Bassman drove me to the start line at the Inverness Royal Academy so that I didn't have to faff about trying to find a place to park my car. I got impatient waiting for the queue of traffic to inch its way to the drop-off point so I leaped out of the car to walk the last 10 minutes under my own steam. Once I got to the IRA grounds, I jogged to the portaloos, ostensibly as a warm-up but really because I was desperate for a pee. I did my mobilising stretches whilst waiting my turn and then, on the back of some discussion on the Facebook Chi Running forum about what constitutes a proper warm-up, jogged slowly up and down the lanes of the car park for 5 minutes and then did a couple of strides to further wake up my legs. And then I queued for the loos again.
I made it to the starting area with five minutes to spare, plugged myself into my iPod, and switched on the Garmin. While we were waiting to start, one of the super-whizzy runners came tearing through the ranks (perhaps from his own last-minute toilet stop), hurdled over the fence keeping us all corralled, and kicked the runner beside me square in the face. He didn't stop and she was more stunned than hurt, but his behaviour was a stark contrast to the banter and support going on amongst the mid-pack runners.
But I digress...I crossed the start line almost 8 1/2 minutes after the starting horn, at the usual mid-pack too-fast-to-be-sustained pace. The first quarter-mile or so is up a steepish hill and there was much stopping and walking by overly-enthusiastic participants. But not by me! I settled into a very comfortable pace and made it to the top of the hill feeling fine.
I should perhaps point out that I did not have any kind of plan for this race and no particular finishing time in mind (although I did hope that I would finish faster than the 66 minute 6-mile run that I did in training). The point of this race was to get an idea of my level of fitness in preparation for training for the 10k at the end of October, but I also just wanted to enjoy myself. So, even though I had the Garmin switched on, I didn't really look at it. I wanted to allow myself to run at whatever pace felt comfortable without holding myself back or forcing myself to speed up. This was my 'Woo hoo, I'm running again!' race, and that was all that was important to me.
I had the race that I wanted. The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze, and I allowed myself plenty of time to notice the gorgeous hills across the river. I had small chats with various people - the guy running with his black lab, who wondered where the next water station was (the guy, not the dog, although I'm sure that the dog was wondering as well); the woman wearing amazing purple & green patterned tights that I had to express my appreciation of; the two women who ran the same pace as me for over a mile (until I pulled away - no, I'm not competitive at all!). My legs were filled with Chi Running happiness; for the first time in a while, I knew that I was landing on my mid-foot and, for the first time ever, I really felt that I was floating my heels up behind me. No twinges, no pain, not even any tiredness. Wowzer.
The only small hitch was that I struggled a bit cardio-wise from mile 4.5 to mile 5.5 but, with hindsight, this needn't have been an issue at all. I think that what happened was that I moved from the 4:3 breathing that I had been doing in my easy training runs (and, let's be honest, they all were run at an easy pace) to 3:2/pushing-myself-a-bit breathing but I interpreted this as 'Oh no, I'm going too fast, I can't make it, my hip/calf/achilles are going to get injured, I'd better slow down.' Sheesh. Running...it's all in your head.
I perked up for the last 1/2 mile and crossed the finish line with a total distance of 6.22 miles and a chip time of 63:07. This puts me almost exactly half-way in the rankings for women in my age group, which I feel is a reasonable position to be in. If I could figure out how to import the table of my splits from the Garmin, I'd put that here too, but that's a technological step too far. So, in a slightly less official format, here they are:
Mile Average Pace
I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with my consistency as well as with my burst of speed for the last quarter-mile.
So that's it. I ran a race and didn't get injured (although, as Adam is fond of pointing out, what counts is how you feel the day after). More importantly, though, I ran a race and had fun doing it. I think that I had forgotten how much fun running can - and should - be.