“OK Listen up, Women come over here, let’s say sub-6 to the left. Come on, you’re going to race tonight so get moving a bit quicker”
80 or so Serpies gathered around our trusty Athletics committee member waiting to be sorted into groups of 12 or so to run a mile in the annual Club Championships. (There’s a sorting hat reference in here somewhere but, confession, I still haven’t read any HP books). Apparently there is a correlation between the faster men in the club and their ability to arrive to a race on time, so room was left in the A race for the tardy runners.
The track was closed to the public and set up to race. Volunteer officials and timekeepers out with their clipboards, the track lap counter & bell placed just so, and finish line marked (as if we’d miss it). Even though I’ve done hundreds, if not thousands, of laps around this track it felt like these 4 and a bit laps would special.
As the first few junior & men’s races started the rest of us were milling around the infield doing half-hearted warmups and snapchats (just me?). There’s something about racing a mile that fills everyone with dread and brings out the best in excuses. I personally had a stressful and busy week at work, was on my period with a surprising migraine, and was dealing with a bum/knee niggle picked up from cycling with my seat too high. Armed with all these excuses I still found myself stood around in my shorts and vest waiting for our race.
The women’s B race was called to the start and the nerves peaked. As I lined up with 10 other friendly faces, some from our Monday night track sessions, we smiled as we fiddled with our watches and kept an eye on the start gun.
I love starting a track race. The first few strides feel absolutely effortless like you are running on clouds. This took me to the front of the race for the first 100m which, wasn’t exactly my plan, but I quickly tucked in behind the second woman on the backstraight and focused on running strong.
Around the last bend of the first lap my breathing started to catch up to me and the heavyness of running a mile set in to my whole body. I heard the first lap split and was right on pace for my planned PB and felt good.
The goal of the second lap was to hang on. Not let the 2 women in front of me get too far ahead. They both looked strong so I wrapped that imaginary rope around them and held on for dear life. Each time we passed the start/finish everyone was cheering for us and it was great to have that support to push you into that next lap. The third lap was a predictable blur. Part pain part looking forward to just hearing the last lap bell. I snuck a quick look at my watch and wasn’t too happy with the time so knew I had to keep pushing right to the finish.
*ding ding ding ding*
The last lap bell is a godsend in a mile race, 400m to go. In a road mile this is where I pick up to my semi-sprint finish but 1 lap seems so much further on a track. I kept running pushing though and ran as strong as I could pushing the track away with each step.
Rounding the last bend with 100m to go the sprint was well and truly on. It’s not a coincidence that on Monday nights we practice our strides along this exact stretch, it felt natural to run strong through the finish and double over to catch my breath.
As I stopped my watch I caught a look at the numbers and they weren’t the PB I was hoping for but I also wasn’t wrecked. I had run about the same pace for 6 x 400 repeats the week before and could barely breathe after each one. This was an improvement and a confidence boost to run “comfortably uncomfortable” 6:52 mile.
All the runners in our race congratulated each other and after a few seconds everyone was smiling. The dreaded mile race over for another year, but actually, it wasn’t that bad….