I conjured up a few loose goals in my head at the start of this 2018th year. The first one was to get a fairly respectable time in London. The second was to get my feet moving slightly faster than they usually do. When I saw the Westminster Mile advertised I thought it would be the perfect race to see where my ability to run at speed was post marathon training.
In the weeks leading up to the race, I did a few faster runs and managed to clock up a new 5K PB so I knew the pace hadn't completely evaporated from my legs. I was hopeful that I'd be able to get somewhere near my 5:39 fastest mile on race day.
On the morning of the race, I boarded some over priced public transport and headed into the city. I arrived at London's Green Park with time to spare so I took to a park bench, listened to some tunes and admired how Green the park really was. Copious amounts of 90s tunes later and the race nerves were starting to build. I deposited my bag in the designated area and headed off to get my bearings and to find the start line. Simple plan right? Wrong. I could not find the start line, well, I could see it - this race started on the historic Mall and you can't miss that, I just couldn't physically get to it. After spending a good few minutes wandering around outside Buckingham Palace looking like a lost child, I found out where I was supposed to be and headed to the warm up area. Now, If you add an N into area you can spell arena and that sounds way cooler than area so I shall from now on call it the arena. I entered the warm up arena and thought this to be a perfect opportunity to show all the other runners I was not here to simply make up the numbers I meant business and that business was running slightly fast. I was feeling pretty damn confident, which was fresh state of mind for a guy who, moments earlier, struggled to find the start line. I did some strides, violently lunged and aggressively threw my knees into the thick morning air. I looked like a complete pro. It was then that a voice boomed from a set of speakers suspended halfway up a lamp post. It was time to congregate in our starting pens. I was wave C, which I think was short for Cuick, a drastic misspelling of the word fast. The wave system at the Westminster mile is pretty nifty, there's seemingly hundreds of waves throughout the day of varying ages and abilities making it a perfect race for just about anyone who fancies doing it.
The klaxon sounded at 9:30 on the dot and the first wave disappeared into the distance. 10 minutes after the initial wave left I found myself on the start line. This was so damn cool, because I was actually on the line, holding my Garmin with one hand, doing that little lean that everyone does on a start line, I couldn't have looked more like an real life athlete if I'd tried. Our turn had arrived, we were off, I had no race plan, sod it, just go all out, that'll do. I went all out. 400m quickly passed, I did some mental maths and figured that I had already reached the quarter mile mark and going strong. Suddenly it felt like someone had stuck a hoover in my gob and sucked every last drop of moisture out of it. Blimey it was dry. I continued to the 800m mark and I was feeling good. The end was nearly in sight. I picked off another couple of runners, who had obviously not seen me warming up, their race vests rippling in the micro gust I'd created as I gasped past them. It was at this point I started to feel light headed, I knew if I could hold it out here I was on for a good time. I entered the last 100m and I could see the clock dangling below the finish line. I entered into a convincing sprint alongside another runner. To my surprise I managed to increase my speed, rather than just flail my limbs around. Then as soon as it had started, it was over. I clocked in at 5:22, a new mile PB. I was elated and somewhat knackered.
A few slow deep breaths later, and after watching other runners cross the finishing threshold, I took my stunned feet to go and collect our medal. It's always a lovely feeling, sticking a your head through a ribbon with a bit of metal on it, you feel like you really achieved something with your day, and all before 10am too. I then joined the queue to collect my bag, this is probably the only race in which it takes longer to get your possessions back than it does to run the actual distance. That queue was long. It was now time to head home and bask in the glory of running a new personal best.
I really enjoyed the Westminster Mile, those short sharp bursts of energy really ignite something in me. Just absolutely going for it was really fun. As soon as I can i'll be signed up for next years race, and hopefully I'll remember how to get to the start line.