A few Sunday’s ago I took part in the New Swindon Half Marathon. While chatting to my fellow runners before the start in the race village it brought home to me that whether you are the fastest, slowest or mid pack, there’s always that nervous excitement before a race. Everyone experiences the adrenaline on the start line, moments of exhilaration (and despair/worry/anxiety/self doubt!) during the run as well as the endorphin induced euphoria when crossing the line. Although it was wet and cold at the finish, there were plenty of smiling faces as new found friends shared their experiences of the race.
Two Tuesdays’ later I was at the Prince of Wales Stadium for our usual Cheltenham Harriers training night. With a week to go before the teams were selected for the Midland 6 Stage race, this was always going to be a slightly more punchy session with people keen to make statements to the manager who was looking on, watch in one hand and pen in the other to record our times. Competition is high within the Harriers as we field 6 teams of 6 for this race: an amazing effort for a local club. The A team is much vied for – there is a chance of a medal and an outside chance of a historic first win this year. Knowing that I was right on the edge of the team I was certainly well motivated for this session, especially once I’d knocked back a couple of espressos in the afternoon in preparation! It was wet and windy on the track but everyone was up for the 4 x 1 mile efforts (3 minutes jog recovery). Once we settled into our respective groups we took a lap each on the front and it soon became clear that each of us was keen to push on and make a statement. The final few hundred metres always picked up! In the final two mile reps we were all pushing really hard, gritting the teeth but trying to relax at the same time as it wound up. It was a great scene: wind blowing, rain coming down, team-mates and mates reveling in the competition, pushing each others’ limits and eventually ending up in a collective heap at the end of the final mile. Mile splits of 4.51, 4.48, 4.53, 4.51 were pretty solid for me but put me right on the edge of the A team. We’ll see who the manager and coach select!**
Then last weekend I had a completely contrasting running experience. I was up in Betws-y-coed in Wales on the year 13 Geography Field Trip (I am a Geography teacher). My Head of Department does a fair bit of fitness himself and understands my desire to run/cycle so I knew I was going to have a few hours here and there to enjoy the local scenery in the Conwy Valley. I love the thrill of racing and smashing myself on the track in training, but am equally as happy opening the laptop and exploring a new running area on the OS Map layer on Bing Maps (Bing maps have a license with Ordnance Survey so have 1:50000 and 1:25000 OS map layers when you zoom in far enough and toggle the layer in the top right hand corner – it’s an awesome feature. Can you tell I teach Geography?). I zoomed in on the Rhyd y Creuau Field Study Centre where we were staying and hand a good look at the local footpaths and contours. I checked my training plan from my coach and planned a few routes. The next day I was out on my own, enjoying some much needed ‘me time’, far from the hustle and bustle of everyday, bounding across the river Conwy on a beautiful old rope bridge and then bouncing gleefully along the river bank on interesting trails, drinking in the stunning scenery around me and absorbing the sound of the raging river to my side. The sun came out for the later part of my run and there were plenty of exhilarating, euphoric moments that exercise and beautiful scenery can create.
With so many running experiences available to you, can you ever get bored with this most natural of sports?!
**Ben was later selected for the A team for the Midland 6 Stage race and justified his selection with an excellent time, helping the Cheltenham Harriers to an all time course record for the club. But sadly they were beaten into second place by an inspired Bristol AC.
Written by Elite Duathlete, Ben Price. You can follow Ben’s adventures over on Twitter.