Fast Friday | Eclectic Cake: Fast Friday

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Fast Friday

"If you have a body, you are an athlete." 

It's a wonderful thought, courtesy of Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman. The idea that anyone can become an athlete so long as they move is pretty inspiring. There are, however, a few differences between your everyday athlete and the pros – coaching, facilities, speed. Always intent on bridging that gap, though, Nike gave a handful of London runners the ultimate athlete experience that we'll never forget.

1. Don't go out too fast. Minimise your energy and take it all in. Use your pacers to control the first lap. 

I walked up to the hotel already knowing the day would lead up to running my fastest mile at the Olympic Stadium. But as I found myself surrounded by professional athletes and being given accreditation for the Diamond League event that day, I realised it would be even more special than first thought.

Guided by our pacers, we found our kit for the day in personalised bags and, even more excitingly, our names on the athlete list for the Anniversary Games. We wouldn't just be running a mile, we'd be racing each other just before the likes of Mo and Bolt step up to show us how it's done. We'd be the warm up act! I did my best to control the giddy-ness and stay calm – this was going to be an epic day.

2. Stay on pace and get through the first half.

Before I even got the chance to pinch myself, running legend Steve Cram was stood in front of our small crowd, introducing Mo Farah to talk through racing tips and their experience. Their advice was clear – don't go out too fast – and their experiences were similar – no matter how high up the ranks you get, no matter how often you race, you'll be nervous. My trembling legs just wanted to get started.

3. Commit. Increase effort to stay on pace. Now the race begins, it will hurt. 

Kitted up, we looked ready to race but how were we doing mentally? I was a bunch of nerves. Training for an ultra marathon had seen a lot of slow miles, I had no idea if my legs had any fast in them. On hand to help, British Athletics Endurance Coach, David Harmer, talked us through how we should approach each of our four laps. A four-step how-to guide to racing a mile.

We arrived at the Olympic Stadium and it started to get very real. David took us through a thorough warm up (next to the French women's 4x100 team) before an enthusiastic high-five as we walked to the call room to pin on our bibs. I was feeling fired up, there was no going back now.

4. Believe. Believe. Believe. 

It hit home when we saw ourselves next to our names on the giant stadium screens. I'm just a regular recreational runner but here I was lining up on the Olympic Stadium track ready to run one of the most memorable miles of my life. It was surreal.

I was quickly brought back down to earth with the bang of the start gun. Not knowing how much speed was in my legs, my only aim for the day was to not finish too far behind the pack. As the pacer pulled along my competition, suddenly coming absolute dead last by quite a way became a very real possibility. But I kept our coach's advice in mind. This was my tourist lap to suck in the atmosphere.

Sure enough, as I settled into a decent pace, I started to overtake others. A cheeky look up at the screen following our progress, showed I was mid-pack. All I had to do was stick with it. They were right. Lap three hurt. My legs were tiring, my lungs were tightening but I had to hold on in there. The noise from the growing crowd reminded me I couldn't possibly stop, not with one lap left. The ring of the bell brought relief and an extra boost. I'd make it, though I had no idea of my potential time – the clocks seemed a blur.

I finished my fastest mile in months. I staggered off the track, sweaty, a little delirious and wobbly with post-race giddy-ness. I've never felt more of an athlete.

If you want a taste of speed, you can sign up for Nike Milers sessions, here.

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