Time: 57-ish minutes
The Race for Life is an annual 5k for women with the aim of raising money for cancer research. I have run the 5k a handful of times, but this year was the first year that Aberdeen also had the option of a 10k (a few of the bigger cities have had a 10k option for a year or two now). It didn’t clash with any other races (unlike last year), and it’s for a good cause, so I signed up for the 10k a couple of months ago and kind of forgot about it until last week.
After Saturday’s less-than-pleasant 10 miler, I was feeling optimistic about Sunday’s Race for Life. Why? Well:
It was ‘only’ a 10k, so if I can get through 10 painful miles, 6 should be easier than criticizing the acting in ‘Lost in Space’ (it was on last night, and it was not good).
Even though the word ‘race’ appears in the name, it’s an untimed charity run, so my general game plan was to turn up, and run it casually. In fancy dress. Then go home.
I went to bed a bit later than I had hoped to on the Saturday night, as I met a friend for sushi, and to catch up. Apparently it has been a while since we last saw each other, because we had so much catching up to do that we were essentially kicked out of the restaurant because they had to close (they were very tactful about it). By the time I got home, I was drained, and went straight to bed, setting about 12 alarms (as usual) for the next morning.
You may think 12 alarms is excessive. Ian certainly does, and is usually pretty vocal about his feelings after being woken up several times early on his weekend morning unnecessarily. He is especially annoyed because I seem to be immune to pretty much any noise when I am asleep. Like alarms. And Sea King helicopter. Perhaps you see where this is going: I slept in.
Instead of fancy dress, I scoured my cupboard for something pink, but not being a very girly girl, this soon changed to ‘something cheerful’, which ended up being a floaty blouse that would be more at home at a gay pride march, but cheerful it was, so it went on. I then kissed Ian goodbye, left the apartment, and jogged down to the beach. The fact that I achieved my maximum heart rate JOGGING DOWNHILL was not a harbinger of joy and optimism.
At the predetermined meeting place, I ran into Susan, and slowly more and more familiar faces arrived. Susan had also jogged down to the start, and was going to add a little extra onto the end as a long run in preparation for Loch Ness in September. Since we were both in no hurry, we decided to run together. We had plenty of for some group photos, and then we enthusiastically took part in the group warm up, before packing ourselves into the start chute with 5,000 other runners, jogger, and walkers.
Now, as this was the first time Aberdeen had put on a 10k race as well, we were all curious about how they would arrange the course. We had been told by the organizers, however, that it would not be ‘just two loops of the 5k’. This was a relief, as the beach is a pretty dull (and exposed) place to run, and doing laps is soul destroying, so when we realized that we had been lied to, and that the 10k WAS going to be two laps of the 5k route, we were all a bit deflated.
Every other time I have participated in the Race for Life, I have sardined myself at the very front at the start. This year, joined by friends, I jumped into the crowd, a fair distance behind the start. The guy on the tannoy had mentioned (several times) that runners should go to the front, and walkers should position themselves at the back, but this advice clearly fell on deaf ears, as within about 100m we found ourselves trapped behind walkers, sometimes 7-8 abreast (and holding hands), leaving us to either stop behind them, or barge through rudely. By the time we had covered half a kilometre, we had probably dodged over a hundred walkers. The thought of our second loop elicited a heavy sigh from a few of us, as we realized it would probably take about half an hour for all 5,000 participants to funnel through the starting area and get onto the course.
After about 2k, the course thinned out into people who were not walking, but it was a hot day, and, again, my heart rate was soaring, so I was glad to see there was a water stop at the half way point. Unfortunately, by the time we reached it, we had to join a huge, chaotic ‘queue’, and wait for a couple of minutes as a group of about 5 people poured water into plastic cups. 5,000 participants. The hottest day of the year so far. No cups of water prepared. I’ll let that just sink in for a while, while I take a couple of deep breaths and imagine something calming.
After the water, we were heading back to the start on the other side of the road. The side of the road we were supposed to be on. Also on this side of the road, a bunch of people walking, people with dogs on leads, small children wandering about in pink fairy wings, wheelchairs, pushchairs, crutches – all going in the opposite direction. They had been squeezed onto our side of the road because of the sheer volume of people taking part, and the pink mass showed no sign of thinning as we got to 3k, 3.5k, and 4k. Susan and I had seen a few of the 10k runners weaving in and out of bodies on their second lap of the course, looking annoyed. Finally, at 4.5k, the last of the walkers went past, and then we hit the turnaround point for the 10k.
Within a few minutes, we were in the same position as the fastest 10k runners, navigating our way through large groups of women, as well as having to be aware of people who stopped for no apparent reason. Susan and I also experienced the strangest thing to fall in front of us during a race, I think, so far.
We both saw a seagull flying dangerously close overhead. It is important to mention here that seagulls in Aberdeen are a mutant species. They’re like normal seagulls on steroids. They have regularly been seen eating pigeons, other seagulls, and are notorious for thieving whole sandwiches from innocent pedestrians trying to have lunch on the go. They are loathsome. They also have an uncanny skill of being able to land a splodge of bird crap on a person with frightening accuracy, and when Susan and I looked up, to our horror, we saw a mass heading straight for us. We both slowed, and a mere 2-3 feet in front of us we heard an almighty ‘splat’. We paused, probably from shock at the size of what had been dropped before us, and realized that we were looking at a partly eaten fish. All of my complaints about how I was feeling and how much I didn’t like this event were washed away as I thought how grateful I was that we hadn’t been that little bit faster, but stinking of fish.
The remainder of the second lap is a blur of discomfort. My heart rate continued to alarm me, and I continued to ignore it most of the time. Finally, we approached the finish, and Naomi’s dad managed to capture the two of us in the home straight, mid-chat. I don’t even want to know what I’m saying, but if I were a betting woman, I’d wager that I am not saying, “Wow, I can’t believe this race is over so quickly, I feel so fresh!”
Hopefully whatever bug I’ve managed to pick up will go away soon, because I’m kind of over feeling like walking up a flight of stairs requires a 10 minute recovery nap. Still, in the grand scheme of things, I can’t really complain. The Race for Life aims to raise money for cancer research, and while I didn’t fund raise for it (because people would raise an eyebrow if I asked for sponsorship for a 10k), I have decided to fund raise for Macmillan Cancer Support, aimed at providing care and support to those affected by cancer, in memory of my grandad. If you’re feeling flush, you could always drop by the online fundraising page. If you’re where I was a few years ago, and paying for your entry into clubs with an old sock full of pennies that add up EXACTLY to the entry fee, I won’t be offended if you ignore this.
Anyway, I am genuinely uncomfortable with the idea of asking people for money, but it’s for an excellent cause, and I promise not to bring it up again. And I don’t really know how to end this post, because everything I think of writing sounds awkward. So, yeah. Happy 4th of July.