Monday, June 1, 2015

Yo Dona Run the Night 10K (5K?)

...or, as the webpage says, "Run the Nigth".

This really promised to be a great race. Everything was lined up perfectly: an early evening start to miss the brunt of the heat, a flat course near my house (a horse racetrack no less) and taking place the day before the Liberty Seguros 10K so that the best runners would be absent. The date also happened to coincide with my parents being here. The last time they saw me compete in anything was probably some rowing race in Cambridge when I was 17.

A not much fun queue for a fun run
What I didn't reckon on was it being the worst organized race I have ever taken part in - something of a feat considering how many I have done over the last 7 years. Admittedly, if it hadn't been for dragging my kids, my parents and my wife (who was running the 5K) along, I would have got there much earlier, but I didn't expect it to take ONE WHOLE HOUR to pick up the race number, by which time the race had already started. Also, rather than just giving the number and chip, they gave you the goodie bag with the commemorative t-shirt, so then you had to find somewhere to dump it before the race. It would have been much more sensible to give that to people as they finished, like they do in most races.

I've been living in Spain for 14 years now, but some things are so culturally embedded that they will never change - I'm referring to myself more than to the country. One of those things is how people go around roundabouts - something that still irritates me on a daily basis - but the other is how people queue. The queues were quite sensibly organized by race number but, unless you were at least as tall as me, there was no way of knowing that until you approached the desk as the signs were hard to see. But I think the real problem was that people were picking up numbers for themselves and all their friends who didn't necessarily have numbers corresponding to that queue, causing all kinds of chaos. There was a much higher proportion of people just running for fun than usual - at least, that was the impression I got from appearance and what people chose to run in - so I was very tempted to push to the front as it would make a big difference to me getting a good position at the start but I just couldn't bring myself to do something so un-English. To be fair, queue jumping is frowned upon in Spain, but its close relative - that of queuing for a large number of people - is not. I am perhaps a little bit extreme about this. My wife still laughs about the time I went to take out money from a cash point with my card and she asked me to take some out for her with her card (this was before we had a joint account). I felt bad about "having two goes" on the machine - I could imagine people who had based their queue calculation on just one turn tutting behind me - so I took the money out with my card and went to the back of the queue again. The funny thing is, this was in Spain, so everyone found my behaviour a bit bizarre (and perhaps they would have done in England too - I've yet to meet someone who does the same).

The setting for the race was ideal: it was the unused Hipodrome so the spectators could watch from the stands. They had gone to town with the audiovisuals, beaming live coverage of the race from drones and various cameramen to a huge screen. To cater for those who had been unable to get their numbers in time, there were several staggered starts. I might just have been able to salvage the situation if I had managed to get to the front of my wave, but I couldn't find my parents to give my bag to so in the end I had to leave it with a friend who I happened to spot. After all the faffing about, I just managed to get back to my wife as the gun went off (so to speak). I made a valiant but short lived attempt to get to the front but the course was very narrow and I ended up slowing to a walk. I decided instead to run the 5K "tranquilamente" with my wife.

I took up running initially as a way to channel my frustrations. The danger is that, if things go wrong, then it can end up compounding my frustration (like the lamppost incident in the Madrid Marathon). After training for this event and spending the day psyching myself up for it, not to mention loading myself up with energy in the form of cereal bars, M&Ms and red bull, it was extremely frustrating to spend an hour on a Saturday evening queuing up and then not even to have to chance to release all that pent up energy. It was the athletic equivalent of coitus interuptus. I had also looked forward to the idea of being able to run well in front of my parents. Anyway, I did my best to handle it with good grace and, even though the pace was easy for me, I tried to remember that it was a struggle for my wife. When my kids congratulated us, I didn't say anything about it not having been a challenge for me because, in some sense, it was a challenge to keep my cool (even though there were no lampposts to punch along the course).

Looking at the results, I think I would have had a good chance of a podium finish (out of 2,000 runners!). That would have been so cool in front of my family, with all the fancy media coverage. The course may have been flat, but it was quite sandy and it was a bit hot even at 9 pm, so I can't expect to have run a best time. Having said that, the third placed runner did a time of 37:21 (and the winner 36:30) which looks pretty attainable. It seems like it was more of a race to get the race number than a race to the finish line. On the other hand, another of the aspects of the race that was poorly thought out was that the 10K was two laps of the same circuit as the 5K, so the front runners undoubtedly ran into the slowest of the 5K runners. It may be that their times were relatively slow as a result, because the winner of the 5K race (an ex-Spanish Marathon champion) did a time of 16:45 which would have certainly been out of my reach.

Anyway, a bit of a shame because it was so promising. I'll give it another shot next year - if they decide to repeat the experience - and I'll pick up the race numbers during the day to avoid the crowd. Maybe they will have learnt from their mistakes too but I expect that it will attract more middling competitive runners like myself, when people see the results from the previous year.

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