7:10am. My third alarm goes off and I drag myself to breakfast – pearled malted barley wheats from a local mill with soya milk and a banana. The nerves are eating at each bit of energy as soon as it hits my stomach.
8:00am. Dressed and bag packed, I head to the bus stop outside. It's raining. Oh boy.
8:06am. Standing at the bus stop, I decide to dash back for my cap. Risky move.
8:10am. Get on the first bus, then the second, arrive, and find the park.
8:45am. Race number on shirt, timing chip on shoe and bag in bag-holding tent, I join the thirty-strong line for the Portaloos. It’s stopped raining and the sun has even come out!
8:55am. Warm up in a team doing star jumps and mildly worry about how out of breath this makes me.
8:58am. We’re ushered in groups to the start, and I linger at the back thinking I’d rather pick people off than be picked off.
9:00am. – START!! Walking turns into jogging turns into running… slowly…
9:05am Stuck behind the crowd as the first kilometre is a narrow one. Is this ‘strategy’ a rookie mistake? Shade and downhill are welcome after a sunny stretch of slightly uphill gravel.
9:07am. Realise I’m not sure how many laps of the course I need to do for the 10km. I should have checked this out.
9:10am. Fall into stride with someone. In my head we become running buddies for life.
9:11am. Run past a 2km sign and a 7km sign. Must be 2 laps of 5km?
9:15am. Change running buddy. Turns out these magical moments don’t last forever.
9:20am. Spend a long time staring at the sweaty grey t-shirt in front of me and get as close as I can without being weird at his elbow.
9:25am. Sweaty grey t-shirt pulls away. Did I slow down?? Did he speed up?
9:27am. First lap done. Watch a marshall enthusiastically directing 5km people to the right lane, and 10km people to the left. Give him a massive grin and a hi-five as I run past in the left lane.
9:27am-and-a-bit. Speed spikes from adrenaline of hi-five and I feel like I’m flying (it’s the small things).
9:28am. Hit the gravelly up-hill bit and speed unravels…
9:30am. A pink singlet creeps into my periphery, and I’m now running alongside a petit blonde who has very deliberate and elongated arm movements.
9:31am. Blondie is fast, but I just know she’s my new running buddy and we’ll do the next 5km together. I make my legs move in time with hers. (Where did sweaty grey shirt go??)
9:32am. Blondie’s boyfriend comes suspiciously out of nowhere and runs easily past. They wave, and she pulls away to stick with him, just as we’re beginning a downhill gravel part. ALAS, I can’t speed up here; my brain goes into self-preservation mode as I glance at the recent gravel rash scars on my hands and take care.
9:35am. I wonder what I’ll have for dinner tonight.
9:38am. Nike lady says in my ear that we’ve reached 7km, at the exact same moment that I run past that 7km sign. Kudos, universe!!! I’m actually so in awe that these two measurements line up perfectly. My mind goes on a tangent about this for a while.
9:39am. Realise I’m listening to a slow song. Strategically choose another to amp me up a bit.
9:40am. Vaguely see a photographer snap a photo. Oh god. I think my tongue was hanging out and I’m all chins from that angle. I smile but he doesn’t take another one, the bugger.
9:42am. This is getting hard now, I could happily slow down and there’s no-one in front to stick to (where did everyone go? Am I last??)
9:43am. A woman pulls up beside me and I am re-motivated. There’s nothing like a competitor on your elbow to make you compete.
9:44am. We run around a corner and into a bunch of flying pigeons because someone is feeding them. Squeals from everyone (or just me?) and I break the silence with my new favourite running buddy. We smile at each other and I know she’s the real one.
9:46am. I think about the run I did in Tarragona a few months ago that ended with a dip in the sea. Oh, how I’d like to put my feet in the Mediterranean right now.
9:47am. Running buddy has dropped back?! What am I supposed to do?! Am I betraying her if I keep going? I decide to risk it… after all, I came here alone. Who is she, to me anyway?
9:49am. Announcement in my ear: 9km down and only 1 to go! Feel myself get instantly complacent and then try to recover it and remember to keep trying until I’m actually finished.
9:50am. Running buddy back at my side but we are both at a slower pace. I decide to have another strategic song change and put on the one I began the run with to trick my legs into thinking they are fresh.
9:52am. Striding ahead, a race marshal cheers me on very enthusiastically. Little does he know he’s just given me 20 more seconds of sprint-at-the-end with those few words. Bless.
9:53am. I know I’m close, so I check the time – I have 51 seconds to cross the finish line to get 54 minutes. I start pumping the legs hard (what was I doing this whole time if I can go faster now?!)
9:54am. Wow, the end is a bit further away than I thought. This has been a long kilometre. Sprinting on gravel really isn’t sprinting. It’s like scrambling disgracefully.
9:55am. I cross the finish line and feel like a million dollars when I hear on the microphone “and here’s Kirsty Gordge coming in with a strong finish… hey Kirsty? Good run!”.
I look around for my running buddy who I admittedly forgot about for the last 30 seconds and see her cross the line triumphantly and have her photo taken by her boyfriend. We congratulate each other, like rasping tomatoes trying to communicate.
After being given my medal (woo!), I collect a banana, a flapjack, and a South American yerba-mate inspired electrolytes drink and sit down on the grass. (Flop, okay, I flop).
I re-do my ponytail which makes me look human again and watch other runners finish after me with satisfaction. For one full-distance training run and a loose goal of ‘under 55 minutes’ I am happy with my efforts today. The flapjack is exceptionally tasty. I realise it could be made of ‘nice surprise’, ‘success’ and ‘massive sense of achievement’.
After meeting the race co-ordinator who I corresponded with to write my blog piece, I head over to the free massage tent to put my name on the list.
Ten minutes later I'm lying on a massage table in the sun having a full ‘calves and hammies’ rub down with antiflammatry gel by a good-looking physiotherapist who makes me feel like a celebrity.
Walking out of the park to re-join the rest of the world, I do a huge smile. Yes, I could have made excuses. Yes, I could have not been bothered to reach out to their media team. Yes, I could have flagged it this morning and opted for the 5km. After all, I did go to bed at 1am and I do have an inflamed sac of fluid on my knee.
But I didn’t.
Because *and get ready for some sound life advice*
We are never as ready as we want to be.
We are never as well-prepared or trained as we think we can be.
We are never “at our peak” if we’re living life in the future.
But if we never just #yolo and give things a go... How will we know how good that flapjack tastes?
Maybe being "at our peak" isn't getting to a pre-determined point that leaps further away from us as soon as we reach it. Maybe it's actually just getting ourselves out there and doing it.