There is no finish line…

It has been a few weeks now since I got home from Florida and most of you will have already heard me ranting about my experiences at the Clermont 5k. Having finally calmed down sufficiently, I thought I should write a quick blog update about the event!

I’ll be the first to admit that I took a backseat with the planning of my honeymoon. Vicki, being an experienced holidaymaker in Orlando, had a far better idea of what to see and do whilst there and so made the vast majority of the plans for the fortnight. There was however one thing that I really wanted to experience during the trip: an American parkrun. So it was that we found ourselves packing our new ‘Pollok parkrun’ t-shirts and looking forward to a Saturday morning excursion to Clermont parkrun.

On the Thursday night we decided to check the parkrun Facebook page and were horrified to discover that it was cancelled! Instead there would be a 5k race taking place in the park (as well as a triathlon, a duathlon and a ‘dip and dash’ race)! Fortunately, there were still spaces available in the 5k and so Vicki and I both signed up (begrudgingly paying the $70 it cost us as a pair!).

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Saturday morning arrived and, unsurprisingly, it was hot. We jumped in the car at 6am for the drive out to Clermont and were both really excited about the race. When we arrived at our destination, we were both really impressed. The race would take place around a beautiful lake and there were thousands of people taking part in the variety of events which were being held. Perhaps living up to an  American stereotype, it became clear very quickly that this would be a big event with plenty of support, competitions and music creating an incredible pre-race atmosphere. I was also a little excited to test out my shiny new racing flats!

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As I lined up on the start line I did find it a little peculiar that we were asked to line up either side of the road as the duathlon would be starting shortly before our event and the participants would be running directly towards us. When a gap in the duathletes emerged, we were quickly shuffled back into the centre of the road and given the signal to go. The slightly chaotic start (running against the tide of duathletes) should have been a clue that the logistics of this race were a little unusual, but I paid this little attention and instead focused on gaining an early lead.

As I rounded the halfway mark and headed for home I was delighted to see that I had managed to build up a lead of about a minute. Foolishly, I started to think about how awesome it would be to win a race whilst on holiday – what a story that would be to bring home to the lads! I was lapping up the fantastic support and cheers from the other runners as I pushed on and before I knew it I was back at the start.

As I entered the home straight, I realised that it could not be far to the finish. Panicked, I started to shout to the crowds and marshalls for directions – my Garmin was screaming at me that 5k was pretty much over. The crowds responded by directing me further along the main path and eventually I found myself running alongside triathletes who had just emerged from the water – it was a bit of a shock when I noticed them all jumping onto their bikes and pedalling away from me! At this point I stopped and asked another marshall where the finish was for the 5k.

I had gone too far.

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As I turned and started heading back along my route, I heard the tannoy announce that the winner of the 5k was coming into the final straight. But surely that was me?! I ran back to the announcer to find out what had happened. To this moment I am still not completely sure how it happened, but I have been told that the finish line was not actually erected until 17 minutes into the race – almost a minute after I had finished! The race organisers explained that, as so many people had seen me pass the finish area in first position, they would award me first place and present me the trophy.

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Happy enough, I watched  Vicki finish the race and we gathered under the shelter with our complimentary food and drinks to await the presentation. As the prizes were distributed, I was gutted when my name was not called for first place and I was told by those runners standing with me that I should enquire as to what had happened. A little awkwardly, I approached the lady handing out the prizes and asked if my name was on the list. At this point the runner who was clutching first place declared that I could not be the winner as I did not have an official chip-time. My argument that there were no chip-mats down when I finished did not seem sufficient and his refusal to accept that he had not won the race meant that I had no choice but to leave empty handed. The organisers seemed in conflict about who the rightful winner was but, unfortunately, I came away with nothing but my free sleeveless t-shirt and a participation medal.

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Overall, I had a really enjoyable day and the race could have been fantastic had it not been for a few organisational issues at the end and a couple of very rude competitors. It was reassuring when many other runners approached me after the race to shake my hand and tell me that they disagreed with the decision of the organisers. Whilst the buzz and atmosphere at the event were fantastic, I believe the basics were overlooked – perhaps a focus on creating a spectacle, rather than a good ‘race’were what caused this event to suffer. Then again – maybe I am just bitter!

Everything was made better with pancakes…

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