I entered the Worthing 20M Road Race pretty much on impulse. I’d missed the deadline for on-line entries, but the website promised that there were plenty of spaces and on-the-day entries were welcome. So on Saturday night, I mapped out a route, prepared (for “prepared”, read “threw into an unsorted heap outside the bedroom door”) my running kit and set the alarm for disgusting-o’clock.
After eating a perfectly balanced and nutritionally sound pre-race breakfast (OK, OK. It was marmite toast, but that’s all I can stomach at disgusting o’clock), I headed down to Worthing. There was, as promised, ample on-street parking to the east of the registration area and registration itself was simple. Fill out a short form, pay the fee, take a race number and pick up a clutch of four perfectly grouped safety pins from the large tub of perfectly grouped safety pins.
Then came the wait for the start. Fortunately, the sun was out, and there were plenty of friendly people to chat to to help kill time and calm nerves. And then, before I knew it, it was nearly 9am and time to head to the starting line.
Lap 1: Flat.
Chatted to Gillian and Jeannette from the Istead and Ifield Harriers. Gillian has done 56 marathons (!) and is doing the London Marathon this year. Jeannette has done more half marathons than you can shake a stick at and has also run the Lochaber Marathon (the one I’m signed up for).
Lap 2: Flat.
Started and ended with personalised cheers from two of the people I’d been chatting to before the race and came with a fantastic pacemaker by the name of Dave from the Haywards Heath Harriers, who overtook at the start of the lap and then maintained a steady pace that was perfect for following.
Lap 3: Where did the hill come from?
Definitely the toughest of the four laps. Knowing that everyone overtaking was now on their final lap, while I still had another to come. Feeling the soles of my feet start to burn. Thinking every time I passed a marshall “I’ll be seeing you again in 55 mins”. Trying to ignore the voice in my head saying “you can stop at 15 – that’s a decent long run”. And I might have stopped, too, if it weren’t for more personalised cheers from the wonderful women I’d been chatting to before the race, which gave me the push I needed to start lap four.
Lap 4: So long, farewell
Goodbye smoking teenage marshall. Goodbye drinks station one. Goodbye friendly road marshalls halfway up the hill. Goodbye sweet local residents who sat out and cheered and played music and gave out jelly babies. Goodbye crossing guards who have stood and stopped traffic for nearly four hours. Goodbye drinks station two. Goodbye St John’s Ambulance crew who have waited patiently for some action. Goodbye cheering marshalls who have made eye contact on every lap.
Hello finishing straight. Hello finish line. Hello Bling.