Race. For Life.

I’m not a particularly needy person. I’m happy to be on my own, confident in fact. I’ll go to the cinema alone, the pub, for a meal, a walk, the gym, alone. I’m doing the race for life. Alone. Doing things alone doesn’t scare me, I don’t need someone holding my hand. But today I feel like I would benefit from someone’s distractions. Conversations to pass the time till the race kicks off at 11. Unfortunately the minutes pass by as slowly as I imagine my feet will be moving once I finish the 6th mile.
Since I finished my first race for life (5k last summer) I’ve been building up to this. I’ve kept running, I actually consider it a hobby- get that! I’ve done two 10k runs so I know I can do it. When the pressure is off. But can I do it now? When it counts. When I don’t want to let myself down. I hope so because this isn’t just for me. This is for my nana. For my mum, my whole family, your family, their family, everyone. Anyone. It’s for cancer. It’s our pledge to fight, to carry on fighting. And to kick cancers ass!

I give myself a list of things to think about through the race, ways to stay focused (friends, family, previous runs, what I’ll have for dinner, what I’ll have for tea etc) Read a book for an hour, check my Facebook, twitter, emails and before I know it the hour is upon me!

It’s only 10 but I start to get ready, take my jumper off, fix my number to my front and my sign to my back ‘I race for… My Nana x’ leave everything I don’t need (except £2 for a bottle of water) in the car and follow the other runners to the meeting point.

A 5 minute walk and I’m there, amongst hundreds if not a thousand other women all running/jogging/walking for this one reason. To beat cancer.

There are a few speakers, a cancer survivor who had to break the news of her breast cancer to her 4 year old daughter when she was diagnosed. Now she’s been given the all clear and she’s thanking us. For taking part, for sponsoring, for helping keep her alive, for her daughter. Another woman, part of the Manchester cancer research unit, I forget to take note of her exact position but it’s high. She gives us the figures, the percentages. She mentions how testicular cancer has jumped up to a 98% survival rating, how in the last 40 years they’ve seen remarkable improvement. However there are still some shocking statistics. Brain cancers for instance, research in the last 25 years has doubled the chance of surviving
but it’s still only around 12%. Then I hear her say it… Pancreatic cancer. The statistics are still too low.
The fact she’s here… the amount of people here.. the survivors… it’s all very overwhelming and I take the chance to grab a bottle of water from an ice-cream van and calm my nerves. By the time I’m back in amongst the crowd they’re starting the warm up and the ‘stomp’. We’re herded into place behind the starting line (which will eventually turn into the end), runners first. So I move over with all the other runners prepare my playlist, turn on my Nike + app (I don’t go running without it) and the count down begins…

..9… Plug in my left head phone..
..8… Put my phone in the pocket at the top of the back of my leggings..
..7… Check my number is pinned to my front..
..6… Make sure my laces are tied and no loose bits could cause me to trip..
..5… Prepared.. 4… Nervous…
..3…Plug in my right headphone..
..2… Times up..

The horn sounds and the front runners set off. It takes about 30 seconds before we’re on the move and another minute before we’re at a pace a little bit quicker than a jog.

The day is hot and I can already tell, even in the shade of the trees, that this is going to be a sweaty run. It’s difficult to get up to my personal speed, with so many people everyone runs at a difference pace, it becomes a skill weaving in and out of the other women until we begin to ascend. It’s not a big hill, thankfully, but it’s more than some runners can manage and slowly people start walking, making it more difficult to keep the pace up and get past them, it starts to level off and people start to run again making it easier to get by.

We reach the 2k marker, about 13 minutes in, the pack has disperse and it’s easier to run at a comfortable pace. Still there are people passing. I don’t see faces, just the backs of heads and the signs on their backs. ‘…for my mum’, ‘my Uncle Mike’, ‘Everyone who suffers from this horrible disease’. I dont know any of these people but we are, for today at least, all united.

The K’s pass by (not quickly by any means) and the heat intensifies. Somewhere between the 3rd and 4th kilometre they have a foam machine spurting out what is either strawberry milkshake or bubblegum (it’s hard to distinguish) smelling foam. Quite bizarre I think. Up another ascent (there seem to be more ups than downs in this park- ironically enough) and round to the right before the worst hill of all, it never seems to end, but worse, you think you’ve come to the end and you’re rounding a corner to see it keeps going! Ugh.

From the top you can see and hear the starting point/finish line and I know I’m almost half way, all the 5k runners will be almost finished, infact some of them are and they’re cheering us on. We stay left after the final bend and begin the route again. I take comfort in knowing there’s less to go than we’ve already done. Even if I ‘turned back’ I’d just have to go further than I’ve been and anyway the idea of weaving through all those people again is enough to make me carry on.

I slow down to what was probably a quick walk and take on some water (little did I know round the next corner the cadets were handing out cups of water) and after half a minute begin again. I’m unable to regain the pace I had before but I was expecting that. I notice my skin is glistening in the sun.. It’s just sweat, not trying to romanticise anything. I can feel the sweat drip down my spine. 6k.

At this point we’ve started lapping the walkers, they’re scattered but the further we go the more hunched they are and despite how tricky it is to pass them at points I continue running.

Before I know it, after thinking about the fact I have pizza in the fridge at home and I bought ‘The Book Thief’ on DVD yesterday it’s 8k. Almost foam time again! The walkers are in thick groups. It makes the second to last ascent slower than I’d like to get it over with but then it’s the hellish hill and the home straight!

When I finish I don’t collapse like I expected I would. I queue up for my medal, pass on the snack, down the bottle of water. And stagger away slowly.

Ive forgotten where the car park is, surprisingly enough there’s more than one car park and there’s a fork in the road. But I manage to take the right path and before getting into my my car I unwind all the windows.

I completed the 6.7 miles, 1/2 a mile more than a 10k, in 1 hour and 9 minutes (according to the stopwatch that began counting when the race set off).

There’s no rush to go home so I just sit in my car for half an hour. Interestingly enough the sweat is drying and leaving tiny bits of salt on my skin. I realise how hungry I am and that I have pizza in the fridge.

I don’t feel like driving very fast. Too much speed for one day.

Happy Race for Life day!

Sound track/playlist

We the Wild- Body Electric (Blue)
Rae Morris feat. Fryars- Cold
Orla Gartland- Roots
Angel Haze- Deep Sea Diver
Carnival Youth- Never Have Enough
Kari- I Am Your Echo
Ed Sheeran- Runaway
Charlotte OC- Colour my Heart
Ariana Grande fear. Izzy Azalea- Problem
Frightened Rabbit- If You Were Me
Ed Sheeran- Take it Back
Flume & Chet Faker- Drop The Game
Kwabs- Wrong or Right
Jennifer Lopez- Get Right
We the Wild- Daisy May
Margaret- Thank You Very Much
Ella Henderson- Ghost
Tiesto- Wasted
Papa- Put Me To Work
Ed Sheeran- Bloodstream
Indiana- Slow Dancing
Augustines- Nothing To Loose But Your Head
Broken Records- Revival
Rosie Lowe- Right thing (Andrea Remix)
Prides- Cold Blooded
Amerie- 1 Thing
Twin Atlantic- Heart and Soul
MSMR- Fantasy (Nicita Remix)
Novo Amor- From Gold
Young Fathers- LOW
Kyla la Grange- Cut Your Teeth
Alt-J- Hunger of the Pines
Ed Sheeran- Don’t
Glass Animals- Black Mambo
MSMR- Hurricane (Goldroom Remix)
Kitten- Like A Stranger
Ed Sheeran- The Man
Raleigh Ritchie- Stringer Than Ever
Carnival Youth- Brown Eyes and All The Rest
Mooryc- Jupiter