Around five years ago I ran a 10K in my home city of Manchester. The race is one of the biggest in Europe and due to the amount of participants, start times are staggered throughout the day. It was a scorching Sunday afternoon and my allocated wave set off at 2pm. I’d given myself a target of sub 40 finish time and had put in the training to match. I went for it, trying to ignore the sun beating down on the asphalt draining my energy. Looking for markers for 9km then judging when to try and give that last gasp sprint to the finish. I crossed the line and grabbed my phone, waiting for the time confirmation they send you by text. 40:01. I walked back to meet my family, annoyed and disappointed with my time, surrounded by people taking selfies and proudly holding up their medals.
Goals are important, I still want to set them and smash them but I’d let it erase the fun element. I’d train for months for that moment but didn’t enjoy it as much as I should’ve done when I got there. A good time is a nice feeling but I’d made it the be all and end all.
My fastest marathon isn’t my favourite marathon, my favourite so far being London. I enjoyed it from start to finish because my only aim was to do just that. No time expectations meant less time worrying about splits and more time soaking up the atmosphere. I don’t remember my time but I do remember people shouting my name non-stop, an amazing thunderous steel drum band, kids offering me jelly babies to keep me going and trying eight portaloo doors until I found a vacant one. Seeing elites like Eliud Kipchoge and Mo Farah fly past on the other side of the carriageway while I ran alongside a minion, proud of my medal and snapping selfies to throw on instagram with every other finisher.
Here’s another thing. I always used to run a race alone, never with friends and that included training. They’d either be faster than me or slower and I wasn’t interested in either. Nowadays I wouldn’t think about entering a race without asking my friend Charlie too. Some events we run together as a little group with our close friends Adele and Kerry. We are all at different paces and have ran in different races but that doesn’t matter. We just run for the fun of it.
Matty, Ordinary Athlete