There was a small moment of hesitation when I thought my legs were going to fail me completely, and then I was away. Bolting clear from the line, burning off the rush of excitement and fear that had been weighing me down. Almost immediately, I found myself on the outside in about fifth position and not where I wanted to be. I ran strong around the first bend and tucked nicely into second, about two yards off the pace.
The first 200 went by as always, dizzily fast and I risked glancing at my watch, 38.0. Opening in that time was par for the course for me but as I tried to adjust the split for the additional 9m at the start, I quickly realized my brain was lacking the necessary concentration and gave up the calculation. What should I have been running?
I heard the crowd as we passed the start in a relatively tight bunch, the announcer reading off names like role call on the first day of school. But did I hear that, probably not. I swore I heard one single voice, “go daddy, go”.
“… , , …”
I rounded the corner again and began my journey down the backstretch for the second time, then it hit me. It started in my gut, a slow acid kind of strain, my systems beginning to panic, intestines, other organs shutting down for the duration. And my legs started to get the first wave of lactic numbness. Shoulders and arms starting now. However, what I remember most was the sheer dehydration in my throat, I was completely parched.
I could hear the panting and heavy strides of the runners behind me. Someone was trying to move up on the outside. Who was it? I hung in there coming into the home straight for the second time, although this time a little more laboured. As the crowd yelled, this time I knew I heard it, there was no mistake, “go daddy, go”.
“… , , …”
Starting the third lap, I was really feeling it now, the old intestine-sliding-down-the-leg extremis that comes when it dawns on you that there is a long way to go. Paul, the first place runner had put 15m on me, but as I stared down the far straighaway I knew I was gaining, slowly.
My shoulders ached now with the heavy strain of the lactic acid, so I pumped harder, trying to concentrate on form as my headed rocked back. I had been warned that this is where I needed to focus, maintain the pain, then push through it. Strangely enough, I vividly remember taking stock and was surprised at my inability to recognize any pain. I was completely numb.
As I sped down the homestraight, I really felt it, the lactic acid was boiling, but I was also getting excited knowing that this time it would not be long, that it wasn’t going to go on forever. Then the bell rang out.
“… , , ”
As I rounded the corner and ran onto backstretch for the last time, I was tying up, “feck me, what was I doing”. My ears were now firmly resting on my shoulders and my arms were heavy. I opened my kick only to find I was already in top gear, there was nothing left. I couldn’t breathe fast enough, my chest was pounding. I remember someone telling me to relax my chin, and Ron yelling at me to pump my arms as I soared onto the home stretch, running in fear of the footsteps behind.
"So this is what it feels like, this is what happens..."
Earlier that morning, I plugged my recent 5k into McMillan’s Calculator and was unceremoniously awarded a time of 5:06.0. I crossed the line in 5:04.2. I have eight weeks to find another four seconds. I loved every painful moment.
Training: VTS #3: mile, 5:04.2, /km, /mi, 2nd OA