Thursday, July 21, 2016

What no one tells you about races

Yesterday I participated in the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge 5.6km race in Battersea park, London. This was my first time doing an organized race. As expected, tons of my friends sign up for these races - half marathons, marathons, throw color on my faceathons, wear a tutu runningathons, celebrate your countryathons, zombieathons, and even favorite Disney characterathons. It's kind of over the top to an outsider. Although, I would never stand in the way of healthy people (they are scary).

Anyway my firm was paying for it, I got a free shirt and food (and beer!) so I signed up. Plus, why not? Initially, it was like entering a festival: vast lines of people with sour looks on their faces sweltering in the heat while they frantically search the crowd for friends. Once inside, it took a while but I found the area my company had set up for the 20-odd employees who signed up to participate. When you sign up, you have to choose an expected completion time. That time is what sorts you into a start color.

Ok, now that I'm an experienced runner and all, choose this expected finish time carefully. Of course, I had no idea what my expected time was because A. I don't run regularly, B. I haven't run in awhile because well, lazy, and C. even if I had been running, I don't have one of those fancy fitness watches. And most importantly, I've never been that passionate about running so I doubt I'd ever care quite enough to take note of such things. So I just picked the longest slot thinking well I'll just walk if it's horrible. Little did I know that you choose a higher start time always and be the slowest. Otherwise, you have to queue in the largest queue to start the race last.

When you are in the lowest slot, or for this race: yellow, you are on.your.own. All the other people at your work have done these before or are actually runners. Too bad no one told you the tip. 

I sauntered off to the yellow start line unhappily (because really the only reason I signed up was to be a team player and socialize with my co-workers). The yellow "start line", which you can hardly call a start line because of the enormous squish of sweaty people surrounding you by 30 feet in all directions, was by far the largest and furthest away. The loudspeaker was announcing to head to your start line as the race will begin at 6:45. I arrived to the queue at about 6:30, I didn't cross the start line until almost 7:15. So, for almost 45 minutes I was sitting on the ground surrounded by standing chatty people jumping around to keep stretched (I guess?) reading the Clash of Kings (shrug). What else was I supposed to do?

When I finally walked over the start line and began to run, I found very quickly I actually couldn't run because there was no space available to run. My options were to run in place behind groups of 4-6 girls just walking and slowly, say excuse my over and over again in order to get a decent jogging pace, or give up and walk. I ended up excusing myself for a good 15 minutes until I suppose I caught up with the green group. From then it was pretty smooth sailing. Every water station was a mad house and I often had people stop and start walking right in front of me. You really have to stay alert! No gazing off at the trees or dazing out in your peaceful jog during this thing.

Before I go on a quick rant, reminder: this was my first and only race. Other races could be totally different, who knows. Fact: I was surrounded my sinking sweaty people for 40 minutes (more if you count that horrible start line). Fact: there were photographers. Who wants to be photographed white running (or exercising in any way for that matter)? Photographers on the sideline, up on the hill, around the next corner...they must have a library of photographs the size of parliament. I guess it takes more shots to get one without someone spitting, grimacing, mouth breathing like a perv, or sweating only in their crotch area. Plus, I saw more than a few butt cracks. Fact: The race track was a snake winding around and back and forth in a too small area of a park. I was so annoyed at not being able to turn off and make a wide loop or skip the stupid detour in and back out where it's sand and it got all in my shoes. I'd have way rather gone for a jog on my own and would definitely have gotten a better time not tripping on people the whole of it.

Honestly, the best part of the event was the surprise banana I got at the finish line.

I'm glad I tried it out but I'm pretty sure running these races just isn't for me. I suppose if I could be in a better color group or maybe run with a friend, I would try it again.  But hey! At least I got a work out :)