Race Date: Sunday 26th February 2023
This was one of those scary out-of-comfort-zone attempts of a road and trail runner to expose themselves to all and sundry on a track doing a ridiculously short distance faster than my legs wanted to.
The previous weekend I sat happily munching my sandwiches and chatting to anyone around whilst watching Kate Scott, Mick Wall, Jed Turner and Chris Ireland competing and winning medals at the EIS. Good to watch from a safe distance. Then a call from my area club, Northern Masters to ask if I could run an 800m and 4x200m at Lee Valley, Enfield the following weekend. My first instinct, naturally was to say no. I don’t run indoors. I don’t run track and I don’t run fast. Well, not their sort of eyeballs out, explosive, vomit-making fast anyway.
‘Never mind’, sighed Caroline Marler, V70 British and European Champion pentathlete, “I’ll do it but it will be a slow one’. I thought of Kate Scott the weekend before, ‘leaving it all on the track’ and thought it would be mean not to support the North of England albeit for 3 or 4 minutes.
It’s a three and a half hour drive there and three and a half hour drive back. That’s seven hours travel for my shortest run since junior school, when I leapt over the grass in my plimsolls chasing all my mates and squealing with equal measures of joy and horror at the whole spectacle.
I warmed up on the outdoor track to keep the horribly dusty, dry air out of my lungs for as long as possible and presented myself at the call room, nerves jangling, to make my debut 800m. It may not sound like much but it’s 4 times round an indoor track which feels like a very long way. Looking her usual serene self in lane 1 was Angela Copson, Midland Masters, current W70 world champion in just about everything, Sarah Roberts, Southern Counties Masters in lane 2, Me with jelly legs in lane 3 and Iris Hornsey, Eastern Masters and newly V80, in lane 4. Looking at their fancy spikes and steely targeted focus I felt way out of my class. Instructions on how to stay in lane and when to break were given, mainly to me since the real athletes knew exactly how to use a track.
Now you would think an old hand like me would be able to count to four. It’s not hard surely. The gun sounded, Angela and Sarah, floated off leaving me and Iris almost at a standstill. I had decided not to go off too fast because I don’t want a track related injury but I couldn’t have stayed close to those amazing women even if I had wanted to. Over the laps, with supporters yelling our names in encouragement (that’s the beauty of Masters athletics) I gradually built up my pace for my astounding blitz finish about half a lap behind Angela. Except the bell didn’t sound at the beginning of the fourth lap so I guessed I’d got it wrong and had only done two, not three laps. I couldn’t ramp up until the bell sounded. Needless to say the track judge had had a senior moment, not rung the bell and urged us on for a fifth lap. All very confusing but we obeyed and I gave the last 200m everything. Of course the timers were absolutely top class and stopped their watches after 800m. My blitz was pointless but lots of fun and I crossed the line third of four runners giggling like that ten year old in plimsolls.
Angela Copson (W75): 3:18.62
Sarah Roberts: 3:24.83
Dot Kesterton: 3:32.67
Iris Hornsey (W80): 4:31.74.
Will that get me a club record?
A couple of hours later I got another chance to run with the best in the 4X200m relay. I think we came third but it all seemed a bit irrelevant. I didn’t drop the baton and I did enjoy my day out at Lee Valley with some super competitors.
As my mother often said, ‘That won’t take long, did it?’
Dot Kesterton. V70 track athlete for a day.