Be careful who you finish up with…

At my most recent 15k, I had a very bad experience in the finishing tunnel. Admittedly, I hadn’t run well; as not only was it a very hot day, but I’d also misunderstood the race notes and assumed that it was largely off-road. Therefore I’d worn my cushionless but very grippy New Balance 782s, which weren’t much help once I’d discovered that when the race notes said ‘no paved sections’, they actually meant that it was 90% tarmac.

So it really wasn’t my fault that I ran so very, very slowly, albeit with a decent surge of speed over the last 400m which got me into the finishing tunnel at least 50 places higher than might have been expected a minute or so earlier. And then tragedy struck…

The bloke in front of me turned around to shake my hand and congratulate me on nearly catching him. Well, I say bloke. In the interests of strict accuracy though, I should probably just refer to him as a ‘very elderly gentleman’ and have done with it.

He was at least 20 years older than me. And if I’m going to have to peg a specific adjective onto him, I think, on balance, that I’m going to have to go with ‘spry.’

The only saving grace was that with it being a minor club race, there was no finishing line photographer to immortalise my shameful performance by capturing me crossing the line next to Harold Steptoe, as I now don’t like to think of him.

However, not everyone is so lucky. I have friends who I won’t name here who have all had their marathon and half-marathon experiences spoiled by crossing the line just behind people of similarly geriatric appearance. And so, I would like to leave you with this shameful and disgracefully ageist piece of advice…

The next time you’re in a road race, try to be aware of the people around you as you head for the finishing line. This may be your one and only shot at the big race of your dreams, so that finishing line picture will be with you for a long time.

That’s why it’s undoubtedly better to ease off a bit and cross the line behind a lithe young lady with ‘Loughborough Sports’ written on her vest, than to go for the big sprint finish and beat a particularly ‘senior’ runner to the line.

I know more than one person who has run the race of a lifetime, set a huge PB, crowed endlessly about getting under 1.30 for a half – and then had the bottom fall out of their world when the photos finally became available on Sleepmonsters or Actionphoto, when it’s become clear that they may have run well, but crucially, not quite as well as Granny Clampit…

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