Last Sunday, on a very hot and very sunny day in central London, I saw the top London attractions in a way I had never seen them before: through drops of intense sweat and also maybe a couple tears.
You see, the story starts a couple months ago when I really wanted to run the British 10K because I was right in “wedding diet” mode and I figured I would be super fit and super fast by the time the 10K rolled around.
It’s like when you desperately want to be the person who has their life put together and you plan events in the future booking them under the name of someone who has their life together, but then you show up and realize that actually you never became that person so now you have to pretend to be them until you can relax and go back to not having your life together.
I had run up to 6k in “training,” and by “training” I mean I halfheartedly limped around our neighborhood while telling myself I was basically Usain Bolt.
But then I got married, which was cause for a lot of cake, and then we went on vacation which was cause for a lot of buffets, and then we got home and were just so generally exhausted from having 2 weddings (I know, hard life) that the last thing I wanted to do was go run around the block.
So when I first stepped across the starting line at the 10k this weekend, my thoughts were generally along the lines of, “What have I gotten myself into?” and “Are we done yet?” and “There had better be cookies at the finish line.”
I was slated to start in one of the last ‘pens’ because my projected time was Grandma-esque (no offense to Grandmas who can run faster than me). So I actually didn’t get to start the race until around 30 minutes after the actual runners because there were about 10,000 people in front of me.
As we were walking to the start, I picked out the ‘pacer’ I would follow: 1 hour and 15 minutes. YES, I KNOW THIS IS BASICALLY FOREVER AND I RUN LIKE A SNAIL, THANK YOU!
Right, so I had my eye on him and was getting pumped up with my Kelly Clarkson motivational music, and eventually it was time for me to start.
And that’s where it all began (to fall apart).
0 to 1 Kilometer
The first kilometer was awesome. I was killing it. I was snapping pictures, smiling at the runners next to me, telling myself that actually I can run like the wind and why did I ever doubt that I could do this? I was on the TOP of my game.
1 to 2 Kilometers
I was still going strong for the second kilometer, though starting to realize that maybe I shouldn’t have gone all out for the first one because I’ve still got loads left to do. But no matter! I felt like it was easy enough and that I was almost to the 3km mark ALREADY. This is going to be a breeze.
2 to 3 Kilometers
This is where it starts getting hot. Like, blazing directly in my face hot. Like, what it must feel like to put your face on the sun hot. I could have done with a drink at the beginning of kilometer 2, but I knew I needed to wait until the 3km mark rolled around to find a Water Station.
3 to 4 kilometers
I finally got water around the 3km mark and was slightly rejuvenated. I had to come to a complete stop to get my water, so starting up again was difficult, but I knew I could run almost double than what I had already done without stopping, so I just told my mind to shut up and keep going.
4 to 5 kilometers
Despite the fact that I can jog a 5 k relatively easily (not fast, mind you, but easily), it was all becoming a bit much at this point. So many people! So much sun! So much pain in my lower back that I should probably get looked at!
Halfway through this section was when I called on my playlist to give me strength. And who is better to motivate you during a run than Kelly Clarkson? What pumps you up better than a little “Miss Independent?”
The only problem was that most of her songs are about breaking up, which I was having a hard time connecting with as I’m freshly married and had no one to direct this fake anger to. I mean, I could, in theory, picture a hypothetical situation where I could connect with her emotions, but I left all of my energy for theorizing at the start line. Next.
5 to 6 kilometers
Once I reached 5 kilometers, I had a new lease on life. Halfway! I only had to do it all again, this time with some of my go-to inspirational songs that I just played on repeat because I was too tired to actually search for motivational playlists.
6 to 7 kilometers
By this point, we were getting close to the Thames and the breeze coming off the water, THANKFULLY. I don’t remember much of this point of the race as I think I was mostly imagining how good it would feel to finish.
I may have checked my e-mail at one point to distract myself. If you couldn’t imagine how slow I was going before, that should clue you in.
7 to 9 kilometers
Yes, that’s right. 7 to 9 kilometers. Because someone forgot to put out the 8km mark (or I just missed it, but if I did then so did other people who thought the same thing).
So here I am basically on my last leg, wondering how I’m going to make it to 8km, much less the full 10km. I am running and running and cursing myself for getting myself in this predicament. I consider cutting the course and just running right to the finish line in a straight line to get my T-shirt and be done with it. I cannot believe I’m running so slowly. How has it taken me this long and I’m not even in sight of the 8km mark?
Just as I’m about to throw in the towel and go limping back into Kelly Clarkson’s arms, I see it up ahead.
The NINE KILOMETER MARK.
EXCUSE ME? How am I at 9? I have been desperately searching for 8!
9 to 10 kilometers
After accepting that I have, in fact, reached 9 legitimate kilometers and am only 1 away from the finish line, I am smiling like an idiot. Also it is still hot and I’m touching my skin occasionally to feel my sunburn start to take form.
The first half of 9 kilometers is comical, as I was passed by the 1:15 pacer and THEN passed by the 1:20 pacer in a span of seconds. This was both confusing and discouraging, but I turned the corner and saw the crowds cheering people on and then I knew I had to give my all.
Not because I was particularly inspired, but because I didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of tons of people I don’t know.
So I gave it everything I had, which probably meant I sped up to a normal running speed for any relatively fit person, and I crossed the finish line!
I jogged for a few meters after crossing as I truthfully wasn’t sure if I crossed or if was just a particularly fun arch I ran under, so once I caught on that it was over, I slowed down to a crawl and immediately starting searching for the goody bag.
I got a medal placed around my neck like I was some Olympic winner and not a really sweaty 20-something who had just fast-walked a 10k. Whatever, I am going to wear that medal around everywhere I go.
I also was given a goody bag with my race t-shirt (I LOVE an event t-shirt), some pizza dough and a can of beans. Basically all of my favorite things. Win.
I slowly walked off to find my husband and our friend who had run the race way faster than me, but had the heart to pretend like I had accomplished something great (to be honest, not dying along the course was really enough for me to feel like a winner).
Today, my legs aren’t functioning properly and I almost cry everytime I have to stand up, but I get to tell everyone I ran a 10k and make them feel slovenly for sitting on the couch and watching First Dates, so really it was all worth it.
Despite my poor fitness level, it was actually a great time and I had fun seeing London on a sunny summer day with the roads empty.
I would definitely do the British 10K next year, and would recommend people who are vaguely interested in accomplishing a 10k to do it, as it was obviously meant to be more fun and less competitive.
Maybe next time I’ll actually wisen up and train for it beforehand.
Though, let’s be honest here Kelly, probably not.