I’ll be a runner yet

Regular readers of my blog will know that for the past few months I’ve been doing a bit of running. Nothing special, just a few miles three or four times a week. So the weekend just gone marked something of a watershed moment – my first proper race! Yes, it was the long-awaited Bristol 10k. No hills. No muddy scrambles. And no having to stop to wait for the dog to finish rolling in something disgusting. Just six and a quarter miles of flat, traffic-free roads.

Obviously, I was nervous as hell. I was fairly confident I could run the distance, as I’ve covered 10k a couple of times already in training. But I’m not so good with new situations or crowds. Both of which the race brought in spades. But I had my race number, my race plan (Try to enjoy yourself. Try to finish in under an hour. And try not to get overtaken by anyone dressed as a piece of fruit.) and my support team*. So I was good to go. In fact, here I am…

Before the start

I was towards the beginning of the first of two waves in the mass start, so there were all sorts of runners around me. Some were clearly quite experienced, very focused and hoping for a personal best. Others, like me, were less experienced and just hoping not to disgrace themselves in any way. And there were a lot of us. Somewhere north of nine thousand, in fact. Here come some of them now…

Let the race begin

I found my pace fairly quickly, though the first couple of kilometres involved a lot of weaving in and out of slower runners and getting out of the way of faster ones. After that, however, I found myself in a group of people all going at roughly the same speed as me, which made things a lot easier. As did the huge crowds of people cheering us on, which gave me a real boost. Here’s me doing my thing… (Yes, I really am that ungainly. Sorry.)

On the move

My support team seemed to be zipping around the course about as quickly as I was, as she managed to catch me on camera on a number of occasions. She also seemed a little stunned that I wasn’t right at the back (as, to be honest, was I), but managed to wave and make encouraging noises. Though she did say afterwards that I didn’t look as knackered as I should have done, so clearly wasn’t running fast enough. Nice.

Mission accomplished

As you can see from the photo above, I finished the race and got my medal. I even managed a bit of a sprint down the home straight. And having covered the course in 56 minutes and 9 seconds, I was pleased with my time. (Although it sounds a little less impressive when I point out that came 4,375th!). But I enjoyed myself, I finished in under an hour, and I didn’t get overtaken by a single piece of fruit.

* A rather unimpressed Natalie, who had been planning on a lie-in until I realised that the first train into town was too late to get me to the start on time and that I’d need a lift. Typical comment from my support team: “Oh, I didn’t realise you were running in fancy dress.” I wasn’t.

The mudrunner and me

With the Bristol 10k race only two months away (eek), my training is well and truly under way. Living in a small market town in North Somerset, I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to places to run, with a wide range of on- and off-road options on my doorstep. My favourite place to run is the beach, but this is a half-hour drive away so isn’t suitable for everyday running. But my second favourite, thankfully, is just down the road.

It’s called ‘The Drove’ and it’s a farm track that runs alongside the drainage ditches (‘rhynes’) on the moors at the edge of town. It’s nice and flat, which is great. It’s about four miles out and back. And there’s one bit, between two easily recognisable side-tracks, that’s almost exactly a mile long – which is great for speed sessions. Here’s the beginning of the track…

Along the rhyne

The best bit, though, is that the Drove is completely traffic free, so I can take Molly along without worrying too much about what she’s getting up to while I’m trundling along. Short of jumping into one of the ditches (which she’s only done once), there’s not much she can do to get into trouble. Unless it’s been raining, in which case she can get very, very (and I mean VERY) muddy. Which inevitably calls for a bath.

This is what happened a couple of weeks ago, when we had a great run but both got rather mucky. Molly knows the command ‘go get in the bath you mucky hooligan’, so she dutifully raced upstairs and jumped into the bathtub. It was only when I got the shampoo out that she started to look a little dubious…

Bathtime for Molly

But she was soon enjoying the warm water from the shower attachment. (Yes, I really am far to kind to the dog.) You’ll note she even gets a bathmat, to stop her sliding around. To be honest, Molly’s the only one who uses the bath as (a) we have a perfectly decent shower, (b) I’m not entirely sure that it’s plumbed in correctly, and (c) once Molly’s been in the bath, nobody else in their right mind would want to go near it.

Here we are mid-wash…

The shampoo

And here’s the bath. You’ll see what I mean about nobody else wanting to use it.

Muddy bathtub

After the wash comes the dry. This is usually the most exciting part of the process, as Molly insists on jumping around while she’s being dried. The drying stage can take anywhere between two and four towels. (Molly has her own. We don’t share.) On this occasion, it was a full four-towel job. This includes cleaning up the bathroom afterwards.

The dry

Once Molly’s dry, she knows that she gets a ‘well done’ biscuit, so races down to the kitchen where we keep the biscuit tin. She skids on the vinyl in the hall at the bottom of the stairs, spinning out and colliding with the stacked-up shoes like a racing car hitting a pile of tyres on a tight corner. It’s all part of the routine.

Here she is waiting for her biscuit. The word you’re looking for is ‘entitlement’. As in, ‘I am entitled to that biscuit now, so hand it over and nobody needs to get hurt.’

Time for a biscuit

And because it’s still quite cold out, I then wrestle Molly into her extremely embarrassing fleece jacket and make her sit on her cushion by the radiator. (And yes, this is possibly the largest dog cushion known to mankind.) By this enormous radiator is, to be honest, probably the most comfortable place in the house.

Staying warm

Once my little mudrunner is washed and dry, the rest of the house is now dirty and soaking wet. As, inevitably, am I…

And now bathtime for me