Sunday, September 04, 2011

Mo Farah winning the 5,000m

Earlier this year I was sat in a restaurant in Hong Kong. I was exhausted, hungover, jet-lagged and hungry. Despite this I felt compelled to try and convince two of my dining companions that running races are genuinely fun when the topic reared its head.

I can see why those who have never strapped on some trainers and tested themselves against the road, the elements, distances and indeed others, would possible view running as a staid, dull sport, but those who have done it, particularly those who race, understand it is so much more than that.

Watching Mo Farah sprint to victory having already run 4,800m in South Korea earlier today I was reminded of this, having myself just laboured to a measly 2km around the streets of South West London. The hit of adrenaline you get as you storm towards the finishing line, over any distance, is like nothing else. I play football and tennis but the buzz from running, particularly as you near the finish line, is better than these sports for a sense of exhilaration you rarely experience in day-to-day life. That runners high you so often hear about.

I once finished 17th in a 10km in Cornwall. It was a hard, wet, muddy, cross-country route, but come the final 200m I found myself neck and neck with some club runner from Newquay. I thought I had the measure of him coming into the final stretch and so started to kick for home, pulling a few metres ahead, then I sensed him coming back at me, no doubt determined to prove his credentials. He was on my shoulder.

We matched each other stride for stride. I told myself I would not let him past me, I would beat him. I dug in again, pushing harder again, and once again pulled away by a few meters. We were barely 50m from the line. The crowd of friends and families that had come to cheer on loved ones noted our battle and cheered louder as we hurtled into the finishing gate. He was closing again but I dug deep and held him off to claim 17th, rather than 18th.

Utterly meaningless of course, but at the time, in the moment as it happened and the glow afterwards, it was exhilarating, and of course exhausting. He shook my hands afterwards and we congratulated one another on a great race.

That moment, more than the London Marathon or other races I've run, always reminds me of why running really needs to be experienced before it can be judged, why my two associates in Hong Kong where so wrong to laugh at the suggestion running can be fun and it's why watching someone like Mo Farah sprint to the line to claim gold for Great Britain is so exciting.

Me post marathon with Will.

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