Dave Powner reports on a recent track event: Doing a 10km race on ankle-breaking, knee-straining terrain 3 days before this, was hardly great preparation. What I lacked in physical condition, I tried to make up for in psychological state. I was confident that I could beat my previous time, and based on my competitors’ PBs, I was looking at finishing in second place. Again, I would be up against teenagers – four girls, and two boys.
This time I knew which way to face on the start line, but I had been drawn in lane 4, and that was new territory for me. Where is the start line for lane 4? When are we allowed to come out of our lanes?
Who better to ask than 800m specialist Barrie Roberts. It was a pleasant surprise to see him turn up to support. We were to break lanes at the green line after the first bend.
Three runners hadn’t made it to the race. Only one of them was old enough to be in the middle of their GCSEs, so maybe the other two forgot their kit. This meant that I got moved into lane 3. The pacemaker was also missing, and there was some confusion amongst the officials regarding who it was meant to be. “We’ll just go without him”, they said. This was a shame, as I had planned to make good use of the 74 second pacemaker, and be 3 seconds behind at the bell. But then at the very last moment, while were were at our marks, he turned up.
We were off! Once around that first bend, I failed to look down, so didn’t notice the green line. I was fairly certain I’d passed it, but decided to stay in lane a little longer, just in case. Then a runner in lane 1 appeared in front of me; Male, unlike the two who I saw go to their marks in lanes 1 and 2. He said it was ok to come into lane 1 now. Oh! This was the pacemaker! I’d been keeping an eye on the wrong athlete. Who was the mystery runner who I saw turn up late and settle into the furthest lane, then? Maybe there were two differently paced pacemakers? I knew that was the case in some races that day, and there was confusion about who it was going to be, so I settled for that explanation. Alas, this meant I had no idea who to judge my pace on, so I decided to go on feeling.
At the bell, I was in the zone, and failed to take in the time voiced to me. But that didn’t matter, as I felt about right. The “lane 1 pacemaker” dropped out as expected, but the other guy kept going. Maybe he wasn’t a pacemaker after all, but filling in for one of the missing athletes? He began to pull away from me, and I was not going to be able to keep up, so I just pushed on at my own pace, and crossed the line 4 seconds behind him, in second place.
I made a big PB with 2:31.9, which after the race, is definitely the most important factor. However, during the race, the psychology is so different from what I’m used to. How I run seems to be much more influenced by everyone around me, rather than a considered approach based on how I am feeling coupled with the numbers on my watch.
I think I’ve got just a little bit more to give in the 800m, so I intend to give it one more go this season.