The Follow Up 10K: St David's Day Run 2014

I remember watching a TED lecture by author Elizabeth Gilbert on 'The Follow Up': how to achieve success after raising the bar with her international bestseller Eat Pray Love. Once you have achieved something there will always be some level of expectation from others, yourself or both, for Take Two.

I did my first 10K in September last year with much anticipation - but no expectation. I couldn't guess what I would experience because I had no benchmark. I didn't exactly have a groundbreaking performance on my run that day, but when I crossed the finish line and got my chip results, a precedent had been set. 

Sooner or later I knew I would sign up to another 10K race and before I'd even considered the St David's Day Run this month, I had that Follow Up feeling: would my performance be better or worse than the last one? 

Managing a smile at the end of SDD 5K 2013
I use the word 'performance' over 'time' because the latter isn't as important as how I feel overall about the race - my gait, rhythm, any niggles/discomfort, the atmosphere and simply enjoying the run take priority over PBs and hitting targets.

My lack of competition makes anxiety from expectation even odder. I like to tell myself I'm not interested in proving anything to anyone and I race to get something more meaningful out of it, but expectation is a weird and powerful thing. 

Expectation surrounding the St David's Day 2014 (SDD) run was rooted not only in my first 10K performance, but also my experiences at SDD the previous year. I had run the 5K version of the race in 2013 and hated it - which, by the way, was only my second 5K race at the time, compounding my Follow Up phobia. The course and atmosphere was fairly bland, but what really haunts me is my heavy, clunky gait and the niggle deep in my left bum cheek. I have a photo of me grimacing/plodding as I approach the finish line, and I wish I could burn the image from my memory forever. 

I know every runner gets days like this and the experience hasn't scarred me so much that I want to throw the trainers out for good. In fact, it made me want to rise to the challenge and return to the same course to do the 10k race. A challenge I faced and one I'm pretty proud of. 

Feeling proud at SDD 10K 2014

Here's what happened:

  • The elephant had turned into a butterfly, floating down the course
  • I enjoyed my pace and rhythm 
  • I had a laugh and chatted to fellow runners
  • I shaved a few minutes off my first 10K time
  • I learned to accept everyone has good and bad days, but the bad ones can be a useful experience worth cherishing
  • The more you expect, the more elusive it becomes
  • Embrace the Follow Up and what it brings: a lot is out of your control so just go with it
  • My butt felt fine


The penultimate point is one of the most important things I have taken from this race. Just a couple of minutes into the run, the route took us on a sharp right and over a small bridge. This was a spectacularly ill thought out plan given that, so close to the start, everyone would still be grouped together - meaning we ground to a halt as 2000+ people tried to turn the corner and cross the bridge. We tried to laugh about it but it was annoying: no one was going to smash PBs or build rhythm standing still. 

But it was out of our control. All the expectations and nerves prior to the race seemed pointless. The Follow Up is just another shot at doing your best, so you may as well embrace the unpredictability and enjoy what comes. 

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