The sad fact is that if you’re new to running your training runs alone won’t prepare you for all of the silly distractions on race day.
And they can really throw you.
Here are some of the annoyances you’ll encounter in a race that you’ll never encounter in a training run.
- The sheer crowds of people is difficult to cope with – If you run on your lonesome or in a small group then you’re in for a shock on race-day. The events are ran by thousands of clumsy fuckers all scrambling for Gold. The first few miles are always tightly packed and you’ll find yourself fighting for breathing space. Sometimes you have to vault up and down the pavement to find your line. Everyone seems to be running at different paces. You always have the Mo Farah’s who start at the back and surge through the crowd at terrific leg speeds, only for you to see them walking furiously at mile 6 with their beats blasting in their ears. It’s a head-fuck.
- The race photographers are distracting – “Come on smile!” are arguably the last three words you wanna hear when you’re nipples are bleeding, you can’t catch your breath and you just want the misery to end as quickly as possible. Sometimes I’ll be ready for the photographer and try my best to pose but then I’ll just look really fucking odd like I’m having a stroke. I already know how bad I’m gonna look on camera so I’ve given up trying to pose and just brace myself for the worst.
50 Shades of Gormless.
- The spectators are demanding – Most people don’t give a shit when you’re running around your home town as long as you aren’t in their face about it. When you’re running a race, it’s completely different. You cannot let the people cheering for you down otherwise you’ve failed yourself and you’ve failed them. If you stop to walk you’ll hear about it from them. Also, If you’re odd like me you’ll have to become skilled at avoiding the people on the roadside who want high 5’s. I try to shuffle away from them to hide the fact I’m an awkward bastard who is taking everything too seriously.
- The sheer volume of fun-runners who will overtake you in fancy dress is humiliating – Every Chicken that is killing your 10-minute-mile is another reason to hang up your shoes altogether.
- The cut off bus is after your ass – The cut-off bus drives behind the last group of people in the race and picks them up before they re-open the roads to the public. This is more scary than it sounds. If the bus gets you then you don’t get your medal. You’re officially a DNFer. In Vegas I was terrified that they’d get me and that I would have travelled 5,500 miles to miss out on a medal. That thought ruined my enjoyment of the rest of the race.
- The sense of euphoria at crossing the line will blow your tiny mind – Sure you might be glad to finish a training run, but you haven’t experienced anything until you cross the line for the first time. Then you get to collect your medal. And drink beer and frolic through the night.
- The shit that you have to tag to your body to be considered a contender will try to escape from your persons – In some races this is both a chip you tie around your laces and a race number. If any of that shit comes off your body, then you’re in trouble. With no race number you’ll be disqualified and with no chip you won’t record a time even if you do finish. I’m still bitter about the Great North Run 2012 when my chip came off my shoe on the starting line. It made for the longest 13.1 mile run in history.
- The queues for toilets are unreal – When you see the length of the queues for the toilets at larger events you start to consider that everyone may have suddenly been struck down with the Ebola virus. Once you get into a stall you’d think that all of the runners have been ingesting nothing but rancid burger meat, dog food and Budweiser. I can never go to the toilet in there as I’m always trying to hold in the vomit.
Ironic how marathoners can calculate their mile splits perfectly but can’t guage the trajectory of their turd into bowl with any such accuracy.
- The waiting about at the start is frustrating as hell – You’ll spend 15 minutes minutes before the race listening to some idiot in a yellow Sash explaining how you aren’t allowed to fight your fellow racers and that shitting on the road is prohibited. It’s always a tense stand-off and those around you always look more primed for the occasion than you do. I always want to shout something like this at the loudmouth with the speaker “Thanks for the pep-talk Nigel, can’t we just cut to the fucking national anthem and get going? I’ve cut a hole out of the back of my shorts to minimise my time spent squatting at the road side. The harsh Westerly wind is starting to burn a hole through my hole.”
- The water stations are death traps – You haven’t experienced hell until you’ve ran through a water station. Panic ensues. Runners scatter towards both sides. Some stop in shock as if the water station is a mirage. “Can it really be what I think it is? OMG! H20! You going in ma belly!” Some try to throw water around themselves and end up hitting other runners. Eager volunteers are thrusting bottled water in your face. You try to say “thanks man” but it all comes out as a growl as you’re too busy trying to hammer down and swallow branded bee jizz.
- The depression after the race is stifling – I never feel depressed after training runs. Races are totally different. The surge of adrenaline throughout the course of the race leaves you feeling deflated for days on end afterward. I’ll then find myself entering race after race to try to fill the void, only for the whole horrible cycle to start afresh.
- The supplements you receive on course that you haven’t trained with can rip your insides open – If you’ve ran out of energy gels and the choice is between hitting the Wall or taking a new gel that may or may not make you shit yourself, you’ll find yourself gambling on Brown every time. In Vegas I think I tasted about 9 different varieties of Gu and each made me gag in a new and exciting way. It wasn’t fun or pleasant but it was the only way I could survive.