Reeling from a not-so-successful London Marathon at the end of April I got stuck in that place we go when we feel nothing’s going right for us, while everything is going right for ‘them’ (whoever they may be). The first few days after a marathon are such an emotional rollercoaster, even when you’ve run OK. Feeling a bit low I entered a local 5K race series, as it’s the only way I know to cope…create a new goal.
This series was a perfect match: extremely close, exceptional value (I caught the early bird price) very friendly and well run. It’s been going for a few years and I’d only heard good things about it. I also wanted to support the race organiser, local runner and owner of the award-winning Absolute Running shop in Gosport as he is a top bloke. Last year I had every race of the series on my calendar and didn’t make one of them. A mid-week evening 5K race can be tricky if you have kids and accompanying taxi duties. But doing a short race series over the summer can show you how your fitness is improving, so I really wanted to make it this year. It’s also a welcome break from your winter long, slow runs.
Then the first one came, and it went. Nope, I didn’t make it. It just happened that both my mum and my partner were away and so on that night it was only me home alone with three girls and too many car trips to fit in any sort of run. I was proper grumpy. This really fired me up and I was going to make the next four, no matter what.
Boy I had the wind taken out of my sails on the next race, the second of the series. One thing I hadn’t factored into my race plan was the hideous wind you get along the south coast, which, whatever direction you run in seems to swirl against you.
We all flew for the first mile (wind-assisted), did our two laps of the top field then had to put our heads down on the way back to the finish. The same for races three and four. In fact, on the day of the July 5K I really didn’t want to run. It wasn’t windy, it was hurricane weather – well it felt like it was all the way back into the finish. My third mile split was nearly a minute slower than the first two. I think I was proper grumpy again after that race. But we all know you never regret a run…
By the August 5K I was expecting balmy conditions, a perfect, still summer evening where I may even get within touching distance of my 5K PB. Well, the weather had other plans for us runners and yet again we had to battle 25-30mph winds coming into the final third of the race. Can’t say I was ebullient after that one! Then something amazing happened on the final race, on Tuesday night.
It was incredibly warm – maybe even too warm – for racing a 5K and the wind that was building gently during the day dropped to a whisper. You’ve never seen a couple of hundred runners so uplifted. When I arrived to pick up my race number we were all rejoicing – no wind! It was going to be a breeze (sorry…). We all gathered for the pre-race photo and there was such a good vibe. If you’re looking for your running tribe this is the place to come and find the best. Nick is the perfect ambassador for running and the running life. He’s probably one of the most authentic people you could hope to meet, pretty important when you’re looking for new trainers that you know are probably going to cost you at least £100. You can trust his opinion and pick his brain on anything – the fact that Absolute Running has won awards two-years running, at the Running Awards, shows the depth of community behind him, and how much they trust and respect him.
He has made some powerful differences to the community he lives in, both through the 5K summer series and the Gosport Golden Mile race, which has become a big hit with local school children. As Nick says: ‘It’s all about the youth.’
I was really chuffed for Nick that so many of the local run club, Gosport Road Runners, were out to support him in the last race of the series. I know most of them only live down the road, literally, but it would be easy not to bother – all of us have busy lives. After the race I spoke to three separate people who told me how they had dashed, hell for leather, from work to make the last event. And at a coaching event earlier in the year held in the other side of the county runners from Surrey told me they were hoping to come down to one of the races.
Every year the numbers taking part in this series are growing impressively, and will continue to grow not just because good news travels quickly, but, if the wind is calm, it’s a completely flat and potentially fast course. There’s a kids 1K race before the adult race each month, so you can take your youngsters for a dash along the prom. All finishers get a medal, plus there are prizes in each race through the age categories, as well as a substantial prize to the overall male and female winners of the series. There’s also chip timing. All this is just by-the-by though, as it’s the welcoming, all-inclusive and friendly atmosphere that you will remember. Presentations only take place when the last runner is in and the marshals are fantastic. Plus there’s the perfect opportunity to take your family down for a fish and chip supper after the race. On Tuesday it was nearly dark by the time the last runner finished, the moon was out and it was a beautiful evening. It was lovely to sit on the beach after the race with my youngest, rather than dash home.
I am so chuffed that I finally made this race. Yes I moaned and grumped along the way; we all want perfect conditions for every race, but this rarely happens. Maybe if every race in the series had been calm it wouldn’t have been such an achievement to persevere to the end, or the last one wouldn’t have felt so magical.
You can enter next year’s Gosport Golden Mile here