WHAT: 5-mile run
WHERE: Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
WHEN: 7th July 2015
Eventually, three miles into the five-mile race, I found a reason for that feeling of familiarity. I’d been here before! The back gates of Hatfield House hadn’t been open when I went on my previous little adventure in this area, so I settled for getting lost in the surrounding fields, hunting for the entrance. I never found it but I did find some nice trails. And this is where I found myself now.
As the sun was starting to lower, the small crowd gathered for the first leg of the Midsummer Series was turned around from optimistically facing downhill to the uphill start and we were off. I started absolute last (with my new canicross friends*) assuming that’s also where I’d finish. All faith in my running had been long lost and I’d already made room for photos on my phone, preempting tactical stops that would double as rest to catch my breath.
Ahead, the small field was made up of club vests, charity shirts and even fancy dress. I’ve learned to never judge a runner by their costume and automatically assumed everyone was far faster than me. After all, why would anyone spend a sunny, summer weekday evening racing rather than in a beer garden?!
“Because running is awesome!”
I laughed at myself, as the initial jerk on my lungs had calmed down and my legs started to spin past some of the slower runners. This wasn’t about beating others, though, this was about chasing down some confidence in my running.
My lazy body hadn’t been pushed for a long while. I’ve enjoyed a laid back take on trail running – run a bit, take a picture, run a bit, have some food – whilst being acutely aware that any fitness I gained last year was melting as quickly as the mini cheeses I insist on taking on every run.
Three miles in, not only did the venue send me ripples of déja vu but the feeling of racing began to feel familiar. That fire in your belly and lungs; constantly flicking the little devil off your shoulder every time he insists you stop; that grin as you drop the guy who just can’t accept you’re faster than him and speeds up to try and overtake you; hunting down and beating the guy dressed as a caveman against whom you’ve invented a personal vendetta… The wobble of your legs after they’ve sprinted the last few metres to the finish line to leach out every last drop of every you have on the course.
This little local race, simple and small as it was, made running feel fun and familiar once again. What a wonderful way to earn a midweek banana!
* More about this soon…