Legs like lead and lungs like beached fish.
Five kilometres in front, a far-off horizon.
Thoughts throng in my skull-pan, “Why put myself through this?
I’m a swimmer, not a land-lolloper, running isn’t my sport.”
Back to the beginning, the boyfriend’s bargain was broached.
“Come running with the crew, a collection of colleagues.
You’re fit and healthy, and could boost our brave band.
We’re warriors-all and want to win the work trophy.”
Flattered and cajoled, I conceded to the cries,
And embarked on my training, an epic endeavour:
The Town and Gown was the target, a 10K in May.
January jogging: Winter showers and street lamps pass by too slowly.
February follows: Bitter breezes bit my ankles and kept my feet flying.
March milestones: Targets are reached and muscles are tightening.
April anxieties: Have I practiced enough to prevent piercing pains?
Race-morning arrives, the streets are deserted;
A quiet descends with cars kept at bay.
Through Oxford streets a brave few are filing, we follow after, footfalls in time,
Gathering momentum, drawn to the magnet, we head together to the start in the park.
On the field of battle, we hail our fellows.
Tell tales of our training and tighten our laces.
Stretching, shaking and shuffling we sort to the start.
We’re lined up and numbered, ready to be counted.
The start rope is straining, we’re waiting for….
The floodgates released, and freed runners surge onwards
Striding and jostling, jousting for space
Fast, fast, and faster, we’re swept up with the others
Past the Pitt Rivers, past Wadham, down Longwall, onto the High Street and into the town…
My race strategies discarded like used water cups.
Blood pounds in my ears, searing heat fills my legs.
My friends are all lost, either lagging or leading.
So here’s where you joined me, halfway and flagging
Regretting a run-away rhythm that led me astray.
Oh sod this…why am I doing this again? I have had just about enough of running, it’s like alliteration, it gets really wearing after a bit.
Out of step, out of kilter, going awkwardly backward.
Remember the reasons for this running battle.
The charity, the challenge, colleagues and camaraderie.
Digging deeper I find I can drag my feet onward
A lumbering lope, more effective than elegant
Foot after foot, determinedly forwards.
Time and tired runners tick-by as I start to pick up
Parks swing into sight and a sigh of relief,
Then a groan of dismay…a man in a gorilla suit just went past me.
Ignoring the ignominy, the end is in sight.
Rounding the corner, wall of sound down the straight,
Cheers and applause as I stagger to a sprint.
Finally the finish, falling and flailing.
Fifty five minutes, a fine full effort.
We gather together and recount all our stories,
Hailing our heroes and marking the day,
My boyfriend beat his boss, so his smile is beaming.
We warriors head pub-wards for pints and for banter.
Later, the track has been cleared, times totted up and the sponsorship counted
What is the verdict passed down from on high..…
We emerge victors, the best corporate team!