Yesssss, I did it. I really, really did it, writes Colin Channon following the Chichester Priory 10k.
It was more than a year ago - probably nearer two - when I started writing in the Observer about my efforts to get fit. It was all geared towards completing a competitive 10k.
Lots of people doubted I’d ever make it to the start line, let alone the finishing line (most of them worked in the Observer newsroom...) In fact, when I left the paper three weeks ago to edit daily newspapers in Essex, one of my leaving ‘presents’ was an entry form for the Colchester 10k as my colleagues were tired of hearing me say ‘one day I’ll enter a race...’
Well, Sunday was that day. I started, I ran, and I finished (as you can see in the video). And I loved it.
The past year has been plagued by injury. I’ve had muscle strains and tweaks and physio Lindy ‘Thumbs’ Griffiths from Bosham has worked overtime. I’d never had physiotherapy treatment before, and I’d certainly not had to wear plastic things that looked like pink suspenders to help muscles heal.
Sylvia May at Chichester Wellbeing worked on my weight. I found I wasn’t losing weight because I wasn’t eating enough or at the right times. Since Sylvia got involved, I’m more than a stone lighter.
But Jason Davis had the toughest job. He’s a personal trainer at the Westgate Centre, and he was tasked with getting me fit. He worked me hard, but always with a smile. And I got fitter.
So on Sunday, I lined up with nearly 1,700 other people for the Chichester Priory 10k.
Jason wanted me to finish inside an hour, but for me, just getting across the line at the end was challenge enough - especially as it was blowing a gale.
I didn’t reckon on the camaraderie of the runners, mind. As we all lined up at the start, everyone was chatting and supportive. We had to take our places behind a marker which estimated our finish time. I stood behind one which said ‘over 50 minutes’ because there wasn’t a marker which said ‘several hours’.
As we passed the 5k marker, someone gasped: “God, I wish I’d entered a 5k today...” At 7k, there were cries of “Come on, 3k to go, and it’s all downhill.” Maybe it was, but it was also against the howling wind.
I ran alongside a very tall man who had pulled a muscle and had to resort to walking. His legs were so long that he was travelling faster than my little legs could run.
My pre-race plan was to take it easy at the start, and then, at 8k, to see what was left in the tank and to speed up. I didn’t have anything left. And not at 9k, either.
The last 1k seemed to last forever. I’d developed a tweak in a hamstring - where was Lindy when I needed her? - and sprinting home was the last thing on my mind.
Finally, the blue finish post was in sight. And then I was there. Greeted by Observer reporter Chris Shimwell, who had finished earlier and looked fresh as a daisy. That wasn’t fair.
My wife was there, too. She’d heard sirens earlier in the race, and immediately checked her mobile to see whether someone had tried to call, as she wouldn’t have been surprised if I had been found in a heap somewhere in Lavant.
I missed Jason’s one-hour challenge by five minutes. But I didn’t care.
If you look at the results in today’s paper, I’m pretty close to the end. There aren’t too many people after me. But I don’t care. A year ago, I could hardly run 200m. At the weekend, I ran 10,000.
If I can do it, anyone can. Lindy helped my poor, out-of-condition muscles and the Westgate Centre made me lighter and much fitter. And they could do the same for anyone. Give them a call, and say I sent you.
Now I’ve done one 10k, I want to do another - in under an hour. If I’d managed to train a bit harder, the weather had been kinder, and my hamstring hasn’t played up, I’d have done it. So I’m going to try again.
And to everyone at the Observer newsroom - I told you I’d do it .. eventually!
Thanks to all those who coached, coaxed and nagged me. I couldn’t have done it without you. And to my fellow runners - you’ll never know how much you helped.