Sprint Finish

22 Jul

I woke up last Thursday morning and decided to enter a 10k run. A 10k run that happened to be that Sunday, in just three days’ time. James isn’t around at the moment so I thought, what else is there to do on a weekend, may as well enter a race.

Although I run the distance fairly regularly when I go for a run, I had never entered a competitive 10k. Last year I entered my first organised running event, Sydney’s City2Surf and I am doing it again this year, so I saw this 10k as a bit of an opportunity for a training run to get me back into the groove!

I submitted my entry before I had read the average and fastest times the runners tend to clock up in this particular race. The Sydney Harbour 10k sees some of the fastest times of any 10k in Australia and I had just voluntarily decided to get up at 5.30am that Sunday morning to go and try to compete with these people. Hmmmm.

There were three ‘waves’ in which I could enter: under 50 minutes, under an hour and finally, anything over 65 minutes. I would have loved to have selected under 50 minutes, but I knew my times were just not fast enough. I had this 50-minute goal in mind, which would mean averaging 12k/h over the distance but always seemed to fall just short. So, I entered the second wave and just hoped I could do it under 55 minutes.

The morning of the race was a fresh 10 degrees but Circular Quay, near the start, was at least an inspirational setting at 6am with the sun rising beyond the Opera House.

Race morning

I stood around, and could have felt slightly intimidated by the number of ‘elites’, jumping up and down, stripped down to just small running vests and shorts, oozing lean, mean, running machine from every pore, while the rest of us huddled near the outdoor heaters in leggings and long sleeves. Minutes before the start, I braved the chill, stripped down to a T-shirt and made my way nervously to the starting line. As part of the ‘B’ group, we were corralled into our holding section, just behind the ‘A’ wave. There was some light humour among the crowd but quite a few serious faces and stretching going on. I was right at the front of the section, just a few metres from the A-wave. They were in my sights. They might be fast, but they were scared (I like to think so anyway.)

Starting line up

The countdown began and the gun was fired. I could not move. Slowly we edged our way forwards until the sea of bodies ahead of us began to move more quickly and after a couple of minutes I was over the starting line and running. The pace seemed steady. I did not feel I was pushing it and I was comfortably overtaking a few people, although admittedly, I am certain there was a stream of runners flooding past me. One of the big attractions of this run is the scenery, with Sydney harbour as a backdrop and the route taking you under the bridge, around to Darling Harbour and back, with waterfront views for most of the course. There is something wonderfully surreal about running under the Sydney Harbour Bridge with the sun just risen above the horizon and only the sound of hundreds of pairs of feet pounding the pavement around you.

The halfway point seemed like a long time in coming and in the back of my mind I was deliberating upping my pace versus having enough in reserve to keep up the momentum to the end. I noticed a few people around me seemed to be putting in some extra effort so I upped my game and kept going. I knew the elite athletes would probably finish in half my time but it was not until I had passed the halfway marker that I started to see the front runners doubling back for the final stretch. As Circular Quay came back into sight, I knew there was only a kilometre or so left and although starting to feel a little tired, I put in a bit of a spurt. It is always the case when the finish is almost within grasp that suddenly the final few hundred metres seem to stretch ahead of you, staying just out of reach.

The finish line loomed ahead and a few people were cheering and applauding and that’s when I heard it. Over the tannoy boomed, “30 seconds to make it in 50-minutes.”

That was enough. It was all I needed. From somewhere I dug deep and sprinted like I have never run before (not after 10k anyway) and just as the countdown from ten seconds began, I crossed the line. My face must have been a mixture of elation and shock. My heart was pounding. Part of me felt like crying and the other part, laughing. I think I was just beaming. I had done it. I had beaten my 50-minute milestone and not only that, I had actually beaten it by two-minutes due to the time I actually crossed the starting line. In the photo below I am in the orange T-shirt running for the finish and I would like to note, I am surrounded by A-group runners – hurray!

Finishing time shock

Of course, it would have been great to have had someone there with me but as it was, the sun was up, there was a fantastic atmosphere and I was able to watch the rest of the runners cross the line and join in the applause. Seeing the faces on some people really brought it home how much completing an event such as that means to them. Some manage to glide effortlessly over the line with a personal best, some you can tell, have put every ounce of effort into just getting round and have achieved huge personal satisfaction, some were there, running with parents or offspring, wanting to make somebody else proud.

Whatever the motivation, more than 3000 runners had all achieved something that morning; from struggling out of bed in the cold and dark to completing the 10k course. For me, there was a lot of satisfaction from walking through the door back home just after 9am, knowing some people were still having their Sunday morning lie-in, and of course, knowing that next year, I can enter the ‘A’ wave!Smiling finish


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