You could say that in December I was at a pretty low point. My dad passed away in November, so I took some time off work and university, which was very much needed so I could pull myself together a bit and support my mum. Unfortunately it seems the less you do, the less you want to do, so what was supposed to be a restorative time turned into a self-destructive time: a lot of time sitting around doing nothing, and hating sitting around doing nothing, but not really having anything to get dressed for in the morning. A real catch-22 situation.
As much as I was hurting I knew my dad wouldn’t have wanted me to spend my time like this, so I decided I needed to set myself a challenge to bring me back to life. Nothing crazy – I was feeling too delicate for skydives or mountains – but something achievable, that I would have to work towards. And so, I decided on running the Manchester 10K. I’d run further distances before – half marathons, in fact – but not for some years, and although I did run occasionally I didn’t take running or my own health too seriously.
This changed massively when I decided to take on the challenge of the 10K. In fact, my life has changed completely – I’m fitter and happier than ever before, and although of course I think about my dad a lot, I am able to cope a lot better with the feelings this brings up.
So – the big day was Sunday. I set myself a target time of 50 minutes, so physically I had to work hard, and emotionally there was a lot riding on this. How did I get on..?
The first 5K was not enjoyable at all – I was too hot and the air was so dry I wasn’t even sweating. I was running with very few people rather than a big crowd as my pace was faster than the rest of the wave, though this my fault – when I signed up I was much less fit and less capable so will have chosen a slower pace. Considering the heat, I felt the water should have been more evenly spaced out; despite having a small drink with me my throat was rasping by the time I’d reached the water stations, of which there were two within a short distance. I would have very much appreciated a drink about 3K and 7K.
My legs felt like dead weights and my throat was like sand, but silly little things that made me think of my dad kept me going: the man stood watching in the Pink Floyd t-shirt, the brass band playing the song my dad changed the words to so they were something daft. These gave me the energy to plod on when I really didn’t want to.
From around 6K onwards I started to enjoy myself. I began to overtake some people in the wave in front so was hitting more of a crowd, and also the final waves had set off so I was running in as they were going out. Watching for familiar faces on their way out distracted me from thinking how hot and bothered I was, and I also settled into a comfortable pace – I felt so awful that I was sure I wasn’t going to hit my goal time, so just tried to soak in the atmosphere.
Getting onto Deansgate and the last couple of hundred metres, I saw the clock was on 49:30. No way! My sub-50 was still within reach. I put everything I had into my sprint finish (hence the less-than-attractive face, below, though not sure what the tongue sticking out is about) and ended with a time of 49:43. Flabbergasted is putting it lightly – it just proved that if you put the training in you should trust in yourself.
I met up with my mum and Chris and there were definitely a few tears and hugs; the end of the race seemed to signify the end of a very tough few months we had together, physically, emotionally and mentally. Then it was time for a large glass of wine and an even larger piece of cake – well deserved, I thought!