It was very stormy here last night and we anticipated running through the tail of it this morning at the Remembrance 10k, which started from Fort Nelson high on the chalk hills above Portsmouth, but when we woke up the storm had blown itself out and the sun was shining.
I decided to take Pop at the last minute. The two of us had done a half marathon together on Wednesday and enjoyed it. She usually travels really well, but without Teddy there she squeaked in the back so after a while we pulled over and she came and sat in the front with me. She was much happier there and spent the rest of the journey sitting bolt upright on my lap watching all the other cars go by through the front window. When we arrived to collect our numbers she drew the usual oh, sweet little dog, is she running it with you? Will she be ok? She's so tiny! etc.
I am technically still in running recovery mode, but really struggle to go slowly on these shorter races, so M came up with a helpful strategy: if you run it in an hour and no faster, I'll buy you a bunch of flowers.
A few friends were running the race so it was a jovial gathering at the start line with some conversations about times being aimed for at next weeks Gosport Half Marathon. A minute's silence was observed for the fallen before the race began. The complete stillness and quiet of over three hundred people standing soundless got to me and I felt my eyes start to sting and my throat tighten.
Poppy and I positioned ourselves right at the back of the field, so as not to be tempted to set off fast and also to avoid getting caught up in legs and feet (Pops). We were good for the first 2kms, running nice and slow. The second km was a very steep downhill and as fast downhills are not a good idea at the moment I walked the last third of it, feeling smug at all the time I was banking and certain that those flowers were in the bag.
The next km had a dog-leg in it, with faster runners coming back past the slower ones so only half the road was available. I got hopelessly caught up behind people who were either running very slowly up the hill or else walking. Frustration was building and I started to wonder what was the point in running like this when I could just as easily have done a slow training 10k at home. Pops was clearly wondering the same and was pulling on her harness to get through the web of legs in front. I decided we would either have to get past the slower runners or run the rest of the race feeling miserable, so we accelerated whenever we could and accidentally ran that km in 5:15. Oops.
My resolve to go slowly went pear-shaped soon after that. I had a brief debate with myself about whether flowers made up for having a really dull and boring race, before giving up the pretence that we were going to get round in an hour. Decision made, we started running at what is for me a much more comfortable race pace and I started to enjoy myself a lot more. We moved slowly up the field and clawed back a mass of time, catching up with the friends we'd started so far behind. Our km times dropped to just over 5 mins and all was good.
Pop was drawing a lot of attention by now; her little legs were going like the clappers and her ears were bouncing up and down as she charged past people. The ladies were mainly oohing and ahhing at her, but the gents were in vocal despair that they were being overtaken by a small dog. I lost count of the number of times I called out: don't worry, she's used to running twenty miles! as we ran by.
At about km 9 a nice chap drew level with us. He wanted to know about Poppy's running and we chatted for a bit about what a great running companion she is and how much she loves it before he went on, making the long hill in front of us look effortless as he accelerated easily up it. I set off too slowly, he grinned, as he loped away.
The final km was mainly uphill, steep and steady. We ran most of it, only taking a short walking break about half way up. I was pleased with how quickly my breath came back, given that I'm only a couple of weeks back into running after an 8 week hiatus. When we reached the top we could see the finish line and there was M calling out something about flowers. I grinned back before Pops and I shot off to sprint to the finish.
Three chaps in front of us were egging one another on to go faster to the finish line. My competitive instinct kicked in good and proper and Pop and I performed an un-choreographed pincer movement that meant she went one way round the chap in front and I went the other, with the result that her lead was fast closing on his ankles. Oops! I quickly ran round the other way so the poor fella wasn't tripped over. The crowd laughed, I grinned and Poppy giggled as we ran on to cross the line, a few minutes under the hour.
Who am I kidding? I said to M as he appeared. I can't run that slowly in a race, even for flowers! I discovered he'd won the race (39 mins, a top result on a hilly course) and friend Tony said maybe I would get the flowers anyway as a celebration of his win :o)
There wasn't a peep out of Pop in the back on the way home, so I suspect she was snoozing. When we got back, both the dogs had a fish for dogs cube and some cheese by way of celebrating Poppy's first road 10k, then we had to pop into Romsey for supplies. It poured with rain and I was back at the car first. When M got back he had these for me.....
Lovely husband :o)
Hope you all are well and having a nice weekend?