Admittedly, with slapped wrists, I have done far too little speedwork this summer. So I was perhaps not in the best shape to tackle Ticino's largest and noisiest 10 km race: Stralugano.
Why would I want to pound the streets when I have enticing mountain peaks literally within running distance?
But who would really turn down the chance to run around their new big city accompanied by 4000 like-minded souls on a weekend when your partner's parents are in town? The latter part ensured we had a jubilant support team at hand.
The matter was thus settled. We duly signed up for the 10 km, spurred on by the encouragement of our local running club - all of whom have the Stralugano firmly fixed on their annual race calendar. Local pride and all that.
With this united feeling, we toed the starting line. Flanked on all sides by nervous lycra-clad runners, I once again questioned my sanity as the elite runners joined the front of the pack.
Swiss National Champions, European Championship competitors, Diamond League runners, Kenyans, Ethiopians: Basically, if they were good, they were here.
Ready, set... Don't go just yet!
As the 30 km group set off fifteen minutes prior to the 10 km race, we had even longer to let our nerves fester. We watched in awe as the leading group sped by the starting area once more. With generous prizes for the 30 km winners, there was certainly more than a little competitiveness on show.
The same desire to win was definitely present in the aggressive elbows of our fellow runners as the 10 km starting gun went off.
Taking in a brief lap of the city before looping around Park Ciani, it was not easy to settle into a pace with sharp corners, pavements and parked cars characterising the first few kilometers. However, once we had passed the 4 km sign and began the most beautiful part of the route along the lake, most people had found a comfortable rhythm - myself included.
I pushed myself in this section, avoiding benches and the backend of the 30 km race, with whom we shared the fastest part of our course (a slight oversight by the organisers).
The Stralugano came through for me
Reaching the turnaround point at 6.5 km, we headed back into the city amid loud cheers and masses of support. This confirmed to me why I was doing a mass participation event – and I admit to being a bit of a running snob – as the atmosphere was really exhilarating.
The 9 km marker was a welcome sight, prompting a last-minute burst of speed. And the finishing straight, lined with throngs of spectators, was the setting for many triumphant sweaty sprints.
After dissecting the race and refuelling, then analysing it once more, we headed to the pasta party and presentation. I had managed to claim first female in the 10 km!
Eating among a sweaty mass of bodies is not necessarily everyone's favourite pastime. But with smiles glued on our faces, kit bags slung over shoulders and aching legs, it is this joint satisfaction that keeps the spring in my step.
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