Sometimes, an entire safari park’s worth of frustration can stampede over your race.

I started running because it keeps me fit and healthy, and preserves my youthful good looks (so I’ve been told). Most of the time I have this tremendous love affair with running that leaves me itching if I go too long without it. But that all went out the window when I encountered a herd of running peeves – wild and unleashed, and all at the same time – on race day.  Seldom have I felt more annoyed.

My troublesome marathon began like any other. I rose from restless slumber at 4:30am. My race gear was neatly laid out on the couch, waiting expectantly, and I washed down instant oats smoothly with black coffee. A last-minute pre-race check revealed: my favourite pair of shoes; a club vest (with the most meticulously-pinned race number, like… ever); my most comfortable socks; and my daringly skimpy running shorts – not that I’d ever forgotten those before.

I emptied my bladder, and ensured I didn’t need what is blushingly referred to as ‘a number two’. But as I forced myself into what I thought was a winning position at the start line, I was unceremoniously reminded that despite the 20 cramp-free minutes I’d spent in my bathroom, I hadn’t escaped the shudder of an impending bowel movement – one big enough to rival an earthquake.

It was too late to measure it on the Richter scale, because the countdown had already begun. Bang! The gun went off. But the runners in front of me didn’t. Which brings me to my second pet peeve: why do those who plan to start the race in reverse stand so close to the front, effectively barricading other runners from their PBs? Talk about ‘hitting the wall’ before you’ve even started!

So after wasting the first ten minutes of my race courteously excusing myself as I danced around the seemingly oblivious walkers and talkers, I eventually fell into my stride. For a while, everything was great. I felt like I was gliding gracefully across the tar – much like a gazelle does across the grasslands. I was blissfully unaware that another two of my pet peeves were crouching in the reeds, stalking me, and waiting to pounce.

The first ambushed me at the 10-kilometre water table. Apparently, fellow gazelles Jill and Bob knew the water table attendant – affectionately known as Old Man Jack – from way back. All three had engaged in one of those catch-ups that never actually catches up; and they’d completely hogged half the refreshment table, rendering it difficult for anyone else to grab a water sachet on the run. To avoid rudely bundling them over, I stopped in my tracks and gently reached for one, thus interrupting my gazelle-like momentum.

I was blissfully unaware that another two of my pet peeves were crouching in the reeds, stalking me, and waiting to pounce

It didn’t end there. The second pet peeve sunk its teeth into the carcass of my dwindling patience, because good ol’ Old Man Jack just couldn’t help himself.

“You’re nearly there!” he pipped, as my legs creaked in violent protest when I tried to start running on them again from a standing position.

Now, I don’t know what planet Old Man Jack had beamed down from, and I certainly don’t believe he’d ever run a marathon in his life, because 10 kilometres into 42.2 kays is most definitely not ‘nearly there’. This type of comment can be casually inserted into precisely the wrong moment; and it’s right up there in the pet peeve-yness echelons, along with honking hooters and suggestive whistles at the prettier among us attempting to train.

My pet peeves had bared their teeth, but I took the moral high ground, instead choosing to grit mine and soldier on. And I’m glad I did, because the rest of my race reminded me why I’m so fond of running. The unquenchable thirst for continuously bettering myself, the unparalleled feeling of accomplishment when I did so, and the indescribable feeling of triumph on crossing the finish line far outweighed the angst caused by any of the pet peeves I’d encountered.

Even if they’re among the barrage of peeves that await us at the finish line – the shouting (and mispronunciation) of our names, the announcer with far too many words of encouragement, and the race T-shirts that are always two sizes too big – we love to hate them all.

Because they remind us of what we’ve overcome.

This article was published in Runner’s World magazine, in the July 2015 issue: RW PLANET RUNNER

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