Nobody would be impressed if it was easy

Today I was off to the Aylesbury Boxing Day 5k and I was On A Mission.
Last year a friend at work who I’d been running with at lunchtimes had signed up for this as her first race. An interesting choice, as this is a club runners’ race full of beady-eyed racing snakes, and indeed we studied the results and concluded that she would have to finish in under 36 minutes not to come dead last. A time which would be a bit of a stretch.
But of course, along with most of the races last December, it was snowed off. Didn’t happen.
And she got caught up in her new job at a different firm and the training suffered (though she did do a 5 mile run in San Francisco on a work trip by dint of getting very lost!).
But this year I got in touch and asked if she was still going to do it. I’ll come along and run it with you, I said (nobly casting aside the chance to have a lie-in on a Monday morning). (I also said, “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather do the Marlow 5?” which is rather more beginner-friendly, but no! the Boxing Day 5k it had to be).
She started training again and I … promptly caught a cold and hoped that her training wasn’t going too well! But it’s a great day for a race. No traffic, free parking, and the race HQ was a nice warm pub right by the start and finish! Where we bumped into Shazza (who some members may remember) and her mum in the Ladies’ loos, where there was no queue!
It wasn’t entirely clear which way we should face for the start – so we did the thing where you line up, realise that you’re right at the front and have to beetle round to the back again.
We set off at quite a brisk pace and I decided not to mention that the back marker marshall was not in sight behind us. At first my friend was quite chatty and going well, but it is by no means a flat course and as we overhauled the nice lady from Bearbrook Joggers who said, “We train on this hill! I hate it!” it was by no means clear that we’d stay ahead.
My mate’s hubby and four children were waiting to cheer her on as we ploughed on through the town centre again and then – then we had to face THE HILL once more. We overtook Ms Bearbrook (who was power-walking the hill :D) and then my friend (who was by then beyond speech and pretty exhausted) stopped, gasping, and leaned on a car for a second. A second being the time it took to (ahem) “persuade” her into motion again as a Bearbrook Joggers vest went past us.
At last though the finish was in sight – and so was Ms Bearbrook – whose kindness and encouraging words were repaid rather cruelly when my friend got her second wind and sprinted past  her through the finish arch before collapsing to her hands and knees, having given her all.
First race finished – tick
Under 36 minutes – give or take ten seconds, yes
Not last – tick
I hope she is very proud of herself, because she undoubtedly worked harder than 99% of the runners in the field. She didn’t take the easy option of a race with a big field but entered knowing that she would be running through empty streets and might well be coming dead last.
I hope to be inspired by her efforts the next time I want to stop in a race…
Merry Xmas everybody, and a Happy New Year!