The Meaty Vegan
2: And I'm Off
I did it! I ran 10 kilometres! Competition style! There were other people too! And I didn't die! (Which was my ultimate goal to begin with!)
So there you have it: I have done something I thought about doing but which I'd never expected to actually do--pay an organization to let me run 10k in a structured fashion.
The Singelloop, named after the canal (Singel) that circles Utrecht's inner city (“loop“ in this context means “run“), is the oldest street track in the Netherlands, and apparently, the world's fastest 10k round: in 2010, this guy Leonard Komon finished world-record worth in 26:44.
That's almost 23 km/h (14 miles/h), y'all.
I don't cycle that fast--even when I'm late for work.
Though ten days ago I came close:
I must admit, I never expected it to be this awesome. I was nervous throughout the whole weekend but especially on Sunday morning; timing my breakfast and scheduling a snack because I was afraid of both not having enough energy to complete the run, and having too full of a belly to complete the run.
Just to give you an idea of how neurotic I am: I scheduled to eat some overnight oats with banana at 11.50 am, because then I would finish at noon and since the run would start at 2, that would allow my meal to digest for a proper two hours. At 11.50 I found myself debating whether it wouldn't be better to eat exactly at noon and finish at 12.10 as to avoid this two-hour gap between my last food intake and my First Great Sports Achievement.
In the weekend before, I had run 12k on a hangover and the fattiest foods I could find in my cupboards. Now, I was taking into account the possibility of a mid-run collapse by starvation.
I recently moved houses, so I decided to distract myself by unpacking boxes. I forgot the time and came down at 12.15, panicking because TIME WAS RUNNING OUT (FOR DIGESTION). I started to eat very quickly, then remembered a line from this book I'd been reading - where a girl is being told by her home economics teacher in the sixties to "chew every bite of food 34 times" - and started counting my chewing because, well, you know, mindful eating.
This huge energy intake delay caused me to rush through the pre-run yoga I had scheduled as a pre-warm-up for my 2k warm-up run, and then the doorbell rang and my running buddy Dennis was there and I hadn't even pinned my number to my t-shirt yet and Dennis asked what my preferred cycling route to the Start was, since the whole inner city would be closed off for this event, and I had a rough idea but then I started to think about other routes that were approximately two cycling minutes shorter (or maybe not) and I could already imagine myself running late for a running match but I really didn't want to be stressed out that much so I started to cycle slower to fool my own brain into thinking I was relaxed. We arrived at the Start and there were thousands of people and everyone was tense or cheerful or focused or everything all at once. We went into our designated “Wave’ waiting area, and no I didn't have to pee, and there was loud music, and I was completely pumped up -
And then we had to wait.
For thirty five minutes.
Thirty five minutes in which the clouds were getting denser, the winds were picking up. I rubbed my arms. Was that a twinge I felt? Already? Our Wave section was so crowded. I wished I'd peed. I wished I'd stayed home. I knew I was able to run 12k. What was the point in doing this? How was this fun again? All of my warm-up and food timing had been for nothing, I thought; and as I bent over to rub my shins, I butted my ass against the forehead of the guy behind me kneeling down to tie his shoelaces.
Then, the group suddenly started moving forward, towards the big inflatable red-and-white gateway. The atmosphere, a collective resignation because of the long wait, changed immediately. The tension that had gradually ebbed away now came back in full flood through which I was wading myself towards the start. Somewhere a shot was fired, I heard cheers, some people started pushing. I passed over the timing mat activating the transponder chip built-in in my running number.
And we were off.
The loud music and shouting and all those people on the side lines, cheering, made me feel like I was Dafne fucking Schippers herself. And seeing how I was overtaken by so many runners, starting the first two hundred metres as if those were the end goal, I wasn’t the only one being a teeny tad swept away by the whole scene. Dennis had told me that my pace would be guiding, and that I shouldn’t worry about him (a former marathon runner) being bored. At that moment, it was so tempting to run faster, to be more aggressive; to move with the speed of light effortlessly, like a true bad-ass, now that everyone was watching. But even though it felt like I was actively resisting the cheers like a stubborn sixteen-year old with an allergic reaction to positive affirmation, I somehow managed to hold on to my old-lady-shuffling-through-the-hood-tempo, as I know works best for me.
There was lots of talking and laughter and shouted greetings amongst the runners during the first two kilometres, but somewhere between the second and third kilometre mark, the whole group grew endearingly quiet. It was then when we started overtaking the same people who had passed us at the start; some of them already walking, clenching their side with one hand. We ran right through the city center, across DJs on Segways and brass bands badly covering Liquido, hearing our names being called out several times: “You can do it, Dennis!”, “Nice, Christine, you’re going GREAT!”. It took me a lot of confused glances into the audience before I realized I didn’t know those people. They were just repeating the names visible on our t-shirts, though with a hysterical enthusiasm normally reserved for your inner circle. Just over the halfway point we came across a student holding up her phone playing “Eye of the Tiger” as loud as it could, and I started cheering her. I knew the song was on repeat because I just knew she’d read this list
so I instantly knew she was AWESOME.
Tipsy, true, but awesome.
The run started getting hard after 7k. Dennis was giving me regular updates: “If we keep up this pace, we might finish in 1:05! … within 1:05! … We’re getting close to 1:04!” I was just happy to be able to finish the damn thing. I tried to tell him that, but it took me three breaths to finish that sentence and Dennis misunderstood the pauses for sentence endings, so our conversation was a bit like:
"I'd be happy..."
"Yeah? You happy?"
"... to finish..."
"Yep, we're almost at the finish."
"I'm trying..." ["... to complete a sentence here", is what I wanted to say]
"And the trying goes very well. Keep it up!"
Dennis kept chattering, hardly out our breath, looking like this was just a short run around the block. Me, I was a lot less chipper. My legs felt so heavy. Normally my runs start off with lots of resistance until I get into a pace and rhythm I can carry on for kilometres at a time, almost trance-like. But now, with so many people on such a relatively narrow strip, so many different steps and breathings, I kept going out of sync. Every step became a conscious one. As we were getting closer to the finish, the signs started to count down as from 500m. “Come on, Christine, you’re almost there!”, a stranger shouted. I took a final sprint only in the last one hundred metres. Dennis and I finished at the exact same time. Out of 5999 participants, I came in 5405th.
That night, I met with my friends at the bar. I’d asked them to bring cocaine, but no one did, which was probably just as well since I’ve never used it anyway. I drank six beers and smoked two cigarettes instead, to counterbalance my whole sporty healthy fitgirl-episode of that day.
I’m an adult like that.
In the blogs to come, you will read how i came to running the Singelloop, how I practiced, all the shit that happened during practice and the many ways I avoided practice.
In the meantime, I will start (to avoid) practicing for the half-marathon in March. Being the zen-hippie that I am, it’ll probably go off smoothly. Stay tuned.