Yesterday I ran the very first City 2 Sea, Melbourne's sister event to Sydney's massively popular City 2 Surf. The 14k course went from the National Gallery, along St Kilda Road, around Albert Park and down into St Kilda. About 13,000 people turned up, which I think is pretty awesome for an event in it's first year.
Between my recent holiday, a bout of shingles in September and a flu in the last week or two, I was not really fit to run this race. I turned up dressed to run, but planning to walk. Until I saw all the other runners, that is, at which point I thought- bugger it. I wanna run!
After an interminable wait in the Green Panadol corral with my pal Matty H, we were finally off. The weather was coolish, overcast but slightly humid. I wore a long sleeved Nike tech shirt, my favourite white 2XU hat (yup, if you can't beat the 2XU twins, join em), and my snazzy new Reebok shorts (which later proved to be a bit of a mistake). It's the first time I've turned up to a race feeling really cute :D
I have the slightly dodgy technique of finding a runner of similar pace to me, or a pace I find comfortable, and drafting off them, so when I eventually found a guy who was running a near perfect 7:30k pace, I stuck with him. In all my time of drafting I've never been busted, or if I have they never said....until yesterday! 7:30 is a moderate to top pace for me, and I was untrained and tiring fast, so eventually slowed down, and my draftee piped up to say, "Nooo, don't stop, you've got a good few k's in you yet!"
And so I didn't. I hung in for as long as I could, but after the first four I had a nasty stitch, and so with a high five I bid my draftee a good race. He was a newbie runner who had never previously run farther than a 5k, but he had a lovely smooth, solid pace and a relaxed stride. I'd love to know how he went, but in a field that size it was pretty hard to spot him later! I just hope he had a good race.
I was pretty happy with my 4k effort, and could have left it there. I'd planned some shorter 3-4k runs this week to ease back in, and that would have been a good effort. I walked the next two or three k's, and was feeling pretty done.
But my heart always breaks as I watch runners pass me....I can't take it. So when a runner passed me slowly and turned to me and smiled, I smiled weakly back and asked if I could pace with her for awhile. She said she was doing 8:30's, and I smiled and said that would be perfect.
The runner's name was Emma. I'd noticed Emma when I was standing in the corrals, because she was an anomaly. A buxom, heavy woman, but her gear was serious. I think I've spent so long feeling like an anomaly that I saw her right away, and knew what she was-the real deal, sheathed in fat, maybe, but burning inside with the need to just do it, to be challenged, to keep going.
I ran with Emma almost all the way to the finish. I had to stop and walk a lot-there's no denying that I was in a world of pain, and a little whingy with it, if I'm honest. She just kept running her own race. Sure, the pace dropped, but she just kept going.
I asked a lot of questions about Emma's three marathons, her training, and just generally shot the breeze. It's the longest time I've ever spent talking with another runner like that in real life. As a solo runner I am a reader of forums, a thinker of thoughts, a listener to podcasts...but I very rarely run with others, because I am too slow, plain and simple, for most.
I don't think I was very good company, being tired, whingy, and having almost completely blocked ears (pollen, you suck!). I didn't quite know how to think or what to say, so I just settled for being interested in what she had to say, and the challenges she'd faced and overcome.
It's true that runners come in all shapes and sizes, and we're all special in our own way, and blah blah blah...but some people are just going to do what they want, and be what they are, and if others don't like it, they just don't give a rat's arse, and that's why Emma is awesome.
I came in at 2:03:37, which I'm pretty pleased with. I'm in a world of pain today with very sore quads and a tweaky right ankle (sore in much the same place as after the HM) but I'm hoping it will ease
today, so that I can go out for a little run tomorrow.
Oh yeah baby, I'm so back :)