Running and racing is rarely as joyful as the smiling, skipping cover models adorning running magazines would have readers believe. I have had bad times running. And I have had some really bad times. Like climbing a wind-blasted Great Whernside some 55 miles into the Fellsman. Like running the London Marathon with plantar fasciitis. Like descending the treacherous grassy bank of Ben Nevis.
Yet I wonder now if running a mile – a mere 1609 metres around a track – is worse, for I have rarely felt so joyless when running during the inaugural Stan Allen Mile. My number was called for the A race. We lined up. Within seconds, the horror began to evolve. The field splintered in two, with me near the front of a second pack. Our split times at the end of lap one were shouted to us.
Dry mouthed, I persevered without going any quicker. There was to be no more 71s. That would be a physical impossibility. I detested running then, detested the mile, detested the situation I had allowed to occur. This was Great Whernside. This was the London Marathon with plantar fasciitis. This was the grassy bank of Ben Nevis. Along the back straight of the penultimate lap, I contemplated the end. My left hamstring was grumbling. I’ve got an excuse, I rejoiced. One step to the left, onto alluring grass, and it’s over. Even with runners trickling by, it was a step too far. The hamstring eased. I was soon running round the bend into the home straight and a bell was ringing. I needed a 75-second lap to breach five minutes.
I sweated and toiled, chased and hoped. The clock said 4.59 as I passed. I knew better. The truth was 5:00.67. Agony heaped upon agony.