On Saturday 7th January I was officially declared the fastest man alive.
No, I’m misremembering.
On Saturday 7th January I officially became the fastest man in Edinburgh.
Nope, not it. Something else. Something.
On Saturday 7th January I ran quite fast in Edinburgh!
It was the Great Winter Run, a 5km (3.1 mile) race around Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. I wasn’t going to mention it, but my good friends Jackie and Heather all but begged for a full race report to be posted on that Facebook. “Tell us more about the running Rick,” the pleaded as they prostrated themselves. When that didn’t move me they started to flail at themselves with whips made of horsehair, so I thought I’d better type something up so we can all get a good night’s sleep.
You should thank them, when you see them. They did this to you.
It’s not the first time I’ve run 5km, obviously. I usually run marathons and the like, and as more than one person has observed a marathon is like lots of 5km runs strung together. It’s the first time I’ve raced one though. Most of the 5km distances I run are paced sorts of affairs, parts of larger efforts. I’ve never just run one as hard as I can from start to finish.
Arthur’s Seat doesn’t make things easy. It’s a big hill. You run up it for the first third, across it for the second, then down the other side for the end. Down is fine, and across is fine, but running fast uphill when you know there’s a lot more to come when you get to the top (with the expectation that you’ll go even faster at that point because it’s not uphill anymore) is a struggle.
To complicate matters, I was given a black number based on whatever time I estimated I would finish in when I entered some months ago. I can’t remember what I said. I probably didn’t give it a lot of thought at the time. Whatever it was, it put me in the fast group – the ones who start in the first wave at the front so weaving around the more casual runners doesn’t slow them down. I didn’t realise that the black number put me in that group until I got there. I considered sneaking out of the pen and joining the second wave instead, but then we were moving and it was too late.
And I ran fast, and I ran hard, and to my own surprise I didn’t slow until I staggered over the finish line feeling sick and dizzy and sore. The whole thing was a lung-busting blur. There was scenery, and it was fabulously desolate in places considering it’s basically the middle of a city. There were magnificent views over the Old Town. There was a loch I think, and the inevitable bagpipers. It didn’t rain.
3.1 miles, fast, is hard work but feels like a blink. There’s not enough of it to properly report on.
My official race time is 25:33 minutes (though my GPS watch time is 25:13 minutes, and I can’t work out how they can be so different). Despite Arthur’s Seat being in the way, it’s my fastest time over the distance by a minute. It’s not much in the scheme of things – the fastest person to complete the course did it in 16:16 minutes, which seems utterly unfathomable to me. Still, a personal best just days before my forty something-somethingth birthday is a fine antidote to any self-pity I might have been storing up about ageing and physical decline.
I’m faster than I’ve ever been.
IN YOUR FLESHLESS FACE REAPER!
*I say that ironically, Reaper. Don’t get any ideas.