I run for fun. I might call a trail run a race, but it’s a race against myself. That’s one of the things I like so much about running. Everybody competes against her/himself. Yet, sometimes it’s fun to know how slow I am as a runner. Or maybe even how fast.
In my first running life I normally finished within the first 10 percent of the recreational runners. Often just behind the first female recreational runner. I never won anything, but I do remember one race finishing third.
It was in Delft, somewhere at the beginning of the 1990’s. It was a 4 day event. Every evening the distance was the same: 7 kilometers. A bit of a weird distance. The third evening, after crossing the finish line, a girl put a note in my hand, saying: ‘Congratulations, you’re third’. That was it. No price ceremony, nothing. Just a little note.
Racing and reporting
Somewhere in 2006, I think it was, during one of those moments when I tried to pick up running again, I finished another race as third. I had to go for the newspaper to a race where Cora Vlot, the triathlete, started. In the morning she was doing an Olympic distance triathlon and in the evening she was running a road race. Two events in one day, made for a good story.
Cora Vlot was going to run the 10 kilometers race. Half an hour before that was the start of the 5 kilometers. That was enough time for me to do that race, and be back at the starting line to see the start of the 10.
Besides the 5 kilometer there was a 2,5 kilometer race. The race was actually a loop of 2,5 kilometers. So the five was just twice that loop and the 10 four times the same round.
To overtake or be overtaken
I started the race in the back, as I like to do. I prefer to overtake people instead of being overtaken. After 2,5 kilometers most of the people in front of me finished, where I had to do round 2. Running on a dijk I looked in front of me and saw only 7 people. I had no clue if the guy up front was the number one, but I did decide to speed up.
One by one I started to overtake the people in front of me. Except the first three. Number one and two were too far away. Number three maybe 200 meters. With one kilometer to go, I gave it everything. 10 Meters before the finish line I overtook him, finishing third. Again I got a little note put in my hand that congratulated me. But this time with the request to be at the price ceremony after the 10 kilometer race.
On the podium
An hour and a half later, I stood on the podium, next to Cora Vlot, who had won the 10 kilometers. In my hand, a little envelope that contained 5 euros. The only prize money I ever earned.
In this second running life I decided that running fast is not an option. My biggest goal is staying injury free, so I can keep running. Yet, I’ve been better than before.
No, I’m not faster than I was when I was young. Far from that. However, I’ve finished higher. This spring.
I wanted to show Sara the tulip fields of Flevoland, a state in the middle of the Netherlands, that becomes all red, orange and yellow in Spring. I found the perfect race to combine a weekend away with running; the Tulpenloop (Tulip run) in Swifterbant.
The start was somewhere on a windy dijk, in front of a farm with a little cafe. One guy took off directly from the start. A group of five, with me in it, followed.
Against the wind
We ran straight against the wind, so at first I decided to hide behind the runners in front of me, but their pace wasn’t a nice one. I wanted to run faster than 50 minutes. That’s not a great time, I know, but for somebody who just started running again at 49 years of age, it’s not too bad.
After 2 kilometers I decided to go ahead on my own. Another 2 kilometers later one of the volunteers yelled at me: ‘You’re second, you’re second, keep up!’
It triggered something. Wind or no wind, suddenly I didn’t want to give up my second place, so I kept on running as fast as I could. After 8 kilometers my legs were empty and my pace was dropping, but it was still enough to finish second. My best place ever.
An unique race
I know that race was unique. There was only one fast runner. Or only one person that wanted to run fast. There wasn’t even an official time registration. 48 minutes and 28 seconds – my time in that race – wasn’t fast at all.
To give you an idea, Eliud Kipchoge, the marathon world record holder (2:01:09), almost runs the marathon faster than as I run the half marathon in a trail race.
Then again, I’m almost 50 years old and not a professional. At the Three Mealls Trail Race, last week in Scotland I finished as number 95 out of 218. That’s faster than half of the people that started.
In my age group, male 40-49 I was number 17. And if I look one age group older – I mean next month I will be 50 years – I would have finished 6th. Okay, there were only 17 starters in that age group. Yet they are still running. Just like me. And I’m planning to keep on doing it for a long, long time. No matter how slow or how fast I am.