I am not sure that’s how you spell a sharp intake of breath, but it was the sound made by 24 runners at the start line to race two, The Pirie Procession, at the SOAR Mile 2017. Nervous chatter had filled the air as race one came to a close and we amassed by the start line, doing whatever we could to fit in a few last-minute leg swings or stretches. I chatted with a few fellow runners as we discussed our targets; safe to say none of us were truly convinced by what we were hoping to achieve. I think the combination of a lack of mile races in general, and not many people ever racing on a track, make it difficult to really ascertain your ability in this scenario.
With a few minutes to go until the start at 7:15pm on Friday night, we were called to position nine meters away from the finishing line.
“You have got a pacer tonight to 1,000m. What pace would you like, 5:45?”
And then came the collective intake of breath. Murmuring ensued and a few people offered the idea of maybe 5:50, or even 6:00 minute pace. Thinking back to my own entry, I had targeted a time of 6:05 when I applied, and although training had gone well, I would still be happy with a six minute time and not sure how I was going to go, racing such a short distance; I am not known for my capacity to “go hard, or go home”.
And then came Suzy (whose name I would later discover upon hearing the crowd cheer for her) who chimed in from behind me that perhaps we should just go with it and push on. Suitably chastised, we all agreed that we may as well give 5:45 a try; the pacer, Robel Bahelbi, was instructed to hit 86s laps.
There were a few new experiences here; first time racing on a track, first time racing a mile, first time being so close to the starting gun you can see the smoke. As the gun went, this was it; everything the last eight weeks of training had built toward.
Crowning the first bend I found myself in third position; using a tall fella to shield from the wind; despite a windy start to the day, this had died down significantly by now, but any shelter was welcome. Robel checked his watch on a couple of occasions, but seemed happy with his pace. I just concentrated on the vest in front of my and tried my best to focus on running tall and steady. Unsure of what to really expect I felt good that I was feeling steady. I look back now and wonder whether I should have tried harder on these opening laps, but I have come to the decision that if I had done so, the end result would likely have been different.
At 1,000m Robel pulled away and the lead was taken up by the aforementioned Suzy, and the tall guy I was sheltering behind was beginning to slow. I knew I had to move past him as another racer clearly made the same decision too, keeping me in third place as the bell rang to signify the final lap (another ‘first’ for me in a race.) Down the back straight Suzy was making good running and I overtook the chap in second so that I could keep on her shoulder.
Legs were pumping, and I don’t know if I was thinking anything at all as we passed about 150m to go, other than that I was aware of Suzy just in front starting to find another gear. I wanted to go with her, but didn’t want to go to early. I think I got on her shoulder (not literally) at about 80m to go and, despite another surge, I took the lead with about 40m remaining. I couldn’t tell if it was my own breathing I could feel and hear so heavily or if someone was gaining on me so I just kept running as hard as I could.
I could see the clock on the side of the track counting up the seconds and minutes. I was aware of what I was seeing, but hardly able to process it.
I crossed the line in first place; stopping the clock in 5:40.90. Somehow I had beaten Suzy by a second, and the third place guy by almost 10. I had won the blooming race!!
I am not sure I have ever won a race before, of any nature, so I was absolutely buzzing! I shook the hands of fellow runners, thanked Suzy for ensuring that we went with a 5:45 pace target, and congratulated the few guys I had been chatting to as we warmed up, all of whom had beaten the targets they set out with.
As I headed through the Mix Zone (of sorts) Ross Murray – 2012 Olympian – threw me my prize for winning; a box of SOS Electrolyte Drink Mix sachets, and pointed me towards the waiting cameras. Here, I was interviewed about my race, my running history, and my inspirational words of wisdom for any aspiring athletes out there. This was all totally surreal, but very exciting. Once the hype had died down – in my head at least, as I don’t think there was actually any hype around me – I headed back to get changed and catch up with my fellow Gees ahead of their races.
BEER AND CHEER
Much like the Night of the 10,000m PBs (organised by the same bloke) a key aspect of this race is the lane 3 Beer and Cheer support for the athletes. So as soon as I was changed out of my vest and shorts, I headed straight to the free beer and took up position on the track to cheer and holler for all the athletes; especially those in the Green and Black of GGAC. There was a total of six of us running, and I think we all did pretty amazingly with the following results:
Terry Booth : 5:33
Ben Gilmore : 5:18
Adam Hewitt : 4:57
Matt McDaniel : 4:47
John Sanderson : 4:10
Phenomenal efforts all round.
I don’t know how we did it, but we even managed to avoid the rain which started just as we were finally on the train home.
TEMPTED TO TRY?
If you are even remotely interested in seeing what you can do over a mile, then please do not hesitate to give it a go. I have absolutely loved the process of training for this mile race. The training plan that I used was a really good one, and thanks to the short distance, it doesn’t even have to take up much time in your week. I posted a video about the training plan on YouTube last week – you can find it here if you are interested in learning more about it.
Whilst I am sure that other mile race experiences are good, I am not sure that many can better the style of event that these guys put on at the SOAR Summer Mile, so if you get a chance to enter this next year, then do so!
As a final testament to the power of mile training, I went out on Saturday morning (less than 14 hours after the mile race) and hit a new Cranleigh parkrun PB, running sub-20 for the first time ever; on a wet and slippy course!!