My legs feel like they’re made of wet cement – offering a similar level of support as the unset grey stuff and just as heavy. My breathing is ragged. Sweat pours from my brow. I don’t know if I’m going to make it. My face is set in grim determination, my spirit is strong. Yet a nagging doubt refuses to go away.
But what’s that just up ahead? Yes! I can see it! Just keep going…. And there, a beep from the electronic timing mat beneath my feet announces my arrival at the start gate. We’ve begun. Just 10k to go!
Anyone who has met me will realise within about four seconds that I am not a natural born runner. The theory is that all of us are descended from ancestors who ran great distances in order to chase down their supper. But they would probably have left someone back at the cave to mind their flints and things, and I like to think that I’m probably descended from him.
Nevertheless, whenever the urge takes me I don the running trainers and give it a go. I ran the Derby 10K back in 2011 and quite enjoyed it – in hindsight. At the time it was hell, pure and unadulterated. But looking back through those proverbial rose-tinted spectacles there was a definite sense of camaraderie between the runners, and a feeling of achievement when I passed the finish line inside the glorious splendour of Derby County’s home since 1996 – Pride Park.
Late last year I decided to do it again. It was a bit of a whim, but I needed something to aim for in order to cajole myself off the sofa and out into the dark, cold and rain. But I also needed someone to run it with me, and since my previous running partner had found the perfect excuse to stop the twice weekly jogs (he moved to Suffolk, which is frankly further that I fancy running on a wet Wednesday evening) I needed someone else. Not many of my friends are that keen on physical exertion. But I did have an ace to play.
I had decided that in order to ensure that I wouldn’t just find an excuse not to run the 10k, I would raise some money for charity in the process. I wouldn’t be able to just give up if people had pledged money to a worthy cause on the basis of me completing the course. But which charity? Well, as it happens, that was easy.
Our best friends are parents to one of the funniest, cutest little lads I know. However, not long after he was born it was discovered that he had a congenital heart defect – a hole in his heart which wasn’t healing. At just ten months old he underwent open heart surgery – his heart was stopped and the hole repaired by the fantastic team at Glenfield Hospital. It was obviously a terrifying time for his parents. Ben and Kate (Ben often works with me as my second shooter), but the team that looked after them at the hospital were amazing, and so I decided that I would raise money for the Glenfield charity, Heart Link. Cunningly, this meant that Ben would feel obliged to run with me too! And as a bonus, his sister Sophia decided to join us too.
Fast forward a few months to 6th April, and the three of us were struggling round the Derby city course. Well, I say the three of us were struggling. That’s not entirely true. Ben and I were struggling (and if I’m honest, I’m not sure how hard Ben was really finding it), while Sophia was bouncing around the 10k like an overexcited toddler. At around the 7k mark, while we were huffing and puffing on a bus lane behind Costco (glamorous it was not), Sophia was literally hopping side to side over the road markings. At points she would bound on ahead, then run back to us and make encouraging noises. I’m fairly sure that she ran about 15k in total!
This would, of course, have been demoralising, had we had the energy to feel anything at all other than out of breath.
At times it was certainly tempting to give up and stop, but it was never really an option any of considered. 10k isn’t that far in the scheme of things, and we made it across the finish line eventually – Ben and Sophia generously letting me “sprint” ahead of them to finish first.
Hard work it certainly was, but well worth it. Which is often the case isn’t it? Most of the best things in life require a little effort, but the pay-off makes it worth it in the end.