I am so glad I read this right to the end, and hope all readers will appreciate and share this! It’s Teresa’s blog from a daunting, tough County Cross Country Race on Sunday – so many make the excuse not to participate…Teresa didn’t! Hope you enjoy…..
Yesterday I entered a 3k race through my athletics club, the first race in the cross-country season. I hadn’t entered one of these before, but was reassured that all abilities were welcome, including Fit4Lifers (i.e. me!) so I was willing to give it a go. I had done a couple of 2-mile or 5k cross-country races before, and really liked running in fields or on trails, though I was no better at it than I am on the roads or athletics tracks. I car-pooled with others from the club and we headed off.
Very soon after arrival, I got the distinct impression that these were real athletes competing today. For starters, I was old enough to be the mother of every other lady from our club, and that’s no exaggeration. And I could see the talent all around me. For the first time ever, I seriously considered not participating. I talked to one of my club mates and said that I didn’t really relish being out on the course so far behind all of the other runners. I’ve been last plenty of times in races, and it doesn’t bother me. But I felt that I would be very exposed in this open field, way behind everyone else, entirely alone. She (Sharon, thank you, you’re lovely) reassured me that I was there to run my own race, not to worry about anyone else and that, in fairness, they wouldn’t be a bit bothered about me, they would be concerned only with their own performances. Of course she was right, so off I went to the start line.
Straightaway, I was way behind and entirely on my own. I couldn’t even manage to keep running the 3k. I had to revert to my run/walk pattern. It was a 3-lap course, and people were already being directed towards the finish chute while I was still on my 2nd lap. I set out on my 3rd lap a very lonely figure, who had to go up the hill and right around the open field on my own. I really began to feel pathetic. Why was I doing this? What was I gaining out of it? Why would I expose myself to pity at best, ridicule at worst? Of course, no-one was going to say anything to me, but I reckoned they must be wondering what on earth I was doing out there. I began to consider pulling out. Was this to be my first DNF? In four years since I got off the couch and started running, I had never DNFed, but I was very close to it this time. I don’t even know why, but I kept going.
I wasn’t alone for long, though. Next thing, the men’s race started, so it wasn’t enough that I’d been lapped by every female runner, twice by many, if not all of them. Now I was being lapped by the men whose race started long after I had set out. I did what I could to keep out of everyone’s way while also trying to avoid the nettles and the cow pats. Eventually, I finished my 3rd lap and headed up the finish chute. I actually think the announcer sounded surprised when he announced that here was the last lady home – I reckon he had no idea I was still out there.
So I am very conflicted about my participation in that race. On the day, I put my best into it, but what did I get out of it? Are there any positives to take from it? At what point do our strengths become our weaknesses? When does ‘grit and determination’ go over the edge to ‘downright stubbornness’? When does ‘I don’t embarrass easily’ become ‘I’m making a total fool of myself’? When does ‘All abilities welcome’ become ‘Ah now here, couldn’t someone tell this lady that she doesn’t belong here’? When does ‘Accentuate the positives’ become ‘Talk about looking through rose-tinted glasses – is she delusional’? I just don’t know.
Anyway, I’ll put it down to experience. I had l lovely time with my club colleagues, the lovely people from Le Cheile AC who are always supportive and encouraging. I’ll take comfort from the lovely lady who shouted out to me in the finish chute ‘Good for you, you kept going, I didn’t finish’. She has no idea how much it meant to me to have her encourage me. I’ll chalk it up as a training run. Every run or race helps me regain my fitness, and this one is no exception. And let’s face it, if I ever do another 3k cross-country race, I’ve left plenty of room to get myself a PB.
Epilogue: I wrote this blog on Monday night, and decided to put this race behind me and only look forward. Imagine my total shock when I came home from work on Tuesday to find that I had won the gold medal in my age category. Seems I was the only woman over 50 to finish the race. So I suppose that answers many of my questions. Because of my grit and determination and my lack of embarrassment, I took on board the ‘all abilities welcome’ and finished the race, and got myself a gold medal in the Kildare County Championships. I really feel that medal was hard-earned, and I’m well chuffed with myself.”