How does your body react when you feel nervous? Do you sweat a lot? Does your mouth become dry? Do you get a nervous twitch in your left eye? I guess your answer depends on your particular situation.
The night before my race I couldn’t really sleep properly. I also had a dodgy stomach on the Sunday morning too.
I knew this was supposed to be a FUN event- I’ve seen all the posters with the smiling women in their fancy dress costumes having a laugh, but I couldn’t persuade my body to accept that same attitude. I just felt tense and time seemed to drag.
When I finally arrived at the tube station I was really surprised to see loads of ladies in pink on the platform. Now to understand the true significance of this, you have to realise that I live in Zone 5 according to the Tube map, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere with fields and horses and such.
So to see this many women already who were going to take part, I thought: ‘Yes, I’m not alone.’ Well, I sort of was, because, you know, I had no one to run with and this was actually exemplified by the fact that they were in groups and joking around… BUT it seemed as though there would be many people there. Besides, I had my dad and sisters there to support me from the sidelines.
When I got to Hyde Park there was a sea of women in pink walking towards the other side of The Serpentine to our appointed destination.
After we all finished warming-up we had to move to towards the selected walking, jogging or running areas to get ready for the race.
“I hope you’re going to keep your promise of completing the run in under 30 minutes,” said the woman on the speakers to us runners.
‘Under 30 minutes,’ I thought to myself, ‘really? My fastest so far is 32 minutes without stopping, mate, and I thought that was ruddy brilliant! …Nooooo pressure then…’
A panic swept over me. I was surrounded by women who had apparently pledged to run 5k in under 30, great. I was going to trail behind, waaaaayyyyy behind.
We eventually made our way down to the start line, however I was squashed in the middle of the crowd somewhere and wasn’t quite as near the front as where I wanted to be. And after a false start from very eager runners up at the front, we were off. Well, I was off a whole 30 seconds later, and even then, I was walking more than I was running.
I just kept telling myself that I had to keep it to 1 minute per 0.1 mile if I had even the slightest chance of making it to 31 minutes, so I had to run a bit faster than usual to play catch-up.
After weaving my way through people (a woman with a dog wearing fairy wings, women with wigs and corsets and the more ‘serious runners’) I eventually found my pace and stuck to it.
People were really encouraging. The cheering and clapping- it really did push me on! Well the noise was actually drowned out by my music, but I think I used my imagination rather well.
One woman was even giving high fives to everyone. She was standing towards the walkway on the left while I was running on the path towards the right. I thought, ‘Yes, I am getting my high five, darn it’, and I ran towards her to receive my short-term reward with a very masculine American “YEAAAHHHH”, and kept running along merrily.
I started to lag a bit after about a mile and a half, my usual stopping place when training. Besides, I was running a bit faster than usual to try keep on target.
I had to trick myself to go further- to that tree, that lamppost, just 0.3 miles more and then maybe I can stop. I then hit the 2 miles mark and for some strange reason I was feeling fine again. That was until I reached 2.5 miles.
I just had to stop and drink some water- my body needed it and didn’t want to go further. It couldn’t be bothered to play along with my pretend mind games- it had sussed that out ages ago. I wanted water and I wanted it- NOW! Whilst walking! I didn’t want to stop long enough for my legs to start seizing up though- that would have been a disaster. So I slowly ploughed on. Then it started to rain. Heavily.
The fresh air was a relief, but then I quickly became drenched and it turned into a burden. As a newish, paranoid contact lens wearer I was worried, because the last thing I remembered my optician saying to me was: “DO NOT get your contacts wet!” She didn’t actually tell me what would happen, and if that even meant rain water. So I imagined the worse and saw myself screaming and running blindly into other runners and tripping them up because the lenses dissolved in my eyes and couldn’t be taken out- ever again! So with this image in mind, I proceeded to shield my eyes with my hand, and ran as fast as I could, because I needed to go to the toilet too.
Ahead, I saw quite a steep slope and used everything I had at that point to slowly run up that ‘mountain’. After I tackled it though my energy was zapped. I couldn’t go any further, I had to stop. I was majorly disappointed with myself! I was literally coming up to the 3-mile mark too, so I only had 0.1 miles to go!!!!
But my body said: ‘No. No. No-no. Noooooooooooope. Not doing it- I refuse!’ I had to stop. I have no idea how long for, but it seemed like forever.
People we clapping and encouraging everyone to keep going, but it was just muffled sounds to me- it was all a blur. …And then I saw this lady run by me, and I recognised her as the woman who stood next to me by the starting line. She said: “Don’t stop now, you’re nearly there [-you can do it]!!” I think I may have added that last bit in, but she was right, I only had 0.5 miles to go!
I started to believe in myself again (‘yes I can!’) and as I ran around the bend I saw a beautiful sight- the finishing line!!!
Then I heard the man on the speakers say we were coming up to the 30-minute mark and that we should just sprint the rest of the way.
I thought, ‘I DID NOT go through ALL of that training to get a worse time than what I got at training,’ so I picked up speed and I gave it everything I had-I seriously went for it. I sprinted past quite a few women. And I heard people cheering and saying: “Whoooooah- go on- go on!!!”
As soon as I hit the line, that was it. It was a struggle to even walk after that, but I did it-I just completed 5k. And then Lance Armstrong spoke directly to me, through my app. “This is Lance Armstrong,” he said. “Congratulations, you have just recorded your new personal best for the 5k!”
Contrary to what I posted on my FB page, according to my Nike+ app, I actually completed 5k in 29 minutes exactly!
It says my slowest point was 12’29 per mile, and my fastest was 7’40 per mile.
Even though I stopped twice, I figured, well, if Paula Radcliffe could stop for a bit to take a dump in front of everyone then what I did can’t be too bad then either.
I felt on top of the world, but really tired and out of breath though.
I was possibly hungry too because as I made my way to the main area I thought I heard that they were giving out free cookies and I was on the hunt for them, when in fact they were giving out free cranberry juice.
I was so tired. I even slept on the tube later on that evening on my way to the Erykah Badu concert. I actually had mini dreams and everything.
I’m so glad I did it though- it was really worth it! I’m not sure if I’ll run in the future. I may run 10k… in a few years or so. In other news, I’m still trying to hunt down a football club after being rejected by a team for not having a football CV :-s.
There is still time to donate: http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/moniquesimpson2011/. Thanks for reading.