I raced for the first time yesterday for my new club, Herne Hill Harriers. The race was the Will Bolton memorial cross-country relay, held at Sparrow’s Den playing fields, not far from Hayes. Having no idea of where Sparrow’s Den was until a few days ago, I had Googled the name. The top hit was from a newspaper website, carrying the headline: man shot dead in Sparrow’s Den. It was an inauspicious start.
I would like to say the race was a learning experience, but much of what I encountered I already know, like racing on four hours sleep and a hangover is not sensible. Of course, I had plenty of other excuses: a twinge in a hamstring and I had to cycle nine miles to get there. It was one of those days when I barely had the energy to walk, but once I got running, I actually felt semi-human.
So it was a 4km lap, first around playing fields, then through woods on uneven and hilly tracks, then back around more playing fields – basically 15 minutes of aerobic torture. I was disappointed with the time: five seconds over 15 minutes. Yet had it been just six seconds faster, I would have been happy. Such is the frustration of running against the clock.