Have you ever raced a mile?
That’s got to be easy, you might think. So short. After running half and full marathons, with mile upon mile upon mile, often hilly, boggy, muddy, miles, what’s so challenging about running five thousand, two hundred and eighty feet? Or if you’re like me and prefer metric, one thousand six hundred metres? Little more than one and a half kilometres, it’s barely a warm-up, right?
But for track races, the trial isn’t about completion or endurance, the challenge is all about how fast you can race over a shorter distance.
Having never before run a solo mile, I had no idea what to expect or aim for. I had my speed rep pace times, but these were too short, with recoveries in between, so I didn’t know if I could keep that pace over a mile distance. And I had my 5k time, but with this being more than three times the distance, this pace would likely be too slow. In the end, after discussion with a friend/coach (who’s been helping me with speed work) from the race host club, Forest of Death Athletic Club, I decided that I’d attempt to sustain my speed sesh pace over the mile, which would give me a goal time of 7.15. I did a practice mile a few days before and managed 7.35, so I knew it would be a difficult but realistic challenge to try and achieve this time.
I tried to wriggle out of it on race day, feeling sick, heavy legs, possibly coming down with a bug. But really, I knew it was just a matter of pride; obviously I could still complete a mile even if I was feeling rough, but I was worried I’d horrendously embarrass myself. But I gritted my teeth, piled myself into the car and got to the track. There was no way I was letting myself off the hook. I reminded myself that as my first mile long race, even if I recorded a time I wasn’t happy with and didn’t meet the challenge goal, it would give me a baseline for future miles to enable me to see progress. So I gave myself a little talking to and got on with warming up with a few laps, chatting to a few other clubbies who were also taking part, debated which shoe to wear, changed shoe and then changed back, and watched the kids races.
I was pumped to see my friends teen girls running their mile. Despite finding it hard, they were doing really well, and we knew they’d benefit from a little encouragement. So one of the girls’ mums and myself ran parts with them, which had the dual benefit of loosening and warming me up even more, as well as taking my mind and nerves off my race.
I knew I was silly to worry, it’s not like anyone else would be judging my run, but I really wanted to meet my time, keeping in mind why I’m running with the goal to include it as a challenge race. Mostly it was the unknown; I just didn’t know how I’d do. I tried to turn the fear to excitement, and as our race was called up (we were split based on our estimated time), mentally I poured my thoughts into telling myself I could do this, that I was going to give it everything, that I was going to smash it. It was a beautiful evening, the image of the red setting sun over the hovering mist is etched into my mind. The lights had come on by the time of our race. I was ready.
The first lap, I felt strong. I stayed on my goal pace, and reminded myself not to just sit behind someone I thought I should be running behind, but overtook so I was sticking to my pace. The second lap, I ran consistent with the first and was excited about the thought of beating my time. The third lap, I lost focus. This point is often the toughest for me mentally, whatever the distance or type of race, where you are far enough from the start that you’re starting to tire, but not close enough to the end that the hype and final sprint finish spirit comes over you. I knew my pace was slipping and felt a little defeated, trying but failing to pick it back up. Final lap, and I knew I was so close to my target, so I tried to push harder. I finished with a time of 7.13.8, a second faster than my goal time.
Though not exactly a record-breaking time, I felt like a star athlete! I’d had a goal, talked myself round and for the most part stayed focused on my race. Post-race analysis, I felt a little disappointed, as I’d lost momentum in the second part, but it has given me a time to beat and I’m looking forward to trying to smash it at the next mile race!
Just to really hit home what I’m doing and why. The day before the race, in the same county where it took place, police were investigating a case of sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Mattresses, syringes, and other items removed from a property, just a stone’s throw away from where I was racing. The day after the race, a a 16 year old girl was recovered and identified as a victim, with ongoing investigations to locate other possible victims, whilst a 54 year old man was arrested. Unfortunately, this isn’t a standalone case, with many other similar situations across the UK and beyond.
A21 assist in prevention, prosecution, protection, and rehabilitation for victims of trafficking, in several countries around the globe. I hope through this challenge to be able to raise awareness as well as funds to assist them to continue in their work. If you’d like to support my 30 races for 30 years challenge, please click here. Thanks so much!
In case you missed any, here’s a list of my races so far:
A21 Muskathlon, Bulgaria/Greece (Race 9 – blog to follow)
Man Vs Horse, Powys (Race 10 – blog to follow)
Severn Bridge Half Marathon, Monmouthshire (Race 14 – blog to follow)
South Wales Trails Half Marathon, Rhondda Cynon Taf (Race 15 – blog to follow)
Wentwood Woodlark, Monmouthshire (Race 16 – blog to follow)
With thanks to Georgie Prior for taking the photo of the Laker’s track, where the race took place.