My Masters dissertation is looming in the near distance, so I’m starting to have a think about what I’d like to cover in my research. As my pilot study I quizzed my boyfriend about a memorable experience he’d had whilst running, intending to go on questioning about retail experiences and how running retailers can make the experience more authentic. What I got was something different, something very special, that I thought you all might want to have a read as it’s something I feel all runners can relate to…
I suppose the er.. the last kilometre of the York 10K was memorable as it was basically just agony. The first three, four kilometres I ran too fast really, and I realised that at the first drinks break at 3K and thought yeah, I’ve definitely gone too quick here, so I did that then the next two or three were OK athough I noticed I’d slowed up by this point as people were starting to pass me, but I didn’t have a timer on me so I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I’d said to everybody previously that I wanted to get around the 40 minutes mark, and I.. um, I had no idea how I was doing. So, yeah, I really had to rely on.. I don’t know, instincts I guess, to determine how quickly I thought I was going. So anyway yeah, I got to the last 9.. 900m or so I guess, the problem I had was.. ha. I ran to the edge of the street and thought that’s it, I’m done. But I then suddenly realised I had to turn around and go all the way back down and around the corner again. And I already had.. Not cramp exactly, but I didn’t really want to run anymore, my heart was like really, really heavily beating in my chest, I was extremely sweaty, erm.. My legs hurt a little bit, not a great deal, but I generally had the feeling that somebody was punching me.
So yeah, I got to the last corner and I got round the corner.. I think I read this previously, and I thought, I can beat this guy in front of me. He’s been in front of me the entire race, and he’s in a blue vest. We’ve been like kinda racing each other, he was in front of me at the cathedral, then I beat him at the cathedral, uhh.. Then we were in sort of the bit near the Shambles, and he was ahead of me then, then I got ahead of him at the river, and so on and so forth, I thought if I could just get past this guy it’ll all be OK, I can just stop and forget about it, except he had the same idea as well as HE started going faster as well..
Oh, I was just like, shit I can’t believe this, what am I gonna do? And I thought, all I’ve got on Monday morning is work, in fact it wasn’t even work, it was a TRAINING session, it was a training session on the legal history of car insurance, and I thought I think I can do that, sitting down, I can get lots of fluids, and you know, what’s the worst that could happen? So I started running, and this.. this guy, I wasn’t gaining any ground on him, and I don’t know! Something suddenly changed and I had to beat him, I HAD to beat him, although I didn’t know what was going on the rest of the race, I just carried on as normal, and then.. I just became hellbent, this fixation on getting this guy and beating him, but he was going pretty quick, then this kid on the right hand side who was just like cheering people on like everybody else, it was quite well-attended and there was people clapping and shouting and stuff, this kid said to me – everyone else was wearing running gear and I was in this red, sort of orange neon vest, er… and it had this, like this number pinned to it, and I looked like the least professional runner you’d ever seen, like this guy who’d left his house one morning and gone for a run.. So I did that, I was flapping around this course, covered in sweat, heart like a jackhammer, and this guy who’s in running gear by the way, FULL running gear, Mister Nike – er, Mister Nike-y – had wraparound sunglasses, I was like how do I take this guy down? I’ve got 400m to do this. And I didn’t even look like a runner. What was I going to do? This kid goes hey you in the orange vest! You go! Or something like that, words to that effect. You go, orange vest! And I thought yeah, yeah actually, you know, I’m running here with everyone else, I can do this, I can beat this guy. I beat him.
And there’s a picture of me.. The next day I got an email that says you know, check out how you did! Well done, you finished it in this time.. and that’s when I figured out I’d gone an average four and a half minutes per kilometre, and.. er, that was pretty fast, that’s good, I’m pretty pleased with that. Uh.. um. And yeah, the… I saw this picture of me, just before getting to this guy in the blue vest, Mister Nike, and.. and the look on my face is like physical violence, like I want to punch somebody, uh.. And yeah, and like my bicep is enormous, seems disproportionally big compared to the rest of my arm, and I seem to be like having a fight with gravity, and you should see this picture (see above!), it’s like I’ve achieved lift-off, the whole of my body is like come on we can do this, uh.. and yeah, and that’s me, that’s me about ten metres before I beat this guy at the end of the race. So yeah, that’s my memorable experience, just on the basis that after you’ve done nine and a half kilometres, pretty much anything can happen to you, you don’t have that sense of resilience.. you’ll start doing things like what I did, you’ll start imagining the whole world, or maybe just this racecourse and this particular guy is against you, and you have to beat them even though you’re just wearing a vest, a regular vest. Is that the sort of thing you’re looking for?
Funnily enough, it wasn’t really what I was looking for. But it’s made me rethink the direction of my research; I could turn this into an ethnographic account of running, really getting into the thoughts, feelings and emotions of running and racing, rather than shoehorning an attempt to relate directly to marketing in. Sometimes you don’t always get what you want, but you dofind what you need.