My club, Almost Athletes, have an annual handicap race series which I’ve entered for the first time this year…and I wish I’d done it ages ago!
The premise is quite simple, but wildly complicated at the same time…
The simple: Each participant submits a recent race time (over any distance) and then turns up on the middle Monday of each month ready to run the 3 lap/4.4 mile course as fast as they possibly can.
The complicated: Those race times are subjected to some hardcore algebra (obviously you may find it easy, but [T2 = T1 x (D2/D1)1.06] confuses the hell out of me!) and the result is a reasonably accurate predicted race time for the 7.2km course. These are then ordered, and the difference in seconds calculated ready for race day.
The result should be that after a staggered start, if everyone runs to their race time potential, there will be a blanket finish as everyone crosses the line together irrespective of how fast they are.
So when we all lined up for race #1 in the series I was due to start 7th, 4:48 behind the slowest runner and some 13 minutes ahead of the quickest! Although I started alone, I had my closest leader in my sights and knew the next runner would be starting with me in theirs. I’ve run many a race over the years, scored a few PBs now and then, but I can honestly say I have never run so hard from the start before…flat out on the “b” of bang!
I started reeling in the guys in front of me, quicker than I’d expected too. It’s amazing how motivating it is having your prey in your sights and knowing that, statistically, you should catch them. Over the course of the first 3 miles I overtook 5 of the 6 that started ahead of me and suddenly I was in second place. Second place in a race. Me. In second place.
And then in the last mile the statistics caught up with me, as the faster runners started to catch me. They didn’t just catch me, they went past me, fast. I hadn’t really considered it before but when the quick guys went ahead they really went ahead, disappearing in to the distance, and that was a quite demoralising moment. But as I closed in on the finish I realised there could only be 5 people ahead of me, and over a four race series with points available each race, I still had something to fight for.
So I dug in, and with the exception of being beaten in a sprint finish (by someone who has since run a 3:38 marathon!) I held on and finished in 7th place! I’ve never finished a race that high, I don’t think I’ve ever finished that high in my age group, not even if there were only 8 men running!
So I’m quite happy with that, in fact more than quite. Of course, times will be adjusted now ahead of the next race, so I will have more of a handicap, but by finishing outside the top 5 I won’t receive a time penalty which is nice!
Next race on June 16th…I’ve got lots of hard work to do in the next two weeks if I’m going to be competitive again…best get started.
Details on the club handicap race can be found here, should you be interested in arranging one for your club.