“What’s next on the list for your 30 races then Jen?” coach Mike asked. “Kymin Dash”, I replied, “although I’m not sure if it’ll be challenging enough to include … maybe I’ll decide after the race.” Mike laughed, “Oh trust me, it’ll be challenging enough!”
I’d like to say all races were run with the inspiring mental attitude of last week’s, “I can overcome this, let’s break through the pain, think about those I’m running for,” and so on. But they’re not. If you’d asked me how I felt before, or even at moments during, the race, I’d have answered, “Meh”, “Ugh”, or, “I really don’t give a (insert favourite expletive)”. I really wasn’t feeling it, and lacked the drive to really push myself. I wanted to opt out – but I’d already decided, after my conversation with Coach Mike, that the Kymin Dash would be one of my challenge races. For this race, most of the battle was the mental and practical challenge to get myself to the start line and ready to run.
The morning had gotten off to a less than brilliant start when I awoke very early to discover my elderly dog wet the bed (she was lying next to me). It’s not her fault and I helped her outside and looked after her, but I was tired and grumpy (and covered in dog wee). Then despite being awake for hours, I was as per usual catastrophically disorganised and running late. I hurled myself out the door and got to Niki’s just in time for my ride, barely noticing if I had running shoes on, and whether they matched.
After having had several cups of tea, I myself was busting for a wee by the time I got to Niki’s, so I stole her keys and ran inside to use the bathroom, feeling terrible for delaying us. Then we got halfway down the road and I realised, bollocks, I’ve left my wallet in the car. So, delayed again, we turned around and headed back, where I did a very quick top-to-toe search of the car, and returned empty handed, with no way to pay for the race. So then it was another detour for a quick trip to the cash point, where Niki kindly got out cash to cover for my inability to adult, and we were eventually on our way, me apologising profusely and Niki telling me not to worry.
I kept saying, clearly this is not going to be my race, everything seems to be working against me, maybe I shouldn’t bother and I should just watch and cheer and support. But Niki encouraged (challenged) me with her much more positive take on it, “I always think, if everything is going against me, stuff it, I’m going to show you, it makes me even more determined to go out there and win it.” Well, I might not win it like you can Niki, but thank you, that is helpful! I’ll challenge those forces that have tried to stop me getting out there and doing this, and give it my all.
The Kymin dash starts with a mile long ascent of the Kymin in Monmouthshire, followed by a foresty undulating section, downhill and finishing flat couple of miles along the river.
I’m not going to lie, the uphill start was tough. I was able to keep running, and passed some runners on the way up. It cost me though – I was exhausted as I reached the top and felt unable to push as I usually would on the down.
“It’s all downhill from here.” Lies. Blatant lies. These fresh faced and far-too-happy-marshalls should be ashamed of their dishonesty, encouraging though I’m sure they were trying to be.
I learned early on into my running journey the runners lingo. If you hear a runner tell you a route is flat, you can expect a couple of minor inclines. Fairly flat, do some hill training. Undulating, and you’ll find yourself faced with what the average non runner might describe as a hilly course. If they tell you it’s a bit hilly, you’d damn well better be prepared and ready for the challenge. If they tell you its very hilly, run – as fast as you can – in the opposite direction!
It’s funny though, after the killer hiller to start, I found myself on what I mentally described as an undulating section. Sure, there were vague moments of upwardly sloping paths, but these gentle rolls were little more than waves to ride after zigzagging up the hell of a hill. And it hit me: I was now a reproducer of this runners’ language that I’d found so incredulous at the beginning. I’d been successfully socialised into the running community.
My favourite part was free falling through the open fields after the Kymin. A chance to catch my breath and bask in the sunshine, whilst streaming past those who are scared of a little uneven ground. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm. Nowhere else I’d rather be on a day like this than running in the countryside.*
Ps. I’m doing 30 races for 30 years to raise awareness and funds to prevent sex trafficking and rehabilitate victims. If you’d like to donate and support the incredible work of A21, please click here. Here are my races so far:
(*or occasionally, maybe, watching Netflix, eating pizza and drinking beer)