So today saw me at the 2012 Olympics rowing lake in Dorney, just outside Windsor, for the Dorney Dash 10K. This flat (whoever heard of a sloping lake?) two-lap affair is pure PB material as long as it's not too windy.
The weather forecast hadn't been promising with rain and wind expected to sweep in from the east. If we were lucky it might hold off until after the race. And lady luck was on our side: it was breezy, rather than windy, and the rain ventured no further west than the M25.
The start was well organised and after being advised by the race director to keep out of the water (it didn't look appealing and I can definitely run faster than I can swim) we were off. The first kilometre (3:56) saw the usual jockeying for position and tuning into race pace.
Into the next kilometre and I latch onto a couple of Maidenhead AC runners who look like they're aiming for a similar finish time to me. This turns out to be a bad move: their pace is fast but not quite fast enough. We're loosing four seconds per kilometre and so after four kilometres and 16:08 on the clock I leave my temporary compatriots behind and push on.
I'm relieved to see the next kilometre tick over in four minutes - bang on target pace. Five kilometres covered in 20:08. Five kilometres to go (negative split alert!).
So now we're on our second lap. The path is parallel to and slightly closer to the lake than the path on our first circuit although the view is the same.
I'm pushing hard. 6K split time: 24:07. 7K split time: 28:06. It's frustrating: I'm running at target pace but can't pull back the lost seconds. The thought of missing 40-minutes by a few seconds is crushing. I’m not enjoying myself so much now. This is the best I can do. I promise myself that if I don’t go sub 40-minutes I'll never run a 10K again in my life.
There is a water station at the far end of the lake, 7.5 kilometres in. The runners ahead don't take any water so I don't. I'm pushing harder than ever and overtake a couple of runners. I catch another and he goes with me. I can hear him breathing hard on my shoulder. I don’t look round but check my watch. Pace is good: 6:18. I can do it. In the distance I can see the clubhouse and the finish. I’m running for my life, gasping for air, trying to take deep breaths and get more oxygen into my lungs.
8K split: 32:01 – that’s a 3:55 kilometre. Almost back on schedule but was it too much too soon? The heavy breather is still on my shoulder. I ease slightly, he gets louder, I dig even deeper. We’re pushing each other.
9K split 35:59. Keep going, keep going, keep going. We catch another runner. He tucks in behind. I'm overtaken by David, as I later find my heavy breathing accomplice is called. But I speed up too, we run parallel. We can now actually see the finishing mat. Over the tannoy the announcer says "just 20 seconds to 40 minutes". I know I can make it. I shift up a gear. As I start to pull away from David I turn and yell at him "COME ON! We can do it". I shock myself - I hadn't realised this meant so much to me. The clock is still ticking. The finishing line spectators see us running flat out. Now they’re the ones shouting "come on".
As I cross the line I punch the air. 39:58. My chip time will be four seconds quicker. I've done it.