One last time…

Robin Hood weekend has always been one of the fixtures of my year, a date around which my year is oriented. I love autumn; and that morning in my old home town by the Trent (along with the bright mistiness of the Lakes) epitomises everything which is so special about it.



And now I find myself sitting here on The Night Before Race Day, checking my kit, planning my timings, and with a unique and special buzz of excitement. But this year it is tinged with more than the usual pre-race uncertainties, and a tinge of sadness lurking.

My rituals will be the same. I will get up at work-o-clock early; drive down an uncommonly deserted M1; queue to park with my head-music playing; walk into the arena to pee, check out the gear tent and buy a polystyrene cup of tea; pee again; change into my race-kit and deposit my bag; pee one more time in a hedge; jog up and down by the Trent as the mist lifts and the rowers glide past the swans; one final pee (or attempt) against a majestic autumnal tree; and then join my start-pen, as late as I possibly can to keep my body – and my heart – warm.

When the gun goes there will be a big cheer but I will be silently inside my own head. This year’s song will be different.

And it’s a different plan.

  • Slow Mile 1, slow, safe, don’t ruin this
  • Lovely familiar bastard hills to Mile 3.5; low gear, small stride, rhythm (pray, this 50th time, that I don’t have to walk for the first time); recover, slow
  • Mile 4-9 “Pace-Not-Race”
  • Mile 10-12 steady
  • Mile 12-onwards….. see what my body is saying

For the last 18 months it’s been saying “Stop. Enough. You’re hurting me.”  Not for the first time; but this time it is insistent. And this time I can’t run through it; this time in fact I can barely run. So this time the deal we’ve made is final: I’m allowed one more, and this time really is the last time.

  • Mile 13.1   I honestly have no idea how I will feel, what state I will be in.

And afterwards? I can’t even think about that right now…

I want to enjoy that unique buzz; enjoy my rituals; enjoy the course and the crowds and the bands and the autumn morning run; enjoy the last mile.

The. Last. Mile.


Best check my kit one more time.


Well, I did it; and I did it ok; and I didn’t stop once. Like Dr Who and his two hearts: my pump did really well, but the deep emotional one was both happy and… pained.

I warmed up well, paced the first mile perfectly (slowly) and properly, safely managed the hills to 3.5 miles. The middle section I kept my steady rhythm, bit of a dip on the hill at Wollaton Park; and then the run in, flat terrain flat pace. A charming and impressive girl, Emily, from a local ED clinic called First Steps ran up to me just before 11 miles and commented on my B-eat vest and we chatted (or she did, I was labouring too much), and then it was 12. Time for The Last Mile.

I felt ok, legs were fine, stamina fine; just the needle-almost-in-the-red to manage. But I let my stride out; and I ran, allowed myself to run. I was feeling it as I passed the full-marathon split and remembered the emotion of making that turn; I was feeling it as I turned off the Embankment onto the grass finish; and I was feeling it as I ran up to the big yellow clock, and stopped my watch, and stopped – for the last time. It was over. It’s over.

I didn’t want to leave, yet, so I sat on the grass and watched people coming in. It was over. A huge sob came up, and I had to cover my face.

But here’s the punchline. It was a personal-worst (as I knew it would be), by over 13 minutes since my last Half in May, and over an hour over my PB. 13 minutes. That means I have lost a minute-a-mile, in just four months. I can’t argue with that. My body has said “Enough! You’re hurting me!” and this time I have to listen.

So I stood up, collected my bag and T-shirt, changed, had a snack, and went back to the car and drove home wearing my medal. Alone, as I do.

Did. Used to.



About johntleeds

In amongst the perpetual juggling of work, family and things on my mind, this is MY time, MY escape. Any this is what my mind comes up with when it has time to wonder, as I wander on the trails... twitter @johntleeds
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