Back to my running club, Le Chéile AC tonight, for the first time in months. Parking the car in the dark of the night was a sharp change from the lovely warm evenings when I was here last. Heading down to the new running track to say hello to old friends and new, I remembered coming here last Feb – again braving the dark cold night and spits of rain to get started on the club’s Couch-to-5k programme.
It felt a bit like deja-vu walking across the carpark tonight; out of the night and into the lights, and I briefly gave myself a mental kick for not keeping it up after reaching my 5k. But then I realised I was smiling, I realised I wasn’t grumbling away to myself, as I had been back in February when I made this walk. So something has clearly changed. I may have lost my running fitness a bit, but at least now I know that I’ve done this before and I feel more confident about doing it again.
Meeting running buddy Sharon Ashmore, and our coach – the talented Irish Ultra Runner John O’Regan – on the track, it’s grins all around as the warm-ups begin.
I’m 5 mins jumping up and down and I realise that the ‘girls are loose’. Gentlemen, just tune out now, while girls, appreciate that good harnessing is vital for this kind of lark, especially when there are ample assets to contain! Enough of that. John announces that we are going to have a bash at sprint-relays; there were a couple of groans and a couple of grins, while I remained neutral, unsure of what that entailed.
We split into teams and took up positions on the track, got our briefings and the whistle blew. I was the 2nd runner in my group. Sharon was my ‘number one’ and she was sprinting the first 100 metres to me, while I got ready to grab the baton and dash for the 2nd 100.
As I saw Sharon’s 100 metres disappearing, the cold of the night disappeared, and despite myself, I felt a burst of adrenaline. I’d been telling myself I was going to slow down the team and be a disappointment, but then I suddenly realised, I hadn’t tried this sprinting stuff before and for all I knew, I could be nursing a secret talent; there could be a burst of speed under the hood after all.
Sharon approaches, I start to run, we join hands over the baton, I’ve got it and I’m away. Speed’s up, chest up, breathing deep and pushing towards the track. I’m 50 metres gone and feeling good, when something odd happens. I feel my running pants loosen around my hips, and as they continue to slip, my petrified mind freezes; ‘they can’t go any further’ I think to myself, they’re lycra! There’s only 40 metres to go…. just keep running. But as my hips roll, my pants slip further, and then to my horror, my belly pops out over the waistband – the point of no return. I look ahead, 30 metres. I grab my belly, still firmly hanging onto my baton, I grab onto my pants, and I keep running. Catherine’s number 3, and blinded by the spotlights, clearly can’t see my predicament. ‘C’mon – run Teena, run’ she shouts. I’m running and shouting back and laughing and just about holding it altogether as I fall towards her and she grabs the baton and runs off into the night. Collapsing in a giggling heap as I sort myself out. Now that’s a belly laugh…
Standing stretching and checking my harness, modesty restored, I try and figure out what went wrong. I’ve run in these pants before, although not this sprinting business. Before long the wave is returned back around the track and Sharon is running back down towards me, baton outstretched. I start to run, we switch possession of the baton, and I’m off again. Confident this time – having discovered what the string in my waistband is for!
Running down the track I concentrate on being fast, until the wave of other runners sweep past me and I’m back running into Catherine’s screams of ‘C’mon, run Teena, Run’. Ah well, maybe not the Olympics then.
A friend of mine once told me I have the head of a racehorse and the body of a mule, because I always want to be fast, although I’m not really constructed that way. But I think I’d prefer to think of myself as a Shetland pony, because in fairness, it’s not that I have a mule-like stubbornness against running, it’s just that I don’t do it very well, although that John O’Regan fella is determined that I develop a decent little trot.
The main thing about tonight is that I’m back. Back at Le Chéile and back running, and even if I can’t run fast, I can always run faster! So I’ll be turning up for my Parkrun 5k on Saturday morning, and I’ll be turning up for the Run in the Dark on November 13th, and I’ll be back for my next Le Cheile training session with John and Sharon and the gang. But next time, this particular Shetland Pony will have her harness and tackle checked and ready to go, and her girth tightened beforehand…