The “Jedi Challenge” is a virtual run/charity initiative which involves people making a donation towards the charity, run a virtual 5k (i.e. anywhere of your own choosing) and then receiving a “Star Wars” themed medal to mark the achievement.
Matt Dunn made me aware of this initiative as I had a ‘passing interest’ in all things Star Wars and we elected to make our donation but agreed to make the virtual run a bit more of a challenge. Rather than just run a 5k (which we both do pretty much every day), we were only going to award ourselves the medal when we ran a 5k PB time. It was a little bit of encouragement for both of us to go and do the occasional effort run.
I received the medal a couple of months ago which was a pretty cool replica of Han Solo frozen in Carbonite from the 1980 Empire Strikes Back Film… er.. or so I am told by Matt and its sat on my desk for a little while.
I am a fan of the Parkrun concept but an irregular attendee (once or twice a year at most) as I simply normally do a slightly longer run on Saturday mornings as part of my regular training. However, this weekend seemed like a good opportunity to give it a go. I looked at my training log and my lack of any speedwork and calculated the possibility of beating my Parkrun personal best to be 3,720 to 1. It looked very likely that I was on for a (Darth) mauling today.
I glanced at the “Never tell me the odds” quote on the medal ribbon and decided to give it a go anyway. Overconfidence would definitely not be a weakness today and I wasn’t sure I could pull it off on the first attempt, perhaps that is why we sometimes fail. As a little green man once told me “Do or do not, there is no try!” and so I lined up at the start of the Reading Parkrun with 300 other people aiming to complete the Parkrun in less than 12 parsecs (Parkrun PB of 19.55).
There was the usual hustle and bustle at the start as a lead pack charged off. “Don’t sprint of with the lead runners, it’s a trap!” I thought and settled into a comfortable position ahead of the main group of runners and started striding out the distance ahead. Before long I my breathing was a little ragged and I focused on getting this under control.
The Reading Parkrun is in the shape of a letter “P” with a long straight, two loops and a shorter straight back to the start. The first mile was a quick (for me) 6.05. “Great kid, now don’t get cocky” I said to myself and I carried on as fast as my legs were willing.
The second mile felt like a real effort and I slowed slightly and started to doubt whether this was on today. My lack of faith was a little disturbing, as in my head I was calculating the minimum mile splits I needed to hit the goal but I managed to focus on my breathing, moving and keeping the person ahead of me in range (who was a nippy little runner.. probably only in the Sith Grade at school). The second mile ticked over at 6.30 and felt harder and I feared that I had gone off too quick and couldn’t sustain the required pace but I remembered that fear is the path to the dark side, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering. Well I was scared of missing my target and suffering at the moment as this run was hurting. I just needed to hang on and stay on target, STAY ON TARGET.
On the third mile, it was feeling even more difficult. My chest was pounding, my head was thumping, my breathing was more erratic and I sounded like Darth Vader on a bad allergy day whilst suffering from a cardiovascular issue. “Come on, hold together. You hear me, hold it together” I muttered to myself and ran on.
I had been waiting for the end of the second loop and at last we met again and the circle was now complete. My my mind started to drift away as I heard the sound of a wizened old man saying “Use the Force…. use the Force… USE THE FORK, the left FORK!” which denoted the sharp left turn and a long straight towards the finish. “Ah, ok.”
I kept the legs moving still behind the young jet powered pacer and then I spied something at the end. “That’s no moon… it’s the finish line” and I decided to make a break for the end. Unfortunately today was not a day when I could afford to let the rookie win and I managed to move slightly ahead of the young padawan and kicked in the hyperdrive for home… Well I must have had a bad motivator or something as there was no sudden burst of pace just a continuation of the staggering run. I kept glancing at the GPS and calculating the distance, this was close, now I think I’ve got it, ah actually that looks a bit further than I think. I have a bad feeling about this…
Mile 3 beeped on my GPS but there was no use in looking at the GPS now, it was time to head for home. Paul, you’re NOT looking at your GPS computer? What’s wrong? “Nothing, I’m all right”. It was head down and go for the line time.
All I could do was count the steps to ten in my head and repeat as I sprinted for the line to a 19.46 finish and new Personal Best! Phew, great run kid that was one in a million.
I hunched over trying to get some form of control over my breathing, as my head was spinning and chest pounding thinking no reward was worth this but it was job done. Perhaps the force was strong with me today and now its over to you Matt Dunn, 19.10 to beat I believe?
Details of the Jedi Challenge can be found here
Bonus point for guessing the number of Star Wars quotes and references in this piece.