Ever since I finished as third woman at parkrun over two years ago (I’ve done it several times), it has been my dream to be the first lady across the line. Or even the second.
Our parkrun is big, so it was never going to happen at ours. Maybe if the planets aligned and I had a really, really good day and there weren’t many other women there, I might just have made second. But never first.
So I knew I would have to do it somewhere else. I don’t often run at other parkruns. We did three different ones over the summer, Copenhagen earlier this year and Tewkesbury a long time ago. When I looked at the results for the previous weeks for Copenhagen and Tewkesbury I knew I could comfortably come first. But the planets aligned against me. I was third again.
Would I ever manage to be first lady?
The other day, my daughter had a music exam first thing on a Saturday. I’ve had a bad run with my daughter doing stuff first thing on a Saturday and making me miss parkrun. I’d already missed it for her ballet exam and the trip to The X Factor final. I wasn’t going to miss it again! So I needed to find another parkrun to run at.
I had a couple of options, so I looked at them closely. One of them had far less runners and, running at my PB time, I could finish 5th overall! Even running at the slower times I’ve been running at lately, I could finish 6th. And, most importantly, I could be first lady.
So I assembled at the start line of Gloucester North parkrun, which is on a huge playing field on the outskirts of Gloucester. Although the field is big, everything else felt much smaller than the massive crowds I’m used to. The start line was much narrower. And I started right at the front.
For a little while, I was coming FOURTH. I didn’t feel like I was running that fast. And then I did feel like I was running fast – and no wonder! My watch told me I was running at 5:44 minutes per mile. That is not a sustainable pace for anyone but an elite athlete.
So I slowed down a bit and a few people overtook me. But I was still first lady.
Then a young girl overtook me. Damn! I was no longer first lady. I knew that she would sprint me off at the end, but the advantage us older runners have over the kids is that we tend to have more stamina. Within half a lap, I was back in front of her.
The course is the most boring one I’ve run on. It’s so open and there’s nothing to look at it. It’s marked out with a few posts and sometimes you have to run between them. How could people running in both directions fit through them? No problem at all, because there weren’t many runners.
Nobody else overtook me on my second or third laps and, as I started the final lap, I saw just how far the young girl had fallen behind. I had that first lady in the bag!
I crossed the line in 23:28, slightly faster than I’ve been running recently. I was ninth overall. Yes, there were less runners, but there were 101, so I was inside the top 10 per cent.
And I was first lady! My dream had come true.