Monday, June 10, 2013

5K Carrera Solidaria Santander III

It may be the only chance I get of getting on the podium these days, but a podium is still a podium and this year I shared it with none other than Chema Martínez...

Shame we both had our eyes closed. (Thanks to Sandra for the photo)
Ask any Madrileñan, the weather has been completely random lately and summer has yet to poke its head around the corner of spring. I'm not complaining though, as the cooler weather is much more conducive to running, and today was no exception.

As in previous editions, 6 races take part in parallel, a 5K and a 10K in each of Madrid, Santander and - this year, instead of Valencia - Seville. I opted for the 5K race as it was the more gentle one in terms of hills and, if I am going to go to the trouble of running a 10K, I'd rather it was a flat course so I'd have a crack at beating my best time; I haven't got to that stage yet in the 5K distance. Today my objective was to get under 18 minutes - something that, given my performances lately in 5 and 10K, seemed a reasonable goal. And, of course, to defend my title of "fastest employee".

While we were lining up I looked left and right at the usual suspects, those short, wiry men with hunger etched into their cheeks but it was hard to spot who would be the ones to emerge first from the pack. I started to fantasise about being able to make the overall podium and not just the "special one" but just then Chema Martínez turned up with his winning smile and slotted in a couple of people to the left of me as if to remind me of my place. During the countdown I found myself thinking "what am I doing here, this is going to hurt" but the pressure of 3,000 people - many of whom were fellow work colleagues - about to trample over me snapped me out of my reverie. The gun went off and I found myself completely out on my own, leading the whole race. I started to panic, "Where's Chema? I shouldn't be first, I must be going too fast". I remembering thinking at this point "Whatever you do, don't look back!". I was soon overtaken by someone for whom I was happy to take the lead. A minute or two later and Chema sprung past probably having held himself back somewhat, not wanting to be seen to win too easily.

Chema making it look easy
After a couple of kilometres I became aware of some runners creeping up on the inside. They appeared to be running in another lane so I asked them if they were running in the 5K. No answer, so I asked again and saw an almost imperceptible nod from one of them before I spotted the motorbike in front with the "5K" label which I had somehow not noticed before. At one point we were a group of about 7 or 8 (not counting Chema who was by now somewhere off in the distance). Eventually, the 10K runners peeled off leaving me in 4th place in the 5K race.

I managed to conserve my position for the last two kilometres and then started to think about my other goal - that of breaking 18 minutes. I decided not to even look at my watch, knowing that I had knocked out some pretty decent splits and that it was just a question of finishing as best as I could. Into the final straight the forty seconds past the minute that were showing on the clock made me realise I was going to have to push right until the end. As I was approaching the line, there was a tentative attempt to erect a finishing tape but then there appeared to be a change of heart. Either they mistook me for a woman (which I doubt) or they were about to bestow the honour of breaking the tape on the first employee, something which I realised I had never done (in rowing, there is no tape at the finish line, needless to say). I did it: 17 minutes and 54 seconds, a Personal Best by 11 seconds.

I went to lie down for a bit on a wall overlooking the river and the risk that I might topple in was not lost on me. When I finally got up somebody asked me if I had recovered, telling me that I had looked as though I was suffering a lot. I was very happy with my overall 4th position (out of 1,110 people running the 5K, so well in the top 1% this time) although I got my first bitter sweet taste of realising that I was close to making the overall podium. Never mind, I got my prize for being first employee as well as being the first "veteran" (35-45) in the 5K, which I was awarded in parallel to Chema Martínez, who was the fastest veteran in the 10K distance, as well as being the fastest overall, of course. His brother, David Martínez, was the overall winner of the 5K in the "senior" category.

When I got home, the first thing my eldest son said to me as I was opening the door was "Dad, did you get on the podium?" so I was pleased to be able to say "yes, twice actually". What was even better than the award ceremony was my son's little dance of joy that my success earned me.

"You again?"
"If you don't move soon I'm going to have to push you off..."
So, after breaking my Personal Best times in all distances from 5K to the Marathon this year, the scores currently look like this:

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