Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Odd Couple - 400m

More like a love tryst between Josef Stalin and Mother Teresa than a personality conflict between Randall and Klugman - I ran the 400m and 3000m at the Watford Open Track Meet tonight.

I thought the combination might help bump along the training and given that it has been 8 years since I last ran both events let's face it - it's about time. The meeting is extremely popular, is held every fortnight and offers the chance to sign up on the day giving expert procrastinators such as myself ample opportunity to keep changing our minds and still compete. Upon registration you hand over an expected seed time and are then organised into races between runners with similar times.

Quite how popular I didn't realise but there ended up being 19 heats of 12 runners for the 800m alone. God knows what attendance will be like during more inspiring times (the 2012 London Olympics) or more clement weather (probably never), but you can't fit that many more athletes in one place.

Like any seeded event there's a certain art to giving your seed time. Given every entrant exaggerates their own skills you have to be fairly ambitious but you also don't want to be the sad bastard that trails in 50 metres behind experiencing very public rigor mortis. Perhaps worse is the athlete who massively underexaggerates their time just so they can stroll clear of midgets and cripples waving their fist in the air.

I will admit to a bit of concern however when I ended up in the 2nd fastest race of the evening amongst the young whippets, being the only one with grey bits in my stubble (perhaps that should be stubble bits in my grey). There was also a fleeting moment during the "on your marks" phase of affairs when I considered I probably should have practised at least once the first sprint start I was about to attempt since 2001.

The race itself went pretty well. Starting in lane 6 I got a decent start, relaxed well through the far straight at which point I'd made up the gap on the guy outside (important as it meant I wouldn't be last!). As the stagger hadn't yet been made up it felt as though going in to the turn I was in the lead but I could hear footsteps on my inside. I ran a decent turn but was overtaken and had a couple of metres to retake on the home straight. I managed to quicken up (or slow down less) and took the victory down the long, painful finishing straight. If I were a teenager I'd have described it as pressing the nitrous oxide button, nowadays it's more like releasing the cod liver oil valve.

This may seem like hubris and tinged with irony, given I can hardly walk in the mornings, but I have always had an extra gear at high speeds - I'm glad to see it's still there. Given the decent way I had won I had hoped for a time slightly better than the 52.0 seconds I got (with a seed time of 51.5 seconds).

I got something right then, I exaggerated my own capabilities but not quite as much as every other runner in my race did theirs....

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