I only went and completed my first ever race today; I am no longer a race virgin! And to celebrate, I want to share with you some of the things I learned from my first race.
Am mega excited and proud of myself to have done something so completely out of my comfort zone and to think I’ve only been running since the beginning of April. In fact it’s only as I type this and remind myself that it was just a month ago that it dawns on me exactly how much I’ve managed to achieve in this short space of time and that perhaps I need to stop being so hard on myself!
So anyway, I could go into massive detail about my performance in the 6k Woodland Woggle and talk a bit about what the course is like, how fast I ran etc., but I’m not. Instead I want to share with you my very novice view on some key things I learned and noticed about the world of competitive running; it’s a real eye opener I’m telling you!
1. Peacock Parade
I’m sure this is a very sweeping statement I’m about to make, but judging purely by today’s observations it seems there is a distinct difference between male and female runners.
Women seem to like being in competition with themselves, often downplaying their performance with an “Oh I don’t think it was my best race” or “I’m sure I’ve run that distance faster before”. Us girls are also rather keen on taking ‘selfies’, whether it’s before, after, with medal, group shots or just to show off their #sweatface, it’s all about looking good, feeling proud, proof that you’ve done it and whacking on a good Instagram filter!
Men on the overhand are all about the showing off, wanting to win and, to use a bit of modern race lingo, ‘beasting’ the hell out of it! And that’s not all, on countless occasions today I spotted men limbering up rather over enthusiastically, whilst unsubtly glancing around to see if anyone was ‘checking them out’. This parade of testosterone, which was exactly like the mating strut of a peacock, was both cringey and laughable at the same time and it certainly helped relax my pre-race jitters. Oh and don’t even get me started on the man who thought it entirely appropriate to wear a much too short t-shirt with running tights that revealed exactly what he’d had for breakfast that morning and whether or not he’d be able to father children. No need!
2. Words Can Be Misinterpreted
When a friend first mentioned the ‘Woodland Woggle’ it was sold to me as a lovely, scenic run through ‘undulating’ bluebell filled woodlands. Fine I thought, I’m a beginner but I can handle a little bit of an incline every now and again…Little did I know that the person who wrote the race description was either having a right old laugh or needed a sight test. To me, the word undulating means slightly bumpy, pastoral English countryside, NOT dirty great big looming hills. My tip to you is this, when you read the course description before doing a race, assume that any word relating to the landscape is going to sound tamer than it actually is!
3. Walking Is NOT For Wimps!
This is one of the big things I learned from my first race. Leading on from the whole hill ‘confusion’ I want to discuss whether or not it’s OK to walk in a race. At the start I’d told myself that it didn’t matter what time I did it in, I just wanted to finish and ideally I wanted to run all of it and have no stops.
Well, the hills kindly put a stop to some of those plans!
But, actually, I’m kind of alright with that!
I didn’t end up running the whole 6k, but I didn’t stop and I did make it to the end of the course. In the short time I’ve been running, unsurprisingly enough I haven’t had much hill practice, so when those bad boys loomed up in front of me I knew it was going to be tough. I started off well enough, but half way up and I was panting like a dehydrated dog. Plus, and you may think this is the biggest excuse ever, there was a couple just ahead of me that were obviously also new to hills and they got to the halfway point and then had to walk the rest. Now, here’s the thing, I’m fairly sure my body can do more than I give it credit for, but my brain on the other hand is a bit of a quitter, so when I saw that couple start to walk my brain told me I’d be alright to do the same.
Yes, I walked up the hills, but so what. If walking meant I completed the course then that was the right thing to do and one important thing I’ve taken away with me today is know your limits and walking is definitely not for wimps!
4. Ignorance Is Bliss
I’d kind of already sussed this out, but today definitely confirmed it for me. I run better when a) I don’t know where I’m going, b) I don’t know how far I’ve already run and c) I don’t know how long I’ve got left. In fact the more clueless I am about the whole thing, the better my mental state. Some runners need markers pointing out that they’ve reached the 1k mark or are at the halfway point or there’s only 1k left; it helps them assess whether they can up their pace. I however am well and truly in the other camp of runners, where ignorance truly is bliss and I would much rather not know anything at all. Today was proof of that, as I found myself obsessing over how much further I still had to run and inwardly groaning when I realised I’d only actually reached the 1k point.
5. Sense Of Community
One of the lovely things I learned from my first race, is just how friendly and supportive everybody is within the running community. I’ve already experienced the benefits of running with others with my lovely, local running group the Runnyhoneys, but today took it to a whole other level and showed me just how supportive and encouraging runners are to each other. As I neared the end of the race and it was becoming more and more clear this was my first time; if being overtaken by runners from the 10k race that had started at the same time wasn’t enough, it was being overtaken by kids that did it, I was absolutely amazed by the words of encouragement that were exchanged. Men sped past me as I bumbled along, but as they did they gave me a “well done”, which really cheered me up and made me feel as though I was part of something important. And the claps, cheers and “you can do it’s” from the spectators and marshals along the route definitely helped spur me on at times when all I wanted to do was sit down and cry. For all those lovely people that said those words to me today, I thank you so much!
6. Runners Like Sweets
I have no idea where this started from and I get it that the extra energy during a run probably comes in handy, but I still can’t quite get my head around baskets of jelly beans and jelly babies being offered mid run. There were kids running the course today, so I’m sure to them it was fantastic, but at the 1k point where in all honesty you’ve only really just started, wondering whether I should be eating a jelly baby or not is not really the kind of decision I wanted to be making! I opted not to, I guess the slight OCD part of me was thinking too much about who’s hands had been in there, what the sweat to sweet ratio was and working out the odds of me choking on one and having to be resuscitated by a St John’s Ambulance crew member. And anyway, by the time I’d figured all that lot out I was virtually at the 2k mark!
7. Runners Come In All Shapes And Sizes
Cast your minds back to my article ‘Anyone Can Run…And Here’s Why‘ in which I explored why running, out of almost every other type of exercise, is something that can be done by absolutely anyone. Well, today highlighted this fact even more, as there were people from literally all walks of life donning their Lycra and putting their absolute best into their run. Big, small, young, old, male, female you name it they were all there proving that fitness cannot be judged by looks alone.
8. It’s A Bling Thing
Running a race means getting a medal! Woohoo!!!
I’ve never, ever won a medal before so today was a bit of a milestone for me and I rather liked it. Yeah, so OK it’s hardly to Olympic gold standard, but it’s shiny, it’s mine and the kids think I’m pretty special for having won it. If there’s one thing that might tempt me into running another one of these events again it’s the medals.
Like a magpie I’m rather partial to shiny things and it’s even better if I’ve had to sweat a bit to get it.
9. Know Your Bacon
I’m not going to lie, part of the lure of today’s race was knowing I could sit around with my mates afterwards and have a bacon roll. Silly I know, but boy do I love a bacon roll. (Yes…I know it would’ve been easier to just make myself one at home!) This particular bacon roll was hardly the finest speciman I’ve seen or tasted in my life. If I’m going to get picky it was too fatty, too gristly and the roll was too small and floury. BUT…I tell you something when you’ve just run 6k and you are hanging out for food, it is pure manna from heaven and that ropey bacon butty was precisely what the doctor ordered.
10. Smash That Comfort Zone Wide Open
A month ago I was NOT a runner. I’d never run before, other than to the bar when they called last orders, and I had absolutely no desire to do so. So for me to have done what I did today is without doubt one of the hardest things I’ve had to physically do and certainly took me well out of my comfort zone. Another lesson that today taught me is that sometimes it’s amazing to do something that scares you, to do something that you’re not entirely sure you’re capable of doing and to prove to yourself that if you give something new a try, more often than not you’ll absolutely smash it!