It was with a mix of irony and genuine happiness - finally number one. "Maybe you'll win," said one of the volunteers. "Well, I was 7th last year," I replied. I could've sworn I heard a gasp behind me. Honestly, I'd love an AG medal which in itself is luck in terms of who else shows up. It is however inconceivable that out of 1,000 runners there'd be nobody capable of under 1.27.
So despite a foot injury that had cost me a few training runs, I thought I should try for a PB despite not feeling confident of having the legs to do it.
Back in my GB sprinter's top then, good for cool weather despite its sleevelessness. And my wife likes me in it. Rich was back in action 5 weeks since BQ-ing. He also brought an entourage of other fine runners with him.
Once again, I led the first block as we started under cloudy skies. It was rather windy on the mainly westward approach to Fish Creek Park. This is an uphill section that climbs to varying degrees, seemingly unending. During that section, I made a close-up pass by a group of deer which had wandered up to a neighbourhood golf course from the park. I've seen them during this race before, but now finally get them on camera.
Plunging down into the park, my favourite section I call the roller coaster. The steepest gravel part scares me every year and I take small, quick, comedic steps. A right hairpin, a sharp downhill left into the trees, the path snakes to the first wooden bridge, a quick view of the creek and then into thick pine forest.
Emerging from the trees to a grass plain and a hairpin and past the 7k mark, the pace felt hard work. A plunge back down again to the 4 bridge section, I wore the camera backwards as planned. To keep it steady I pulled it down almost to the point of making the strap a blindfold.
After the 4th bridge a quick but steep hill and more twists to Votier's Flats. A slightly different route this year which added another sharp turn. I reckon the older, straighter route works better.One runner in a blue shirt who had been in front of me since the start of the park was acting as my pacer even though I kept trying to tell myself to let him go.
Getting to Sikone Hill I was 20 seconds ahead of schedule. The hill costs 40-60 seconds so the gamble of this race would be whether or not I had anything left after the hill with 3.5k to go. Getting up to speed was tough going, and at the 18k sign I was about 20 seconds behind. Trying to crunch a few numbers which I find hard enough sitting down, my hamstrings started to feel like they were going to seize.
The gamble hadn't worked, so just cruise home. By now I know the course so well I knew there'd be few surprises. The only one in fact was the finish line having been moved further back. Rounding the final corner with its grass bank, there it was, rather than 100 metres away. This somehow brought out the urge to celebrate more than most non-PB performances, so I Mobotted my way to the line to quite a bit of laughter.
I even hit on the idea of taking my camera off and filming myself as I crossed the line.
1:28:23 is not my quickest, but still a great morning's work. 9th this time, and 6th in my AG. I'll most likely have to wait until my 40s for an AG medal.
Once again this race was everything running should be, both challenging and fun as well as carrying many other wider meanings.