I May be in the Wrong Job

Every run will teach you something. Sometimes it’s a lesson about running and running form. Sometimes it’s a life lesson. Sometimes you overhear gossiping and you learn something about other people. Whatever it is, you are sure to learn something new on every run. Just one more thing I love about running.

A startling realisation hit me about 6 hours after running the Johnson Crane 21.1km yesterday. As an aside, I learned sooooo much about my grandchild during the race too, but the real lesson only revealed itself to me at about 2.30pm yesterday. I finished the race at 8.08am which is a significant part of the lesson because you can’t I imagine my surprise at seeing that time on the clock when I finished.

Johnson Crane is a huge race. Word on the street says that 7000 people entered the various races yesterday. Why is it such a huge race? It’s a huge race because an urban legend exists in the running community that Johnson Crane is a flat route. Remember that I have previously spoken about the fact that runners are liars. Yeah, well I learned AGAIN, that they’re still liars and I’m still the gullible fool that believes them. I have run the Johnson Crane 10.1km and it is reasonably flat in the second half. The 21.1km is not flat. There are some periods of flatishness, but the first 1km and 6km climb from 14km to 20km are not at all flat. The 42.2km is a double of the 21.1km route and so it too is not at all flat. It’s a shit route, actually. The uphill is not only uphill, it’s also mind numbingly boring and yesterday it was fucking hot which is to be expected because it’s the middle of fricking summer, now isn’t it? 

So lesson #1 – Runners are still liars and I am still a gullible idiot.

Lesson #2 – Johnson Crane is not flat.

The start was very full. I was seeded in pen 2 because I was going for a sub-2 hour 21.1km.  I was looking out for Erica because she had been awake when I texted her earlier so I was sure she’d be there. I didn’t spot Erica, but I saw Georgy.  Georgy began the lesson that I would only learn 8 hours later.  He asked me in his very Dutch accent what time I was going for. I didn’t know what to say to him. I was going for a sub-2 hour, but only half-heartedly because I’d had a dreadful calf spasm earlier in the week which had left a twiggle* in my calf. So I knew I was capable (especially on this legendary flat route) of a personal best at least. My previous PB on a 21.1km was at Komatsu and that was 2:04 something. So I knew in my heart that sub-2 would be tough, but I could manage a sub-2:04.  So when George asked, I suddenly had a brain failure and I said, based on no planning whatsoever, that I intended to run 21.1km at an average pace of 5:38/km. I have no idea where I got that number from. I have no idea what I was thinking, but I was like, “Hey, I ran 500m at 4:23/km last week, 5:38 over 21.1km will be a breeze….especially on this legendary flat route.” Easy peasey! George did a swift calculation in his head and looked surprised. He told me that he would not manage such a quick pace. I didn’t know that George was running the marathon because he usually does the shorter routes.  I have subsequently learned that this was Georgy’s first marathon. Because I thought he was going to run the 21.1km, I was surprised that my Slow Coach pace was too fast for him. He is waaaaaay faster than me generally. I tried to do maths in my head, but I was a little giddy with the excitement at the start of the race and I was trying to squeeze a GU into my mouth without getting sticky fingers, so I just gave up the maths and considered that maybe I could even go 5:45 and still do a reasonable time.

The gun went and we stood still. For about a minute we stood there staring at the backs in front of us. Bear in mind that I was in pen #2. I wasn’t at the back of the field. I was in pen #2 and I was standing still. We started ambling forward. And 14 minutes later we found ourselves at the 2km mark. I was panicking. Not only had Georgy sped away from me, but I had been held up for 2km and I was managing a measly 7min/km. To get to 5:45/km I would have to race at a pace faster than that for some time to catch up the lost time. You can see my calculations are starting to get vague right? I’m not a details person. It’s a problem. I don’t like to go into the detail. It’s very tough then that I am a project manager by day and runner by ….non-working day. Not liking detail is not a good quality in either of these pursuits.

So I don’t like the details. I also cannot divide by 21 or 21.1 or 22. So I just divide by 20. It’s easier that way.

I realised that running 5:45min/km was not going to be achievable. Not even slightly. So I tempered my expectations and realised, using not much scientific evidence at all: Wow! I can run at 6min/km for 20km and achieve a 120 minutes which is 2 hours which is a personal best time for a 21.1km. I swear I used up all my spare brain capacity trying to not get GU on my fingers! As I type this, I’m thinking I must have been having some kind of seizure throughout the race for me to do calculations  like that. But it’s because I’m too high-level brained to deal with the 1.1km.  I met up with someone who proceeded to teach me a great deal about my grandchild for the next 12 or so kilometres.  He was running at just 6min/km and is a very experienced runner so I stuck with him. It was a very educational time from a people perspective and I’m very grateful for the advice given to me about and for my family. I was also very grateful at the time for the 6min/km which was going to get me a PB! How wonderful!  So we were running at 6min/km. The friend was running the marathon and I was running a half marathon. He chatted the whole way while I listened sometimes in horror, sometimes in amusement. I didn’t have to say much. I just ran alongside him. I think he got a lot of hurt off his chest at the same time so we probably helped one another. My watch said Average pace = 6:02. My swift, non-detail oriented arithmetical skills translated that into 2:02 which would be a 2 minute PB which is a magnificent achievement on twiggled legs. I think at a sub-conscious level I had the 1.1km tucked at the back of my mind trying to remind me to add that on, but my twiggled legs needed the oxygen more so it just stayed tucked away for another day.

Johnson Crane is not flat, did I mention that? So listen here all you liars and all you Johnson Crane hopefuls, Johnson Crane is not flat. The 10km has a steady but not too steep climb for 5kms. The 21.1km is flatishly undulating for the first 15km and then you climb for the next 5km and the last 1.1km is downhillish. The 42.2km is a repeat of that. Those 5kms were horrid for me. Although my friend was diverting my attention away from the hilliness for some part, it was boring and hot and uphill. Blech! My friend needed a toilet break at 19kms and bid me farewell. I climbed for another kilometre and then joined the 10km crowd as we headed downhill to the finish. I started to feel nauseous which I put down to the painkillers I took at 7km for my very sore neck and shoulder (not the twiggle in my calf) and I got a stitch.

My watch isn’t set up to show elapsed time. It just shows average pace and total distance. I’ve realised that this is not an optimal setting for arithmetically challenged GU fingers like myself. As I raced towards the entrance to the finish line, I saw Michelle and Kirsty cheering me on. I called out “PB coming up” triumphantly and Kirsty joined me for the last 80m. I wish I could put into words the deflation that enveloped me as I looked up 5 steps from the finish line to see 2:08:something on the clock. In an instant I had a what the fuck moment that immediately alerted me to the latent aneurism seated in the arithmetic part of my brain. The thoughts came into my head in this order, but kind of all at once:

Why the fuck is that number so big?
What the fuck happened to those other 6 minutes?
Their fucking clock is wrong.
The race is 21.1km not 20.
You’re an idiot!
I’m going to vomit.
2:02 + 1km @ 6min/km = 2:08
You’re an idiot!

Then I vomited. Kirsty watched on surprised at the gloomy look on my face as I explained that the vomit was from the painkiller (er….cocktail) that I had taken at 7km and this was not, in fact, a PB race, but a mathematical error. I told her to go and that I’d meet her at the entrance. I really wanted to recalibrate my brain on my own and process the stupidity that had engulfed me for the past two and a half hours. How could I have been so dumb, so negligent? As I stood in the interminable queue waiting to get my medal, I realised that:

Lesson #3 – You need to learn to divide by 21 or at least 22.
Lesson #4 – Every race is an opportunity to better your previous best, no matter what.

As the day progressed and I forgave myself for my faux pas (it hadn’t been a totally horrific time) and smiled at the amusement it had offered so many other people, I realised that the real lessons for the day were:

Lesson #5 – Every race needs to be planned before you line up at the start.
Lesson #6 – If you don’t like to plan and you’re clearly very poor at Maths, then maybe being a project manager in a bank is not the job for you!

Have a great week everyone. I’m looking for a new career. Any ideas?

Yours in the love of running (not in planning or calculating)


*Twiggle: a combination of a tweak and a niggle; made up by Ringmaster Dave