I don’t do it for Personal Best. I do it for me

Salina Christmas did not come out a winner at the London Duathlon 2013. Nor does she fare well at this autumn’s cross country league. The running, however, isn’t just about a Personal Best. It’s just personal.

It is. I believe in it. Copy © Sid Wills
It is. I believe in it. © Sid Wills / Serpentine Running Club

I did the unthinkable in the middle of summer 2013. I committed to participate in the London Duathlon 2013 which took place on 15 September 2013 at Richmond Park, London, not knowing if I could afford it with my freelance income.

I had never done a duathlon. I set a goal and was determined to do it, although I was not sure how. Whilst I was mulling on fundings for the entry fee and food, my former managing editor and academic mentor whom I worked with at a life science publication, came forward to sponsor my entry fee.

A romantic way to end summer: busting your ass on a bike

He said, "Go get your life". I bloody well did.
He said, “Go get your life”. I bloody well did.

I signed up for the super sprint category , which was 5k run – 11k cycle – 5k run. It was the cheapest category. By Serpentine standard, that is novice. I followed no dedicated programme except for the brick training that I devised myself. I used my races and club runs throughout the summer to build my run, and the cycling commute to these events for the bike training.

I couldn’t afford a TT bike. Hey Boo, my Trek 1.1c aluminium steed, did the job for me.

In the summer months, whilst freelancing and money was scarce, I committed to this lifelong dream because I had nothing to lose. There was no upmanship. One certainly doesn’t have time for pointless socialising and posturing when so much time was taken up running, cycling and swimming. If there was a way to end this summer of romance and sporting adventure, this was it. Seal it with a duathlon.

My encouragement came not just from my mentor, but also Serpie coaches and mates, and most importantly, my family. My nieces asked how I fared at London Duathlon 2013.

My dad said nothing, as usual. He knew the devils I was wrestling with. He almost lost another child to illness, so he had thought. But not this one. It was my way of telling him I am fine.

Alone together at the duathlon

The race during the London Duathlon 2013, whilst full of participants, was a solitary experience. No other Serpies there, except one or two in a higher category. I wore a Zoot suit, not a Serpie tri suit. We avoided eye contact, loners that we were. Then it rained. I stripped off my rowing jacket and track bottom, and ran. And I cycled. And I ran again. In a bit more than one-and-a-half-hour, it was over. I came fourteenth in my age group, gender and category.

The following day, after London Duathlon 2013, I started my job at as a digital marketer at WPP.

Me (in red socks) trailing behind at the Metropolitan League at Stevenage last Saturday. I shouldn’t have run given my condition, but I am not good at listening to pain. Photo © Ealing, Southall and Middlese AC

And will this pain turn to pleasure one day?

Winter approached, and for the past weeks, I have committed myself to cross country. Again, this is not a race for glory. If anything, it hurts even more physically. The walls were particularly crushing, psychologically. At the first round of the Metropolitan League at Claybury, to the East of London, on 19 October 2013, I vomited after the second lap.

Last Saturday, on 9 November 2013, I willed myself to run through the flat but rather woody grounds of the Stevenage woods. I had fallen ill, and had barely recovered from an ITB injury. I vomited the morning before the race. Mid-race, I blinked back tears. The stitches became one massive cramp. A very kind Serpie accompanied me on the train journey home when I felt too unwell to stay at the pub.

Post-race, at home, slumped on the sofa, I cried again. My sister fed me pain-killers and a cup of tea. She had seen me like this before. Like my father, she said nothing.

I shall come at the bottom of the league again in the next rounds of races. But I have nothing to lose, and plenty to gain from getting acquainted with the swirling muddy paths in those dark, silent woods. And with myself.


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