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Running with a target on my back



12th March 2023, running in an England vest for the first time, I represented the country in an international competition at the Chester 10k.


Race day. I left my hotel for a warm up run at 7:30am and followed the final mile or so of the route. That did little to calm my nerves. The race was to start at 9am, but I’d been invited back to the England Team base hotel, where I’d previously collected my back race number and ‘England Cap’, for a team photo at 8:15am. Photos taken, I walked to the start full of butterflies.


On the start line, the England and Welsh team members were invited to the front of the first pen. We chatted and furtively looked at each other’s back numbers. The gun went and we hurtled out onto the course. My first mile was quicker than I had planned, but I knew it would be a fast start and I felt okay. There was an incline into a course turning point, around 5k, and I started to feel my legs getting heavy, but I knew I was running hard, so that was to be expected too. I went through 5k in sub 19 minutes, too quick, but training had been going really well, so who knows? I thought to myself. All went well until around mile 5: my pace slowed to around 6:30 min/mile, I saw a VW50 go past, back number clearly displayed, and I had no response. We’d hit the final steady incline and although at other times I probably wouldn’t have noticed it, my legs were tying up and it felt like a mountain (okay a hill at least). I put my head down and tried to concentrate. I finally saw the barriers indicating the last ½ mile. I heard someone say, ‘They had to go past sooner for 38…’. I looked at my watch, but couldn’t focus on what it said. Finally, I saw the finish line and did my best to sprint.


I crossed in 39:14 – a huge pb of 30 seconds. Then, a final trip back to the England Team hotel for the prize giving. The England Team beat the Welsh and I came 4th in my age category and 23rd in the race! Thrilled doesn’t describe how I felt.


So what is next? Three days after the race I tested positive for Covid, for the third time. Maybe my jelly legs were not all due to an over exuberant first few miles? I’ll get over this illness again and maybe go event faster. Or not. Who knows? Back to training and we’ll have to see.

Helen

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