Step 1: The Sign Up
You have just signed up for your first official running event. Likelihood is you have done a small amount of running before, maybe it was the odd light jog around the park, perhaps it was a guilty run on the beach after a particularly indulgent holiday feast, or it could have been that one time in February you made the rather foolish decision to get up early for an ice-cold jog before work. However, none of these runs will compare with your first official event.
When the confirmation email came through, you couldn’t help the feelings of excitement and anticipation. Something inspired you to sign up and you get the impression that this is going to be the start of the new you. Chances are, you’re right.
Step 2: Training
At the same time as this excitement, you couldn’t help but notice a very slight feeling of apprehension as you realise what lies immediately ahead of you…training.
It’s 10am on a cool, crisp sunday morning. Here you are, the new you. You’ve done all the prep: flash new trainers and running kit bought, banging running playlist created (with one or two guilty pleasures thrown in for good measure), fitness tracking app downloaded; you are ready to run.
For the first 7 minutes or so, you feel great. What was there to worry about?
Then already feel the infamous stitch coming on. You think to yourself, ‘One foot in front of the other, that’s all it is.’ 15 minutes in and somehow you are still going but ‘My god this hurts.’
You think back to the online forums. Didn’t you read something about running releasing endorphins? Something about a runner’s high? That feels a long way off…
Eventually you find yourself back outside your front door. Red-faced, breathing heavily but ultimately satisfied. It was a tough challenge but you made it through. No surprise really, after all it is the new you.
Subsequent runs become easier and easier and you start to notice that your mood is lifted. Perhaps there is something in this running thing after all.
Step 3: Pre-race
The moment has arrived. You have picked up your race pack from the registration desk (or you have received it in the post) and you have easily navigated attaching the time chip to your shoelaces. However, attaching your race number without stabbing yourself with safety pins is proving a different beast altogether. After one too many winces, one of your fellow runners comes over and offers to help. You rather sheepishly agree and begin to make some pleasant small talk about the race. You don’t realise it, but this camaraderie amongst competitors is one of the things you will come to love about running events.
After one final nervous trip to the loo (watch out for queues of fellow nervous runners), you finally make your way to the start line. Once there, you feel slightly overawed by the number of people present. You have only ever run on your own, so you are not really sure what to expect. You mingle around for a bit, nodding to the odd person who catches your eye and you feel the anticipation and excitement start to build.
Step 4: The Starting Line
Everyone is ready. The countdown begins. Hundreds of people dressed in colourful clothes simultaneously turn on their tracking apps/watches and run under the starting arch.
This is it. You are finally doing it, you are doing a race surrounded by hundreds of people all striving for the same goal. After side-stepping your way past the initial swarm, you find a group that matches your pace and settle into a rhythm. Spurred on by the sound of thousands of footsteps pounding the pavement and the crowd cheering you on, you begin to take it all in. What a rush!
Step 5: The Wall
Half way through now and things are going well. You feel like a marathon runner on TV as you speed past the water station, seamlessly grabbing a water or energy drink. Running and drinking without spilling the whole lot is a special skill in itself.
Then all of a sudden, you hit ‘The Wall’. You’ve heard about it in hushed tones in running folklore, but there’s never any warning. A sudden disconnect between your brain and body. Your perspective of time and distance becomes warped as the fatigue suddenly locks down your limbs. The prospect of running the next 100m seems like an entire marathon. The idea of finishing the race seems a complete impossibility.
Step 6: Second Wind
Out of nowhere, you feel a tap on the shoulder. Bent double, you look up and see another runner, a complete stranger, cheering you on. You give them a tired, approving nod and dig deep one more time. A cheer from the crowd urges you on, giving you yet another energy boost. That 90’s power ballad you guiltily added to your playlist comes on. You find another gear and power on. The wind is back in your sails. You can do this.
Step 7: The Finish
Soon, without really knowing how, the end is in sight. You may choose to take it slow through the final section, soaking up the applause and adulation of the crowd like a golfer on the 18th at Augusta. Alternatively you may break into a sprint, showing your enduring fitness and reaching your target time.
Whatever method you choose, there is simply no better feeling than crossing the finish line. It is joy, relief and pain all rolled into one. Weeks of self-doubt, sacrifice, and struggle have built up to this point, so you have earned the right to congratulate yourself.
You make your way through the finish area, being congratulated by and congratulating everyone that has made it as well. A communal sense of achievement fills the air. Everyone has had their own experience, but you’ve come through the same battle.
With your finisher’s medal draped around your neck, you set off to find your family and friends in the crowd. A well done and a quick hug (it is unlikely you smell your freshest) is followed by a well deserved trip out to lunch, where you continue to wear your medal, ensuring everyone knows what you have just achieved.
Step 8: Later that Evening
Sitting on the sofa, riding the endorphin high and still wearing your medal, you reminisce about the day’s events. Despite the ache gently taking over your muscles (this will last for a couple of days, but it’ll get you sympathy in the office), you realise that you’ve actually quite enjoyed your experience. There’s a voice at the back of your head telling you that you want to do it all over again or maybe you want to find a new challenge. You open up your laptop, and start searching for your next event.