I am a planner. I am detail oriented, a serial analyzer and I am always–always– prepared. Especially for a race. Except for the Banyoles half marathon. Throwing myself, and what felt like my sanity, to the wind, I signed up 36 hours before the start gun would fire. I felt daringly reckless like I had ditched my classes and took off on a motorcycle with a boy no mother would approve of.
It all started with some friendly peer pressure. Training races weren’t something I did anymore given my recent injury history so this race wasn’t on my agenda. Actually, there wasn’t any race on my agenda or on the distant horizon. In the past 18 months I had raced exactly twice, both times “almost healthy” and both times needing ample preparation and recovery time. Now, it had been 6 months since I was on a start line and my fear was triumphed by my curiosity so I easily succumbed to the suggestion to enter.
On the other hand, there was fear. I felt far from prepared and going into a race completely unsure of how I would perform or feel was a true unknown. I was training well but I still had to be careful with my knees. True to self, using the small window of time I had, to ease my fear I made a plan. I would use the race to practice pacing, get a good training run in and enjoy the atmosphere. I would stop if I had any injury pain and, since I hadn’t pinned any hopes or dreams on this race, it wouldn’t matter if I ran, jogged, walked, shuffled or DNF’d. I wasn’t physically prepared like normal but with a mental plan I felt more confident.
Thirteen kilometres into the race and I was clinging to my plan. Most of the women ahead of me had dropped back and the race leader was a mere 10 meters in front of me. I wasn’t here to race though, remember? I was training, doing my own thing. I was a train on a track. Sticking. To. My. Plan.
Then we entered Camos, the hilly section of the race, and my plan was slipping through my fingers. Through no fault of my own, my plan had put me straight on the heels of the leading woman. Oops. I decided to let her do the pace making and we ran steady, up and down the hills on back onto the flat leading us into Banyoles.
We made it back to Banyoles Lake and I could feel the blisters on my feet starting to mush with every strike. I heard the bike marshall call the organizer, telling him the two leading women were a 2 kilometres away. Our paced had quickened slightly but she couldn’t shake me, I was literally on her feet. Matching her stride for stride, I finally admitted I had abandoned my plan because I knew we couldn’t stay like this. One of us was going to have to make a move.
We were running faster than we had the last 8 kilometres but the distance was passing slower than ever as I waited for the right time to make my move. I had decided to attack at 400m to go, figuring I could last that long at max speed. I would feel her hesitate and have to forcibly silence the devil on my shoulder telling me to attack. I checked my watch, 800 meters to go. 600m to go. Another hesitation and the angel on my other shoulder even seemed to flinch. I checked my watch: 400 meters to go.
It was mere seconds until she seemed to slow for micro-instant and, with both the devil and the angel on my shoulder cheering me on, my legs had taken off before my brain knew what was happening. I left her and ran like hell.
I gritted my teeth, 400m suddenly seemed really far and I still couldn’t see the line. Rounding the final s-bend onto the finishing straight, I couldn’t feel her behind me. A quick backwards glance confirmed I had a gap but then I saw another opponent in front of me! The giant clock above the finish line read 1:29:51. My original plan, to run a 1:30, was staring at me, challenging me. I had the win but I gritted my teeth and kept sprinting full speed ahead.
I enjoyed the last few meters and for the first time ever grabbed the finishing tape, a Catalan flag, and wrapped it around me. I turned around, happy to see 1:30 had just ticked over and embraced the woman who had paced me for the last half of the race.
I was asked later if I expected to win. “No,” I replied, “but I planned to run a 1:30 and I did.” The win was just a cherry on top of a goal achieved.