One way to start the morning


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This morning I had a 5k race on the salt marshes outside Halifax. I was looking forward to this because salt marshes are pancake flat, and the combination of that with the sensible weather of Nova Scotia would mean that my Singapore-given aerobic fitness would be put to its best use. Instead of having to contend with the heat and humidity, my lungs and heart could concentrate on making me run as fast as possible, and there would be no hills. How wrong I was.

Last night I’d fallen asleep on La Serpiente’s bed before she’d even gone to sleep herself, and woken up at 2 am dazed and confused. I blundered back to my own bed and then got woken about 5 when our second alarm, Destroyer, went off. After that there was no point going back to bed so I concentrated on getting dressed in coordinated red clothes (the better to clash with my blue shoes).

The race itself was a good 15 minute drive away; clear skies and clean air beckoned. Quite different from the muggy, almost suffocating heat that I’m used to from Singapore, and quite innovative to have a race that doesn’t have to start so early in the morning because there’s less chance of heat stroke.

Just before the race started, they called for the fast runners to go to the front by the start line. I moved up there. It felt rather presumptuous. It felt like an invitation to get steamrollered by a phalanx of high speed twelve year olds intent on embarrassing an old fogey. But after so many Singaporean races where you end up wading through a throng of strolling grannies, I’d choose embarrassment over frustration any day.

The race route was pancake flat, for the 10k runners, after the first 2.5km. If you were running the 5k course like me, then it started with a slippery descent on gravel, followed by rolling hills all the way to the turnaround point. I went off like a scalded cat at the start of the race, keeping pace with the front runner. For all of twenty seconds. Then gradually I got overhauled by one person after another, as I rued the lack of decent fast hills in my usual running diet.

There was quite a bit of variety – although we ran under a bright blue sky, the route weaved in and out of wooded sections and up and down a grassy field. Because it was an out-and-back course, after the turnaround point I was running straight towards most of the pack (and all the 10k and half marathoners) which was encouraging, and also made me confident that I wasn’t lost and running around Canada on my lonesome. And there was a water station. I flung a cup of water onto my head and tried to keep my pace up.

On the way back, one plucky youngster who had gone past me in the first two kilometres was standing by the side of the trail, honking up his guts into a bush. I rushed on, wheezing and sucking air into my body, hoping I was going too fast to catch any of the ticks hiding in the long grass. On the last long straight coming in to the finish line, I passed a man who yelled at me to catch the guy in front, which was helpful, because my natural obedience trumps my lassitude, so I sped up and went past him. “Go on, little buddy” he said, and I opened up a gap and crossed the line in a respectable sixth place (out of 116). If you counted the female participants separately, I’d have been up in fourth place, just outside the medals. There’s always next year…

Not quite the sub-20 minute time I had been imagining, but if people will go leaving pesky hills around all over the place, then what are you to do? We went back home and I had a second breakfast, content that I’d done my run for the day.


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