The double road race is an interesting concept introduced by Bob Anderson-the founder of the Runners’ world Magazine where the distance is split into 2 races. For instance, if it’s an 8 k double then participants would have to run a 5k race, take a break for 45 minutes and then run the 3k race. The total time of the 8k will be a sum of the 5k and 3k timings.
Sounds easy, right? Not quite as Bob said it was more of a mental thing than the physical distance. Imagine running your heart out however small the distance maybe. When you sit down and relax, the thought of having to run another distance sounds daunting as you are beginning to feel lethargic. Your senses tell you to just go back home and laze around on your sofa and catch your favorite movie on television.
Deciding to end 2017 in a challenging manner, I opted for the 15k double. It was split into 10k and 5k races and the sum of the timings of these 2 races would be the total time for a 15 k. It wasn’t a great start to the morning as I ended up getting my menstrual cycle. I landed outside a church at San Juan Bautista which was basking in festive celebrations as it was just 10 days before Christmas. It was an hour away from Stanford where I resided. Some runners had already assembled, adorning red Santa hats and some interesting looking costumes. I looked down at my black and grey outfit wondering what in the world prompted me to dress up in such dreary colors which stood out like a sore thumb amidst the resplendent reds and greens.
It was sunny and predicted to be a windy day, so much that some of the parks were shut in anticipation of a tree fall causing injuries to walkers or hikers. At that moment, a gale of wind blew across the area knocking down one of the stalls much to everyone’s aghast. It was soon restored to normalcy and we gathered near the start line.
Last time I did the double race in August, the weather aided my pace and I had achieved a PR. I was hoping to run hard in this one and end the year with a bang. I started off at a stupendous pace of 5:05 especially since there was a downhill at the very beginning. Big mistake! Whenever I started fast, it has considerable affected my long runs, a lesson I never seemed to learn. By the 4th km, I was drained which prompted me to take a walk break. Just as I was finding my rhythm, I was greeted this heavy headwind that pushed me backwards.
I was running on this road with barren land on both sides which accentuated the headwinds to blow with all their might. Looks like I was not the only one hoping for a PR, I thought. Just then an old looking hefty runner ran past me. “Crazy, isn’t it”, she said referring to the wind. I nodded as I struggled to fight against the wind which in turn slowed my pace down. Around the 7th km, the sun had come out in full force and a few inclines greeted me. I sighed and just kept my rhythm while the volunteers in Santa hats were egging us on. At the 8th km, I overtook the hefty runner and ran with all my might, eager to get out of the heat. Besides, wearing black certainly wasn’t helping my condition. There was a huge incline leading up to the finish line which prevented me from doing my customary sprint. Nevertheless, I finished in 61 minutes and plonked myself on a chair feeling disappointed. “Hey, take it easy. You just got your chums. Give yourself a break.” My inner voice told me.
I sighed and looked around. Several people were complaining about the headwinds. So, they were affected by it too, I realized. I looked at the row of pacers and cursed myself for not starting out with the 1:30 pacer. I could have started with him and maybe gone ahead in the last 2 km which was my strength whenever I started a run at an easy pace. It was time for the second leg of the race and this time I stood near the 1:30 pacer at the start line.
The entire race felt like playing in a test match where if the first innings’ score didn’t live up to the mark, there was always a chance to make up in the second innings which was what I was hoping to do in the 5k run. It wasn’t going to be easy, considering it was 11:00 noon and the sun was up shining brightly. I noticed that half the runners were wearing either singlets or sports bras while I was wearing a full sleeved jacket. I started with the 1:30 pacer this time and ended up overtaking him in between. As I turned at the 2.5 km mark, he jokingly pointed to me saying he will catch up with me. Giving him a thumbs-up sign, I ran strong, praying that the GU gels would do their job. At the 4th km mark, I suddenly noticed the pacer catching up with me and I quickly increased my pace and ran as though I was running for my life, in this case to salvage my pride.
I could spot the finish line and prodded up the incline and crossed the finish line in 29 minutes. I heaved a sigh of relief as I received my medal and sat down on the grass. The 1:30 pacer came up to me and said, “good running”, giving me a hi-five. After chatting with Bob, I rushed back home feeling a little down. Dejected that I had messed up a good race and was almost in tears much to my husband’s surprise.
I sat on the couch the entire afternoon trying to cheer myself up with a good book. Santa must not have wanted any sullen faces before Christmas eve as I got a pleasant surprise that evening. Opening my mail, I checked my results on the page and was pleasantly surprised to see that I was 4th in my age category with my timing being 1:31.
I shared this with my husband who said “See! I told you that the conditions were not easy! Still you ran a good race!
It was a good end to 2017 and silently wowed to crack a sub 1:30 in my next 15k race which was in January 2018. Was Santa listening?