Century City 10 km Express – in which I am (apparently) so badass I get disqualified

Saturday 28 February 2015
Training for Rome Marathon (for real this time)
Week 7 of 10
21 days to go

Not much running happened this week. Some resentment and general foul temperedness hung over the house as well, especially around the kitchen area where She Who Is Supposed To Be Training For A Marathon was preparing food for Those Who Are Not.

Wednesday evening I had planned a 15 km, as per the training schedule. The Significant Other, however, was running with his Bromance, and so Someone Else had to walk the dogs. I figured I could do a quick walk and then still go for a run, but things didn’t work out that way. I find that time accellerates in the mornings, especially the time between waking and leaving for school and work, and in the evenings, between five and ten. So, one moment it was around six o’clock and then suddenly it was late and shopping had to be done and supper made and another day in which no running had happened, happened.

But it’s great to be walking up along the mountain trail, looking out over the sea, watching the colour of the light change as the sun goes down, looking up at Lion’s Head … and being dragged across ankle-breaking terrain by two wild dogs.

Ships in the bay and light fading over Sea Point

Ships in the bay and light fading over Sea Point

Dusty mountain trail leading to Lion's Head

Dusty mountain trail leading to Lion’s Head

The boy checking out the view

The boy checking out the view

Walking two dogs can be a challenge

Walking two dogs can be a challenge

Thursday evening was hill training but kid schlepping duties ended too late for me to be able to make it to Camps Bay to run with the group. Significant Other’s work commitments again meant that Someone Else (i.e. She Who Is Supposed To Be Training For A Marathon) had to walk the dogs. So it was up the mountain trail again.

I tell myself that I’m going to be doing quite a lot of walking during the Rome Marathon, which now is mere days away, and so the dog walking is part of training too, as I need to exercise those walking muscles … just finding silver linings here, folks.

Not much sleep has been happening either, with me doing my usual early hours of the morning decamping to the lounge to find a quiet place for an hour or two’s sleep before the alarm goes off. Last night was pretty rotten. The Significant Other and The Kid came home at about eleven o’clock. I was shattered and really wanted to get to sleep early but knew they would come clattering in and wake me, so I dozed while I waited for them to come home and settle down to bed. The Significant Other, as usual, got into bed with his iPad, which he tends to angle towards my eyes as I try to sleep. I’m going to confiscate that @#$%ing thing any day now. And random sounds outside had the dogs on red alert most of the night, so even when I wasn’t being kept awake by a light-emitting iPad, snoring or heavy breathing, I was rattled awake by the dogs barking frantically and running down the passage to bark at the door.

It was without much enthusiasm, then, that we set off to run the Century City 10 km Express this morning. I had got up quite late and not had time for a cup of tea or anything to eat. I’ll be fine, I thought, I had a great 15 km run last week on an empty stomach, so maybe that’s the way to go. But I was feeling nauseaus. I think last night’s basil pesto, bought from the shop and not made by my loving hands, had disagreed with me.

Firstborn Daughter and I were running our first race as licensed runners. We had our new ASA numbers pinned to the backs of our new ATC vests. ‘Do we just pin our numbers to the back of the vest?’ Firstborn Daughter asked the Significant Other. ‘Yes,’ he said, confirming that the race number (i.e. the one you get at the race) goes on the front.

It was quite a crush at the start. They had over 2 000 entrants and everyone was driving around, looking for parking. There were long queues at registration, which didn’t affect me, as I had entered online and simply had to collect my envelope from the pre-registration desk. Firstborn Daughter and Significant Other stood in long, snaking queues before they had their little pink cards, and the clock was ticking. I had visions of again having to catch the runners as they sprinted off without me.

But somehow we all had our entries sorted out with time to spare and took the walk to the race start. I’ve never actually seen the front of a race, all the tiny skinny girls and sinewy guys who fly like the wind lined up beneath the Start banner – which faces away from the runners. It looked pretty cool, even though it was a relatively small field.

We made our way down the shute along the side to get in near the back of the group. It’s nice to start up front, obviously, since the clock starts to tick as soon as the gun is fired, and it can take a few minutes to cross the start line. But other people had been lining up for ages and I’m quite pedantic about not pushing in.

I still had waves of nausea but figured it would settle down once I started running. It was a crowded start with lots of elbow-to-elbow shufflers making it difficult to settle into a rhythm. It was meant to be a training run for me, not a race, but it’s quite hard, once you’re in the middle of a racing crowd, to keep to a 7 min/km pace. My Garmin beeped at the end of the first kay. I glanced at it and saw that I had run at 6:20 – faster than I had thought, given the dodging and sidestepping, and a bit faster than I had intended, but kind of satisfying, I must say … I allowed myself a little impressed ‘Humph!’ and pushed on.

I had lost First Born Daughter in the crush and figured she was probably quite pissed off at this stage. I hoped she was okay, because she looked less than keen to do the run this morning, and complained about sore calf muscles. I always fear the tears and unhappiness.

The course is quite tricksy. It’s flat but not really. There is a slight gradient all the way, and little bridges that rise and fall quite sharply. A lot of people stop suddenly at the sight of any incline and start to walk, so the bridges were congested and slowed one down. They also bite at the legs a little bit.

All round, though, it was a pretty uneventful race: a flattish course that winds through Century City, with no spectators and very little vibe. I kept holding back on my pace, reminding myself that there’s the Milkwood half marathon to run tomorrow, and that the greater goal wasn’t a PB in a 10 km run but time on the legs for that big race in March.

At around 8 km my nausea turned to gagging and I ran along like a pregnant woman gagging and retching, trying not to vomit on a 10 km race like a baby. Pretty horrid and embarassing. I recovered, though, and at the 9 km mark picked up the pace a little. I glanced at my Garmin and realised that a sub-one hour was possible. ‘Nah …’ I told myself. ‘You’ve got it wrong.’ But, actually, had I picked up the pace at the 8 km mark, instead of gagging and telling myself to take it easy, I could have done it. My Garmin beeped at 10 km: 1:01:52.

I ran my last 10 km race, the Growthpoint 10 km in December, in 1:10, and a 10 km training run in February in 1:06:50, Even if you’re slower than a turtle running through treacle, you get faster if you just get out there.

A few hundred metres from the finish line I let go; I picked up the pace and dashed past the runners ahead of me. I don’t know where this speed is during the race, it just finds me at the end.

Yes! I was done! ‘New Record’ announced my Garmin. Wow.

And then my gut started to churn and my nausea threatened to turn into full-blown vomiting. I needed to just settle down, breathe and focus.

A little round man with shiny spectacles resting on his chubby cheeks pulled me out of the queue. He was holding a clipboard and was peering at me from under his cap. I wasn’t sure what was going on – were we making two queues? I’ll lose my place – how will they get my correct race position? Maybe I’ve won a spot prize? But he wasn’t smiling.

‘Come here, come and stand here,’ he said.

‘Where’s your number?’ he asked, poking the back of his pen at my stomach.

The nausea was working its way up.

I gestured to my back to show that my number was pinned to my back.

‘No, your race number that must go on the front. Where’s your race number?’

I must fight this nausea. I nodded at him and started unzipping my pouch so that I could hand him my pink card.

‘You’re supposed to have a number on the front,’ he nagged. He was starting to harass me now. There was no need for this.

Still with the plastic bag containing the pink card in my hand, I doubled over, put my hands on my knees and retched some clear vomit onto the grass. Undeterred, unsmiling, uncaring, the rotten little man reached to take the card from me. I wiped my mouth and chin with the back of my hand. I was vomiting in public and this man was treating me as if I had just stolen something.

‘You’re disqualified,’ he said. ‘You’re supposed to have a number on the back and on the front,’ he continued, still poking the back of his pen at me.

‘I didn’t realise,’ I said. ‘It’s my first licensed race …’ And then I doubled over to vomit again. Fuck that pesto!

On he went, poking his pen at me, telling me that I am supposed to have a number on the front – okay, I get it, dammit! – and demanding to know my name even though I was chucking up and clearly wasn’t quite ready to speak.

I felt so utterly humiliated. I spelled my name out for him so that he could write it on his little clipboard. Then he wrote ‘disqualified’ on a torn-off scrap of paper.

Disqualified ... a very official looking piece of paper, you will agree

Disqualified … a very official looking piece of paper, you will agree

I put my hand on his shoulder and said ‘You could be nicer. If someone is vomiting, you really could be nicer.’

‘I have to go by these rules,’ he said, holding a flyer under my nose.

‘Yes, absolutely you must,’ I said. ‘And I understand that you need to disqualify me. But you could be nicer.’ I really wanted to say ‘You don’t have to be such a shit you mean little man,’ but I didn’t.

I walked off the field, past the people handing out medals, past the people handing out Cokes … because I had been disqualified. I had run my first race as a licensed runner, I had run my fastest 10 km, and I had been disqualfied. My need to vomit was replaced by my need to cry.

I had paid my club fees. I had paid my ASA fees. I had entered online and paid my race entry. I was not an illegal runner. I am so damn law-abiding that I even keep my empty water satchets in my bra and bring them home so that I don’t litter. And some little dick with a clipboard decided that it would really make his day, it would really make him feel terribly important if he could pull a middle-of-the-pack random runner out of the line and disqualify her. And not only disqualify her, but be an utter dickhead about it. This while people were being given the wrong race positions because no one was controlling the queue (self-policing and decency are not

Little shitty, nasty, bespectacled, capped, bibbed man with the round belly and the round cheeks and the clipboard and the ballpoint pen: There are many ways of doing your job; I hope your bed is infested with bedbugs tonight.

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