28 August 2009

Goodbye, summer

The Big Bang serves delicious food (although the wild mushroom and garlic bangers are a bit too solid). It is not, however, runner's food. Perhaps the two pints of Henley Gold with which I washed down the meal were to blame, or perhaps it was the dessert - Star of St Tropez sounds irresistible, but it fails to live up to its promise.

The upshot was that, after dinner at The Big Bang in Oxford yesterday, I felt rather uncomfortable lining up for the Headington 10K this morning. Worminghall Airfield - the race no longer takes in the Oxford Ring Road and Marston Ferry Lane, as it did last time I ran it and it's a bit more than the 5 miles it was then too - is probably windy every day of the year, as airfields often are. Summer ended last Monday: to me, the August Bank Holiday always marked the end of summer, coinciding as it often did with my birthday and coming shortly before the start of the school year. Nowadays, I mark it by the fact that clients are back from summer holidays, so work starts coming in, other lawyers are there when you phone or email, and (I hope) bills finally get paid.

The route of the race is nice enough, although the scenery wins no prizes. It lacks relief, as the best running courses usually do - I like flat in a race. I started conservatively far back, but felt up for a rather faster pace so I weaved through the field over the first couple of kilometres (here is a photo of me doing so, and looking very serious about it, by John Harvey). The first leg went out and round a marker before taking us out of the airfield and onto a quiet road to half-circumnavigate the airfield and re-enter it at about 8K. The runways are disused, and grass grows through the cracks, so it is not a perfect running surface but it's pretty good - better than some Oxfordshire roads. I got to half-way at a good pace - 22:13, but each kilometre was slower than the one before: and when I stopped to drink at the water station just before the 6K mark, I had trouble getting going again. Several team-mates came past, then David encouraged me to keep pace with him for a while, but as we passed the 7K mark I was struggling to hang onto him.

Once the finish line came into view I managed to muster a reasonable sprint finish, but in the funnel at the end came closer than I have ever come to throwing up - before running straight to the Portaloos ... So I seem to have learnt something about pre-race eating, and probably a great deal about pacing to. not the best day's running of my career: indeed, it might well qualify as one of the worst. And such a shame that we are now stuck with autumnal weather, until it turns to winter.

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