Ok, so technically this wasn’t my first athletics competition I’ve taken part in. In year 7, I was in the Coventry schools athletics tournament, I raced in the 110m hurdles and came last. I came last because we’d been using training hurdles at school, but when we got to the competition, they were raised a few cms higher. I cleared the first one, but fell over at the second, and the third and ended the race crying, with bloody knees. I still have a scar from that day. It was one of those days where wasn’t about taking part, it was more about finishing the race and not giving up at the first hurdle [pun intended].
Anyway, Zhejiang Normal uni, like most Chinese universities, holds an annual athletics meet or 运动会, it’s like a sports day that Chinese people do throughout their school life, so actually by the time they get to university, most students are a bit bored of it all and choose not to watch or take part – which isn’t the spirit!!
As I love sports and am preparing for the upcoming Jinhua marathon in April, I decided to enter the longest distance races available – 800m and 1500m. I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t a 5km* race, but I couldn’t complain/didn’t know who to complain to.
I was the only girl from my department to enter the 1500m, but there would be other girls competing from other departments (engineering, nursery, maths, literature etc). There were 42 female competitors in the end, and I was quite nervous about all of us running at the same time, but then my 负责人 Evelyn (another Chinese student from my department who was appointed to be almost like a PA – taking me to get my race number, telling me the rules, etc) told me how we’d be split into 3 heats. There wouldn’t be a final, so I’d have to run faster than the girls in the other heats to get up on the leaderboard.
I lined up on the starting line and looked at my competitors, some were in sports clothes, one was wearing denim shorts, not all of them had proper trainers. But I dressed the part, even if I lost my race, I wanted to look like a professional athlete from overseas, so wore my matching purple Puma top and shorts, along with my trademark blue headband, blue sunglasses and worn out trainers which probably need replacing.
The race started and although my coach told me to stay in the middle, with 5 girls ahead of me, I decided to stick with the first three girls. The four of us broke away at the beginning and we dropped down to three after the first 200m as the girl in grey got tired. I was running alongside the girl in black for a while, keeping a steady pace for a lap. Then her coach shouted at her and she overtook me for a little while, but I could tell that she wouldn’t be able to keep that pace for a long time, so I just stayed with her, stamping my feet so she knew I was coming for her. We’d lost the girl in yellow by this time. I wasn’t really thinking about the other heats, I just wanted to win this race as I had a whole stand full of fans shouting for me. My friends from Sudan, Cameroon, South Korea, China, Ghana and Ethiopia all turned out for me and whistled, shouted and went crazy each time I passed them.
I soon overtook her and she kept behind for a while, until when I got to the final 250m I accelerated, and made my move to see if she would respond. A few seconds later, I couldn’t hear her footsteps, only the whistles from the crowd and people shouting my name. I glanced back at the end of the final corner and saw she hadn’t upped the pace like me. That was it, I’d won! Glory was mine as I crossed the finish line.
The crowd went wild and I was suddenly surrounded by people, my 负责人 Evelyn, gave me some water, and the other people were school journalists, all wanting to interview me. I felt like a pro sportswoman as I told them how this was the first time I’d ran a 1500m race and my usual race is triathlon.
When the results came out later, I saw I’d ran in it 5.59:42mins, so my pace was just under 4mins/km, which was what I was aiming for. But what surprised me more was my standing! I came third overall, which meant I’d go on the podium to receive a medal and some flowers from one of the school’s deputies. It was the first time I’d been on a podium like this, with flower girls, my name being read out on a microphone and a group of paparazzi standing below.
*it turns out there was a 5km race, but it was only open to students in the sports department, meaning there were only 4 girls competing, I should have been able to race in that!