I normally don’t write about my races, but I felt the urge to write about this one. August 21, 2011 was the race day. I had registered for the 10K category. I woke up at exactly 4am as I usually do with all my races. I took a cold shower as a ritual, made for myself a cup of hot coffee and had a piece of kamote kahoy (cassava) to go with it. The weather outside was cool and dry, perfect conditions for morning runs. I arrived at the GBC at around 5am with 30mins to spare as my race would start at 5:30am.
I stood near the start line observing the 21K runners pepping up and saw familiar faces including Iron Mitch. The announcer said there were more than three thousand participants in this category! This was a testament of how fast the 21K category has grown in popularity since them days. By 5:10am the 21K swarm was on its way. I made my way to the front of the starting line for the 10K. The announcer would again remind us that there were almost 6 thousand of us in this category and he will set us off in two waves separated by 3mins. That caught me by surprise as I wasn’t sure how they would manage it as people had already assembled at the start line.
Anyway to digress, I had a rendezvous with Sir Mark Mulder on Friday evening. We stayed till 3am or so and then parted ways. In our small chit chat he had asked me what my target time was and I had replied 42mins. I only realized moments later that smart coach program predicted 42:44min so technically I was trying to play ambitious. A very risky move especially where health is at stake. I rested the whole of Saturday, watched my favourite team Arsenal walloped 2-0 by Liverpool that evening and went to sleep by 10pm. Not a very good day when you have a race the next day.
At the start line, there were the usual elites, serious runners, what in Kenya we call the “crawlers” (crawlers are runners who for some reason miscalculate the distance and end up literally crawling to the finish line!!!), then there are the ones who crave having their pictures taken by media houses at the front of the line and of course the only sub-elite
jogger (not runner!), me. I chanced upon Susan, one of the elite Kenyan female runners and after a small chat I told her that if she runs more than 43min, I will beat her to the finish line. She sized me up and then as if from retrospect told me that although I look way better race wise, she is going to give me a hell of a run.
10, 9, 8…and off we go. The first 100 meters or so is normally a scene that bemuses me. The crawlers are off to a sprint, and then after 200 meters the field starts taking the usual picture. The elites pace each other upfront, followed by the serious runners and the elite ladies and people like me just behind them. By this time the super crawlers start looking for water stations. Smart coach program said if I maintain a pace of 4:16min/km I should do 10K in 42:44min. I did the first 1km in 3:45min! I quickly realized I won’t go anywhere with this pace, in fact I risked burn out by the 3rd or 4th km. I slowed down getting into my own pace and by the time I hit the 4th km, I was in the usual 4:16-4:20 range. I could see Susan and another female runner keeping up pace just 40meters ahead of me. The lead pack by this time had a 1km lead on me! Out of nowhere a rabbit runner appeared and passed me and then went ahead and paced with Susan. For some unknown fate this rabbit always comes from behind and passes me whenever I
By the 5th km I had 20:50min on my clock. Very nice and I knew by now I had only to do a 21:50 or so in the next 5km and I’m home inside my targeted time of 42:44min. Surprise! At the 5km mark there is a U-turn just 50meters ahead and the road slopes, which means coming back to the 6th km is an up-hill climb. Having ran faster than my predicted race pace for the first 5km, the hill killed me and by the time I was hitting the 7th km at 29:40min, I knew I was seriously behind in time. I had to do something. The one thing I hate about the route is that it had 3 U-turns and a lot of bends. This basically create choke points and also slows down pace. From the 7th to the 7.5km mark I spotted Susan just ahead, with a 100 meter gap now. The rabbit had disappeared only to reappear behind me and pass me by with as fresh a pair of legs as a real rabbit! Damn the rabbit! I also spotted a crawler 200meters or so ahead running like a drunken lad.
The second surprise is that I hit another hill from the 7.5km mark to the 8.5km mark. This was longer than the previous one and had more incline to it. In 10K and less distance training programs, hills are normally not included as standard training modules. This is because it is assumed 10K or less are run on tracks not roads. This hill really sucked the air out of me and I almost gave up pursuing my sub-43min dream. By this time Susan’s and the rabbit’s gaps with me were reduced to 50meters which surprised me. I said to myself, oh the hills must have eaten them up. I was wrong. They had intentionally slowed down so as not to fight with the hill. The crawler was also up with them at this point.
I was relieved once I did the last of the U-turns just after the 8km mark and the decent to the finish line started. Once I got my breathe back and looked ahead of me, I was shocked to see Susan and the rabbit almost 100meters ahead of me. There and then I realized the mistake I did. By fighting the hill I took longer to catch my breath back on the downhill while they took shorter allowing them to start the sprint to the finish line earlier than me. By the time I hit the 9km mark, the clock was reading 38:20min. By this time I passed the crawler completely famish and he could barley move. I was sprinting for my dear life! I needed at least 4:24min to achieve the targeted 42:44min predicted by the smart coach. With legs tired and my breath short, it was going to be a long 4:24min!
By this time Susan and the Rabbit has built a solid 200meter and there was no way I was going to catch them. I forgot about catching up with them and concentrated on finishing under 43mins. As I took the last bend to the finish line, it appeared so far away. As I inched closer and closer, I could make up the digits on the finish line clock. To my surprise with 20meters or so remaining the clock was reading 41:30. I pushed myself and managed to finish in 41:48min! I was super excited. I had beaten my predicted time by almost a whole minute! I could now breathe again and start on my sub-20min 5K journey. I believe it is achievable; I only have to make it happen. November 13 is the date.