Day two of my running weekend, the Westminster Mile.
As the name suggests, this is a mile race but that doesn’t make it any less difficult. In fact, I would argue this is every bit as much of a challenge than a half or 10k simply because it is just so intense.
Starting on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace, the course turns right onto Horseguards Parade before turning right again onto Birdcage Walk, finishing back in front of the palace.
And it’s a flat out sprint, in my case anyway. Strava told me I did it last year in 9:43 so the pressure was on me to beat that, although with Saturday’s race still in my legs I wasn’t entirely sure that was possible.
I did this race with Michelle last year, so we teamed up again to do it once more, taking our place in the Family Wave.
Lining up on The Mall we both started to feel the ill effects of the searing heat and, with it, the abundance of pollen in the air. It caught me right at the back of the throat, causing me to cough for quite a while. Thankfully it eased off as time passed but it was a concern for longer than I would have liked.
As we edged towards the start line we could hear the public address guy speaking to Mo Farah as he started each wave.
Then, as our wave approached the final holding area we were told the man himself would be running with us.
Not only that he actually came over to our side of the pen, ending up just yards directly ahead! That effectively meant we’d be starting with him.
He was only going to run a couple of hundred metres but it was still quite a thrill to start an actual proper race at the same time as a multiple Olympic and World Champion.
I know I have ‘competed’ in the same race as him (and others) before but obviously he was placed in the Elite start and I, well, wouldn’t even dare to dream of being that good or in that sort of company.
But this was different. I was starting as his equal. Clearly I had no chance of keeping up with him but what I can say is that he slowed me down.
Honestly, he did!
After he’d ran his little bit he turned back towards the field of runners for the customary high fives and so on … and promptly got in my way.
Bloody hell Mo, I’ve got a time to beat. My coach had challenged me to do this in nine minutes, how could I if you’re getting in my way? I bet when we’re reviewing my performance in a week or so ‘Mo Farah got in my way’ will be a first for her as excuses go!
That aside, how did the rest of the race work out?
I felt it took me a little while to get going. My legs felt heavy, and when I initially tried to fire the burners, so to speak, nothing happened.
Thankfully this was only short lived, I tried again on the turn into Horseguards and instantly picked up a bit of speed.
At around the 800m mark I momentarily paused to look behind to see where Michelle was. I didn’t see her but knew she wouldn’t be far away.
I was working hard for that nine minute target. The heat didn’t make it easy and even though Birdcage Walk offered plenty of shade the benefits of that were offset by the pollen in the air playing havoc with my hayfever.
It was exhausting, and I possibly ran out of steam a wee bit with around 400m left.
I battled on as best I could, dredging up some extra energy from somewhere just before the turn for the finish. I knew the magic nine minute target was out of reach but, equally, I knew that my 2017 time was going to be smashed so I threw everything I had into beating it by as much as possible.
In the end I whacked a huge 28 seconds off it which, I think, over a distance as short as a mile isn’t too bad. Not my target but, then again, I did have a half marathon still in my legs from less than 24 hours earlier … and a certain Olympian got in my way!
Michelle finished a couple of minutes later, coming across the line really strongly despite suffering a lot from the conditions which, coupled with her asthma, made it a difficult run for her. It was a proper ‘proud dad’ moment.