I was puffing and panting like a steam locomotive. I could just see the back of the next runner as he disappeared around the corner. It was dark, I was in Coventry, I couldn’t see any suspicious looking youths wearing hoodies but suspected there would be some lurking in the shadows thinking stabby thoughts. I sped up. Heart hammering and legs rebelling, I tried not to slow down as I weighed up the pros and cons of heart failure Vs stabbing.
It was Wednesday. I was at running club. My aim for this evening had been to not be dead last in the group interval sessions.
I was last.
I rounded the corner of the dark road, the streetlights making orange pools on the pavement. My legs felt heavy as I pounded up the pavements but my rapist-like panting was at least scaring off any potential attackers. Pumping my arms and scanning the street ahead desperately for any signs of the people in my running group, I tried to urge my legs to move quicker.
The session today was 2 x 10 minutes of effort at threshold pace. I strongly suspected I was in the wrong group. Their threshold pace was clearly way above mine. It appeared I'd stumbled into the session for people whose marathon pace was about the same as my 400m pace. I was to be the Wiley Coyote to their Roadrunner but without the Acme bombs or nets to slow them down. I'd better get running then.
I’d known this session would hurt, but I'd still been looking forward to trying it. In a hurty kind of a way. Every time I have to push myself, every time my legs, my lungs, my heart get used to running faster than they’re used to ... next time it will be easier. I can’t expect to get faster, stronger if I’m not willing to work for it, to hurt for it.
I put my head down and pushed on. I’d had 3 minutes of recovery between the sets but the time had disappeared quicker than a crème egg at WeightWatchers. Really? THAT was 3 minutes? I’ve only just finished running. My heart still sounds like Animal from the Muppet Show is on the drums and my knees are still shaking. And you want me to run AGAIN?
I did it. I was last. AGAIN. But I was smiling. It may have looked like a grimace, but it was definitely a smile. Because now I could stop running. Also I had finished the session and NOT DIED. I may have been last, but I’d survived. And next time it would be easier.
One day I won’t be last. Watch your backs, fast people.
Because I’ll be at the back. Behind you. Staring at them.