Race for Life Crystal Palace

There are a few things that I remember from Sunday - the heat, the bright sun, the crazy steep hills, the pain, and all of the pink. There was so much pink, although I suspect that is to be expected at a Race for Life. But really, there was so much pink!

I have a lot of time for Race for Life, as I see it, it motivates women who may not have ever thought to participate in 'sport' to get involved and get moving, which can only be a good thing! Standing in the toilet queue (no portaloos, thank you Crystal Palace stadium!) I was surrounded by women of all ages, shapes and sizes, and there were all there for the same reason - to challenge themselves for a really good cause. It was pretty awesome. But, unfortunately, that was where the awesome ended...Sunday was probably my worst race experience to date.

Jigging about on the start line I was nervous, hot and aching from the previous day's Pilates class I knew this would be a challenge. And that was before I had even seen the course. 

Heading out at the front of the pack and barely 500 meters in the first hill appeared, a steep incline looming over me, taunting me as I pushed upwards in to the park, setting the tone for the rest of the race. Each step I took felt laboured as the sun beat down on me, my mind wandered and lost focus, I started to tell myself I simply couldn't do it. Which is never a great thing to have happen...

I pushed on around the park, head down and battling with myself. The only thing keeping me going was the amazing supporters - it felt like every participant had brought along everyone they knew, and for the moment that I passed them they were all there for me too. If those people hadn't been there I would have stopped a lot sooner. 

Heading towards the end of the first lap and I peeled off away from the majority of the runners. They headed towards the finish line, their 5k completed, and I headed off on a second loop with a small number of other runners. Grabbing a drink it was back to the psychological beating of hill after hill, my legs protesting and my core aching as I buckled down for each push. And then I cracked. A little over half way around I stopped. I stopped and I called DT - I've had to stop, I can't keep going, I've been defeated by a sodding Race for Life, I've run in worse, I don't know what's wrong with me. Actually, the expletives were way worse. 

I have never stopped in a race before. I have always persevered. I don't know what was wrong that day, maybe my head wasn't in the game. Maybe it was the heat. The hills definitely had something to do with it. I stopped. 

Hanging up on DT I started to walk. I started to walk and then I figured that maybe I could jog a little. Not race pace, just something easy. Then I remembered some advice from Ira Rainey's great book Fat Man to Green Man - (I paraphrase) if it looks like a hill, walk it. And that is what I did. I treated my 10k like an ultra, and it worked. I got myself going again and I finished the race. In fact, I finished it in a not too awful time of 'around' 56 minutes (Race for Life doesn't use chip times, and my Nike+ got a little messed up during my freak out, so I based my time on average pace). Not bad, all things considered!

Collapsed on the grass post race, being prodded by a small child (unknown to me, and clearly concerned about my wellbeing) I was more than glad to have finished. I didn't feel the elation I normally experience at the end of the race. I didn't even feel relief. It was just over. 

Not every race will be your best race. This was not a race for me, I ran it because I wanted to support a movement that inspired women to engage with sport, which is something I feel passionately about. None of my experience was due to the organisation of this race, in fact I was impressed by the slick operation (although no bag drop!) and the low entry fee (£14.99). I would encourage anyone to try a Race for Life at least once, it is a fantastic way to support a charity, get up and get moving!