Sunday, 1 April 2012

Back of the pack

I've got so many race reports to blog about that I am not getting any thinking posts done so here's a special edition blog because I was very moved today.

As you know, it's been five weeks since the Ultra, with a decadent holiday in between. I'm not in my bestest shape! And today I did my second half marathon since, with no training. I know, I know.

So I head off the start line, not in great shape but quietly confident that I know what I am doing. I have a painful stitch immediately. Ow ow ow. I start to drop back. After a mile my ITB bit of my knee is like a rusty knife. Ow ow ow times two.

I'm losing a lot of people and realise that I am probably last. I look behind me. Yep I'm last. In the spirit of Lisa / Run Like a Coyote, I make a joke about being last! Then after about 3.5 miles I am at my old house. There's a marshall doing a road crossing and I think "I am keeping these poor people out here, let them close the course and move on". So I stop and ask the guy if I can withdraw and walk back to the start, being as I am last. The marshall tells me I am not last. Another marshall on a bike joins him and confirms, I am anything but last. While I stretch my leg and work out my stitch I see on the horizon: the Back of the Pack.

Lately in all my races, I thought I was the Back of the Pack. I finish most mass events at the top of the last third. All I have been able to see is the two-thirds in front of me. I never imagined how many were behind.

As the Pack approaches, they are all shapes and sizes and ages. And they are trying their hardest and damnedest. And they inspired me. Yep, I sucked up the stitch and worked out a plan for the ITB and resolved to finish.

I ran the rest of the course, walking a little especially on steep descents and conserving my leg as much as possible. I didn't really lose position much and I actually felt bad; at times when my leg was good I could pull away from people consistently giving it everything they had, people dripping with sweat and faces contorted with effort. These people kept me going.

When I got near the end, the two marshalls recognised me and couldn't believe I was still going. But I could, because I'd seen the effort of everyone around me, and I knew that what I felt in my leg was what the people running with me felt in every part of their body and that we all had to keep going.

After the race, I congratulated the finishers around me. Then when I had my wits back, I went to the finish and cheered the people coming home. They came in on their own with big distances between them. Could I have done that? Hurting and unsure with no shirt in front to follow, no one bringing up the rear? Could I have kept going not knowing where the next arrow or marshall was? I was so pleased and proud for these guys and gave them massive whoops. I walked down the home straight to line the route and give them a cheer. And I got a massive lump in my throat because these guys were giving it their all. As I tweeted after watching them "Never diss a back of the pack runner; they are giving it their all too and they do it for longer". It's been the single most re-tweeted comment I've ever had and I am so pleased - running is the one sport where the man next door can run with a world champion. We must never forget that everyone starts somewhere, and never forget how much of a personal challenge everyone endures. Thanks for your inspiration today everyone who finished, not in front of me, but behind me! I would not have finished today without you.

1 comment:

  1. A great reminder of how runners at the back of the pack are fighting just as much as those at the front, if not more. I admit that I don't think about the people behind me as I obsess about trying to break a particular time. But we are all working hard for it no matter how fast or slow we are!

    Nice to know we back of the pack runners are not alone! :)