Diana Davis brings us another adventure/race from her European adventure.
As soon as I heard about the European summer track circuit, I heard about the British Milers’ Club (BMC). They consistently put on high-quality meets that attract top runners and produce fast times. As long as I was going to be living in England, I knew I had to find one of these meets.
Their list of Fixtures (races) is long, but as I was arriving in late August and running in Antwerp on August 25, I had a single choice: the Exeter Regional Race on August 28.
The BMC had a regional race each month in Exeter, so I checked out the results from earlier ones, and the third place man and woman in the 800m were 1:54 and 2:09: totally legit. So I signed up.
I took the train from Oxford to Exeter and walked around the town a little bit before heading up to the track facility. I arrived a few hours early, and was pleasantly surprised to find that a youth meet preceded the BMC races (which were 1500m and 800m for men and women). Most of the races were hurdles, which is always entertaining.
When I checked in, I asked the BMC man which kit (uniform) I should wear — my club, or USA? When I raced in Antwerp, I wore USA, and discovered after my race that everyone was supposed to wear their club kit for that meet. Who knew? No one told me. So I brought both to Exeter, and was wearing my New Balance Boston uniform under my clothes. The BMC man told me to wear the USA, because “people will be wearing everything from white T-shirts to national team gear.” I duly went to the locker room and changed into USA. Once again, I would turn out to be the only one in national team gear. So it goes.
The BMC man also told me that there would be two pacers (rabbits) for the race, one running 70s per lap and one running 74s per lap, because a 4:25 woman was entered and then two of us at 4:39. Awesome! Also, there was only one section of the women’s 1500m, because only 15 females had signed up. So I was running a BMC A race! Awesome again.
(Back story to the “A race” business: Sometimes, people who race in Europe are categorized based on which races they do. “This is my friend Bob; he ran some D races in Europe last summer.” That would be kind of demeaning. “This is my friend Alice; she runs European A races.” That would be if you wanted to impress people. A is the fast section, B is the second-fastest section, and so on, sometimes down to E or F.)
Anyway, the race. I warmed up and got on the track. When we lined up, it turned out that the 4:25 woman wasn’t there. The other 4:39 woman and I asked the starter if the pacer (Susie) could please run slower than 70s. “No, she’s running 70s,” he said, and would not hear any arguments to the contrary. I asked the other woman (Rachel) what she wanted to run, and she said 4:45, but no faster. I had just run 4:48 in Antwerp, so it seemed we could work together.
The race started and I got behind Rachel, who was behind Susie. The pace felt slow. Susie was looking at her watch about every 15 meters, accelerating or decelerating accordingly. Was it a GPS watch, or what? We will never know. As we approached the 300m mark, Susie accelerated and Rachel didn’t go with her, so I moved onto Susie’s shoulder. At 300m, Susie sprinted and got well ahead of me, coming through 400m in 76 as I came through in 78. I spent the next lap trying to get back onto her shoulder, and at 800m I had finally caught up — and then she dropped out. We came through in 2:33, so I had run a 75, i.e. race pace. But now I was on my own!
I focused on pushing hard for the third lap, even though I was by myself. I was alternately thinking, “I’m going to win a BMC A race; this is amazing!” and “Seriously, what was the point of coming all the way out here for no competition?” I kicked with 300m to go, and in the last 150m I could feel everything shutting down, so I was doing it right.
I ran 4:50, two seconds slower than my race three days before in Antwerp. So it goes. Perhaps it is the slowest time that has ever won a BMC A race. As they say, 90% of life is showing up.
I cooled down with a girl who had run the 800m. She was a modern pentathlete! (Running, swimming, horse riding, fencing, archery.) She was only the second modern pentathlete I’d ever met, so I asked if there were a lot of them in the area. “There are about 40,000 in England,” she said, “and if you had 40,000 runners, a lot of them would be casual runners, but no one does the modern pentathlon casually.” Good point.
It was dark, and getting late, and no one seemed inclined to chat with me, so I put on my backpack and ran 2.5 miles back to Exeter city centre, to my hostel for the night.
Congrats to Diana on her BMC A race win! A win is a win, and it made for a good story. To see more of her Euro adventures, be sure to check out her blog.