn’t appear too fond of ‘hanging around’. In fact, they seemed in a mad rush to get somewhere. Perhaps they had more pressing things to do, other than crawl away and die somewhere, like me and Gav.
We’ve been homeless (i.e. without being members of a Running Club) for a good while now, and that’s suited us. The club thing wasn’t working around our continually evolving logistics; we’ve spent the last two years tag-teaming our respective parenting duties with non-running ex partners, who treat running with the disdain of a six-year-old girl who’s just received a fake Barbie for her birthday (we’ve tried it – we know.) Plus, it’s never easy having once been the Club Headline Breaking News. NEWSFLASH! GAV AND RACH HAVE GOT IT TOGETHER! WHO KNEW?! We never wanted to be the star turn – we only wanted to run.
So we agreed a plan in advance. ‘If they go off like rockets, we’ll agree to bail Gav. Right?’ I suggested meekly, only verbalising what he was already thinking. ‘Yep, deal. We can always peel off if it’s getting silly, and as long as we stick together, we’ll be fine,’ he said, in his usual Gav-like reassuring way. We’d survive… or die together trying.
New faces eyed us up and down amidst the ‘Ahh, you’ll be fine!’ reassuring banter as we made an about turn and left the clubhouse. My inner mantra began a conversation: But will we be fine? How do you know? You don’t know me, or my fragile relationship with running. You can’t see that it’s taking me every ounce of faux confidence to even stand here amongst you ‘real runners’ and purport to be one of you. I’m not one of you. I’m an imposter, having strayed from the lowliest of running pedigrees to this place, and I’m faking it. I shouldn’t even be here.
Amongst the ‘pack’ were
- Sarah Cumber – a local running legend who wins everything she touches, including coming 1st F40 at this year’s Virgin London Marathon in some ridiculous sub-3 hour time;
- Wiggo – a guy who’s done more sub-3 marathons than I’ve had McFlurrys, along with multiple Iron Man events, and regularly overtakes most people at Halifax Parkrun whilst pushing a really heavy buggy up climbs that make the rest of us wince.
- A lovely fella who just fancied a ‘steady few miles’ as he’s recovering from injury, but still floats along effortlessly like he’s solar-powered.
A friendly lady struck up a conversation with me as we settled into our first mile. I’d already heard lots about her following some amazing recent race results. To my relief, it felt like a reasonably steady start. The usual stuff cropped up – How long have you been running? What races have you done? What have you got coming up? I never know how to answer those quick-fire rounds mid-gasps, but I tried to be as polite and succinct as possible with my answers. All in the name of energy efficiency.
Alas, no sooner had we ventured past the initial ice-breaking pleasantries and the comfort of the first steady mile, than the real pace kicked in. It was fast. But Friendly Lady kept up her social chatter as she continued to bounce along effortlessly. How is she doing that? I tried to steer the conversation towards her and away from me. Could I get away without appearing rude? I telepathically messaged her: ‘I’m really sorry, but this pace is actually killing me, so I’m more than happy to have a Skype chat sometime about my previous race victories and disasters, but right now it might actually make me vomit.’ I think she understood, and kindly left me to do whatever I could not to publically disgrace myself.
After a fast canal section, we stopped briefly to regroup before heading for the off-road climb. Shit! I’m still with them! I’d kept up, I hadn’t pissed myself or vomited, or stopped and feigned a sudden-onset injury. I couldn’t believe I was still with The Pack.
The climb felt tough, but manageable. It was Gav’s time to shine as he came into his own and pushed past me for the first time since our arse-kicking along the canal, which had arguably hurt him more than it had me.
Once we began our descent of the slippy downhill moss-covered cobbles, the pair of us tip-toed and pansied our way down the treacherous injury-inviting route well behind the others. At least it was only a distinct lack of bollocks holding us back though, and not the mere refusal of our lungs to work hard enough.
We soon caught up again, and resumed our roles as Convincing Imposters within the pack. Before long, we arrived back at the Clubhouse and sheer relief engulfed my entire being.
‘We survived, Gav!’ I said, squeezing his sweaty hand as we said our thanks to the group and made our way back to the Cullododd mobile. I’d even managed to convince myself that we would be back, and would run with them again sometime, after managing to temporarily silence the bastard inner chimp from his earlier relentless unhelpful chatter.
So, with a few weeks of tough races coming up, including the Great North Run and the Yorkshire Marathon, I’m thinking… Maybe I’ll just keep on punching above my weight until I get knocked out? It sounds like a plan to me.