That was something else!
5k around the streets of the City of London with over 6,500 others! The gathering point was the parade ground of the Honorary Artillery Company on the City Road. There was I with my company colleagues in our specially ordered shirts complete with logo. My number was proudly pinned to the front and my timing tag was attached to my shoe laces. Runners arrived in their corporate shirts..... Banks, Insurance companies, finance houses legal firms, tech companies and many others. Some we're taking this very seriously. Although there was an official warm up, some of the gazelle-like sub-15 minute types were already going through their paces well in advance of that.
Warming up in front of me was Paula Ratcliffe (Paula flamin' Ratcliffe!) and that bloke from BBC breakfast who does the crazy sports. He was to run blindfold with Paula as his guide (this was a charity run for treatable blindness). I suddenly had this crazy notion that he might slow her down enough so that I might be able to claim a surprise victory over the Goddess of the track, but no, it wasn't to be.
There were three starting groups. Under 20 minutes, under 27 minutes and everyone else. I am most definitely everyone else.... Start time was 7.15, but it took an age to get that many people through the start gate. My family was by the start line and I waved madly at them as I passed them to trigger the timing beam. Simultaneously, I hit the button on my Garmin. Six minutes per km would do, I told I myself, it's your first time so let's just get round in one piece. I went off like a rocket and through the first km in 5:27. Madness. But this is what I was warned about.... You just get pulled along. However I felt pretty comfortable and kept going.
Running amongst this many people is so very different to the open country roads of home. Here, you have to have your wits about you. People pull up unexpectedly or take the shortest route across a corner with no warning. It becomes a tactical battle. Find some space ahead and accelerate into it. Find someone running at a pace you're comfortable with and follow them.... Until you realise that they are going too fast and they suddenly fall behind you. 2k, 3k and 4k came and went. I was moving smoothly and breathing easily. There was an eerie silence about the whole thing. I don't wear headphones and all I could hear was breathing and the sound of rubber on Tarmac.
Suddenly ahead of me I could see a colleague in the same shirt as me. A better runner than me, no doubt, I decided to get as close to him as possible and he would draw me home. The final straight now. My colleague slowed significantly and I passed him! I was pouring it on now, 200m to go, pushing as hard as I could and then... My colleague came up alongside me and grabbed my hand. He pushed it in the air and the two of us crossed the line together! What an unbelievable finish!
A glance at the watch.... 30 minutes on the nose, but 5.32 km run! I can only assume that all that weaving added some distance. Anyhow, working it back, I went through 'Garmin 5km' in a PB equalling 28.34.
Back on the parade ground, everyone was presented with a goody bag, a finishers shirt and a medal. I have a medal! For running! Me! Absolutely incredible.....
I must say I was very nervous about the event. Having done it I would say it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I loved every second. I recommend it to all of you and I can't wait for next time....... Which happens to be in 10 days time in the Olympic anniversary 5 mile run at Stratford, East London.