The start line is there, just there, right in front of the ten of us. We’re a little coy about it, not wanting to be too pushy, or to get in the way of our faster fellow runners, we all stand back. All of us.
‘After you,’, says one, ‘no after you,’ say another. ‘No point me being at the front, I lead from the back,’ I assure them, not really knowing what the heck I meant by this, but taking a step back nevertheless. By this time, no-one is anywhere near the line. We’re meant to be running a mile, I reckon we’re nearer a mile and quarter. Still, it means we can hit the start at full speed and accelerate off into the distance. By gum, they won’t see us for dust.
We were the second and, I might add, most polite heat in the Hyde Park Harriers’ Summer Mile. It’s an annual event pitching runners against each other and against themselves. We paid our six pounds, filled in a form saying how fast we’ll do that mile, picked up our numbers and lined up with like-minded runners. It was all very exciting, personally I was looking forward to the finish, where I’d pick up my medal and then make my way over to the pub where the tables were groaning under the weight of food. That’s how competitive I am.
Anyone can run a mile. Seriously, it’s not that far, it’s just that some do it faster than others, a lot faster. I was delighted that I did it in just over nine minutes, that’s probably a personal best for me and I wasn’t last, which is always a bonus.
With my medal chinking against my camera strap, I trotted off to take photos of the other runners. It’s the third year I’ve photographed them and as each heat gets faster, I have to accelerate across from the start to the finish, I reckon that should have scored me bonus points. I couldn’t help noticing that the guys in the faster heat (they were all guys), didn’t have any trouble over toeing the line, there may even have been a bit of pushing for position, but they were aiming to run their mile in less than five minutes, so there wasn’t really room for politeness.