South of England track and field champs was today and I had the under 20 men’s 5,000m. It was my first time doing the distance on track and I knew it was going to be gruelling. I’ve done two 3,000m on track this season and they were both very tough. To do 5 more laps… well, I don’t know what I must’ve been thinking other than that it was my best shot at earning myself a medal.

Pre-race Preparation

Me being the person I am decided to look up the pb’s of the runners I was competing against. Out of the 5 on the start list (including myself), 3 of them had pb’s around 30 seconds quicker than me in the 3,000m so things didn’t look so good for me. I was beginning to get rather anxious.

I did a 15 minute jog warm up before doing strides and drills in the indoor track area designated as the warm up zone. It was my first time being in a competitive environment like this, so it was a new experience for me. Then at 1:58 w got called to the meeting room and found out that there were only two of us in the race. Myself and another athlete, Oliver Prior who had a pb of 15:55. I decided I was going to aim for 76 second laps, as that would get me a 15:50 if I could maintain it and see how it went from there. To increase the competitive field (ever so slightly), we also ran with 3 senior women.

South of England U20 Champs – 5000m Race

I eased into the race at a pace that felt comfortable to start with going through the first lap in 76 seconds. Oliver took the lead and glanced back over his shoulder a few times, running a 72 second lap to start off. I slowed slightly on the second lap to 78 seconds, so I told myself mentally to wake up and not let myself run any slower. The gap between us was maintained, with me slowly creeping forwards. After a 76 second lap on lap 5, I could feel I was quite a bit closer, but then he began to kick, the gap increasing from around 6 seconds to 12 seconds (I think?) and there I began to feel the pain.

My lap times slowed to around 80 – 82 seconds after 2200m and I could feel myself struggling mentally to keep going in the heat with no one to hang onto. I went through 3000m in 9:43 and thought for a moment about how if I wanted, I could stop and walk the rest of the race and still earn myself a medal.

I couldn’t do that though.

Fighting a mental battle, I tried to keep going as best as I could. I was no longer going to run 15:50, but I was aiming at 16:30. Going into the last lap I saw I would have to run a 75 second lap. Was I going to make it? Honestly, I couldn’t see it happening but I had to try. My legs refused to move any faster, but I tried to speed up with 250m to go.

Not even thinking about the guy in front, I realised he was on the floor at the 100m line when I was at 120m. Part of me wanted to stop and help him up, but I had to go for gold. Our eyes locked, and it seemed like he was debating whether to get up and outsprint me. Now, I was giong to go for it. I sprinted as fast as my legs would go, scared he was going to come after me and take me at the line. I crossed, gasping and staggering for 5 minutes, eyes closed almost as if to try and send myself temporarily to another world to forget the pain. My time was 16:34.9.

First at south of England under 20 men 5000m!

The other runner crossed a minute later, and he wasn’t in good condition. He must’ve been on the floor for half an hour, with medical attention. After trying to remain on my feet after the race, I gave in and let myself sit and lie down on the ground, trying to sip on some water. I had a stomach cramp, and as much as I knew it was important to eat straight after a race (or training), I felt like I would just throw anything back out of my system. I got to my feet twenty minutes later and began walking around, drinking and eating normally again.

Final Thoughts

This race taught me something that I hear a lot, but it never seems to be taken seriously. It’s something that rarely happens, if ever, and today it happened, and that is: ‘Anything can happen in a race.’ or ‘It’s not over until it’s over.’. Today, for me, that certainly happened and whilst I’m grateful I managed to win, I also feel sorry for the guy. I’m sure I can run faster, I just need more people to run with and better (not so hot) conditions.

I’m pleased with the win, I just wish that more athletes would turn up and support events like these because they really do add to the competitive scene and make these competitions and events more exciting.