Mad Dog 4 – The Good the Bad and the Pugly

I always take my running kit on holiday. Doesn’t matter where. There’s always the chance of a run, or even better, a race. I nurture fond fantasies of running a race in some far away exotic place in my Striders vest and writing an ever so nonchalant, do this sort of thing all the time, race report. However, given some of the parkrun tourist reports we’ve had lately you’d have to go intergalactic nowadays if you wanted to win the accolade of Strider who has raced the furthest away from Durham.

This holiday was no different. I packed my kit. But this holiday was a biggie – we were going to a game reserve in South Africa for a fortnight, so, realistically, I should’ve realised that the chances of a training run would be limited. Or at least, quite literally, short-lived. Sure enough it became immediately clear that a jog round the local bushes would probably result in meeting some scary wild animals. And I’m really not very fast. I think a Cheetah would have the edge.

Nonetheless, despite a series of lacklustre parkruns and a two week hiatus in my running I turned up in Southport for my 4th Maddog 10k, optimistic that I would, despite all the evidence, pull something amazing out the bag. I had also, cunningly, decided to avoid the whole park and park-and-ride shuttle-bus stuff by cycling from my parents-in-law’s flat to the race start. I arrived nicely warmed up and stress-free. The race started right on schedule and I settled in the shelter of the congestion, satisfied in the knowledge that there’d be plenty of time to put the foot down later when I got into my stride. A sharp left onto the seafront and straight into the wind. I tried to remember what Allan and Ian said about cutting into the wind on the track, but whatever I did just seemed to be met with a squally blast. Plus my nose was running and I was paranoid about how to address that particular issue without causing a major incident.

The 3km marker appeared and I took a glance at my watch and got a nasty surprise. I’d been prepared for a slowish time but assumed I’d still be comfortably sub-50. But now for the first time in 5 years it was looking like I was heading for a 10k time where the first digit was a 5. This was really most disagreeable. I tried to lift my pace a bit, but my pace was not for lifting. Still, when we hit the 5km marker we would turn round and the wind would hit us in the back. Sure enough, it was like cresting a summit on the bike and free-wheeling. I slipped into the big ring and increased the pace. There were lots of bands and music this year and I began to feel a bit more upbeat as I hoofed it back to the finish, confident that even if I didn’t PB, I would at least be sub-50.

Across the finish line and a glance at the watch. No, that couldn’t be right. That couldn’t be right at all. There had to be some mistake. I checked again: 52:29. I did a bit of that rueful-headshaking routine that you see top sportsmen doing, as if to suggest that there was some other sinister shadowy reason why my time was what it was. But it didn’t change anything. It was still there, beautifully pixellated. Nearly 5 minutes slower than last year, and a 5-year PW.

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