The Gun Run and youngsters nipping at my heels

We ran the Gun Run Half Marathon last weekend – me, Firstborn Daughter, The Boyfriend, Significant Other and the Bromance.

Last year it was a big deal. It was a half marathon! I think it might have been only my second half marathon. It’s possible the race was preceded by a sleepless night and waves of terrified nausea at the start. I remember how much my knees hurt within the first few kilometres already. And I remember I walked up the hill that appears nicely in the middle of the race. I finished in 2:45.

This year it was much less auspicious. I know I can do the distance, even if I have to crawl it. I know I have limitations – I’m not going to run a sub-two hour half marathon, not any time soon and probably not ever – so I don’t have performance anxiety. All those ‘final countdown’ articles in the ‘Runner’s World’ are for people who are actually going race. You know – the rest of the world’s runners; the ones who are going to go all out, gritting their teeth through the pain, to shave a second off last year’s personal best.

I can now turn up at the start line of a race and run it because being part of a big event is fun. How often do you strut your stuff down the road (sweating in spandex, no less) and have people tell you that you’re looking good? Okay, so maybe it still happens to some people, but it’s been quite a while since I last stopped the traffic.

It’s fun to be part of the vibe and the excitement, the almost intimate crush at the start, the nervous banter amongst the runners, the countdown, the music, the promise of a day in which you can do something more that you did yesterday.

Our coach is a bit conservative when it comes to running races. He believes you should choose your races, and choose only one or two a year. You should train for those races and use them to run your best time. Our WhatsApp chats usually go quiet (from his end) when I say I’m just running for fun, or that I’m using the race as a training run. He probably decides that one can’t reason with an idiot and so moves on to do better things with his time.

But, honestly, how much better am I going to get? And what difference will it make, really? I started running at 53. Some months later, at 54, I ran a marathon in 5:04 – and it was fun! Sure, it hurt. But I also had the time of my life. So if I train really hard, and focus on running another marathon a year from now, how much better will I do? I’ll run it in 4:45? Maybe? That’s still no great shakes in marathon time. It’s not going to rock the world. It’s not even going to rock the world of women in my age group.

I figure if I keep going the way I am, turning up for races because they’re fun, running because it makes me feel good and because it means I can fit into clothes I last wore 30 years ago, I’ll still end up running a marathon in 4:45 a year from now. And it wouldn’t have been a chore – it would have been fun. Instead of grimacing my way through the training runs and the races, straining against the chains and anchors of age and genetics (and injury), I would have been running for the lekker of it. And every time you get out there, you get better anyway. In my case, it’s just a little bit better, instead of a lot better.

And so last weekend I ran the Gun Run Half Marathon in 2:19, according to Strava, or 2:21:50, according to the official results. The race isn’t timed mat to mat, though, so the three minutes it took us to cross the start line are added in to the official time.

Even though we live almost across the road from the start line, we managed to arrive late and join the throng way at the back. Not that we left home late, mind you, but because I didn’t pay attention to Firstborn Daughter when she told me that the start line had been moved to Beach Road. So we made our way to last year’s start and had to do about a 2 km jog to the start line, with marshals and traffic officers shouting ‘You have seven minutes to the start! Hurry up! Run!’ Well, they weren’t shouting just at us – there was a whole bunch of other people who were approaching the start line from the wrong end.

I couldn’t find Firstborn Daughter and The Boyfriend in the crush of bodies and I figured today would be their chance of sneaking past me – considering they would be crossing the start line ahead of me. They had left home before we did and had gone straight to the start, since they had paid attention to where it was, and so they would have been way up ahead in the crowd.

As luck would have it, they didn’t manage to beat me … says she who has just been saying that she’s not worried about time … but they are nipping at my heels. According to Strava, they came in at 2:23:47. Way too close for my liking!

And now I’m sick!

The Significant Other had been spreading a headful of germs around the place over the last two weeks, and it was inevitable that I would provide a fertile breeding space for some of them. So I am coughing like a 60-a-day smoker, I’m full of snot, my throat is raw, my lead-lidded eyes are burning, and I’m tired-tired-tired.

Week 4 of Hal Higdon’s Eight-Week Marathon Program is down the toilet. As is all the training that I’ve done up to now, since I’m going to lose fitness while I slump here in front of the monitor, trying to tap some work out on my keyboard to appease anxious publishers.

So the little buggers have their opportunity now. If they get out and do a few runs this week – grief, if they just get out of bed and walk around the block a few times – they will easily breeze past me as I gasp my way through the Contantia Grape Run Half Marathon next weekend.

Of course they were always going to outrun me. It’s inevitable. There’s 30 years between us, I’m still pretty much a novice, I don’t train often enough, and I’m no athlete. But I have rather liked my time out front … I feel only slightly embarrassed to admit it … and had hoped to hold on to the position a little bit longer.

So … maybe I should start taking my races more seriously…?

Hmm … nah!

The ultimate goal is still to get to ultra, not to the fastest half.

The more immediate goal was the Winelands Marathon. This week it’s not looking promising. I might have to shift my sights to the next marathon. I’m miffed about that too. I rather liked the idea of taking part in three marathons in one year.

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