WHERE: Silverstone, UK
WHEN: 4th May 2014
I'd never sprinted away from a finish line before. But when it's behind, chasing you down, you run. Fast!
In many ways, Wings for Life World Run was not a normal race. The start line on the Silverstone Formula 1 race track saw run/walkers and ultra runners compete together, yet each entrant was equally challenged. Our task? To run as far as we could before the chaser car caught up. Luckily, the car was a little slower than those normally seen at Silverstone and it set off 30 minutes after us at a generously slow pace.
Just as we set off at 11am on Sunday morning in the UK, 35 other locations across six continents started their runs at exactly the same time. It was a special feeling, knowing that you were running with others around the world. And it was all for the same cause – every penny of our race entry fee went towards spinal cord injury charity, Wings for Life. Whether you were running a marathon or 5k that day, you were helping.
As soon as word was out that the chaser car was on its way, I felt every runner quicken. It was now a case of keeping your pace and, of course, your distance. Although there was a distance/pace calculator on the race website, no one quite knew how far they'd be running that day. And after running 8k of the track, we didn't know where we'd end up either, as we escaped into the countryside and its rolling hills.
|Mark Webber racing without a car – still pretty speedy!|
Without a determined distance for this race, a lot of it was run in my head, especially after hitting my lower target of 15k. It was absolutely up to me how far I ran that day – I could increase the pace to go even further or decide I'd had enough and stop where motivation left – only my mind could keep my legs moving. With each glance behind my shoulder, I alternated between wanting to see that chaser car so I could stop and hoping it was miles away. Knowing I'd have to walk to a bus stop to be taken back to the race village after finishing, my pace understandably slowed as I passed them and sped up as I approached the "closest bus stop ahead" signs.
Right when my legs turned to lead, as they came face to face with yet another hill, I heard the commotion of the chaser car. I'm not sure it was fear exactly but the thought of being caught certainly made me pick up my pace. In fact I suddenly found the power for (what felt like) a full sprint. Only I set off too soon and too quickly – my legs were running out of power and the car was still quite far away.
It was hard to judge the slowly increasing pace of the car against how much fuel I had left in the tank. Soon enough, though, the bonnet crept up beside me. One last desperate sprint pushed me just over the 17k mark – my upper target – I could rest happy with my achievement.
Only I couldn't! Not straight away, at least. It turns out I'd finished exactly half way between bus stops. And an uphill walk back the way I'd come, proved that winning in this race wasn't all about running the furthest, but being first on the bus to bag the downstairs seats – walking up and down double decker steps is not the most fun thing to do straight after a race...Ouch!
In the only race I know where the elites finish last, there was yet more winning for the shorter distance runners. They were the first to the paddock party where the music was loud, the sun was warm and the bar stocked full of beer and Red Bull. Pretty much the best way to end a race!