been a keen runner for many years and spurred on by my brother's success in a half marathon, I thought it was time to leave the horses at home and try a 10 km trail race ('just a long sprint' according to said brother - right!)
A friend of mine is a successful marathon and triathlon competitor, and she gave me some pointers and lots of encouragement. It seems competing in a running race is so much easier than doing anything with the horses – you just get a medical certificate and that's it. No need to join a club, enter a week before, pack the 4 x 4 to the roof and spend hours getting your horse ready.
The morning of the race came, and off I went to the racecourse at Villeréal. Slightly unsure about it all (other than the running bit, obviously!), I arrived at 8 am to register, pay my 8€ entry fee and get my number and free t-shirt. I did go back to the desk to ask what I should do now and what flags to follow on the course - and whilst everyone was very friendly and welcoming, it felt like my first day at school!
I watched all the other runners; some stretching, others running around the race track to warm up and quite a few paying regular trips to the toilet. I decided to do a few token stretches so it looked like I knew what I was doing and then spent most of the time nervously trying to get my laces tied "just right".
Everyone began to wander towards the start line, so I followed and slowly inched my way to the front. I knew what speed I was going to try to maintain and I was keen not to get stuck in a group. Almost instantly we were away, so I started my watch and kept an eye on my speed - having never run in a group before I didn't want to get distracted and be pushed too fast. I managed to keep a good pace and overtook quite a few men, and the marshals posted all along the course cheered me on and told me I was the first lady so far.
I had planned to sprint the last bit as it was slightly downhill - but there was no one behind me and the young man in front had clearly decided not to let me past, so I opted for a gentle but stylish finish. Actually it was more a panting, sweating and graceless finish, but I crossed the line with a cheer from the crowd and an announcement over the p.a. as being the winning lady – which was great, even if the pronunciation made my name unrecognisable!
An hour later standing on the podium holding an enormous cup, a bouquet of flowers, chocolates and a bottle of wine I thought, really, that wasn't so bad. I might even do it again!