I was matching another runner stride for stride.
I doubted I could maintain the current pace.
But I wanted a new personal record and my instinct was to keep up.
I was running in my hometown. The beach and estuary were beside me. The road was lined with loud supporters. Motivation was all around me.
But I could only focus on not slowing, despite my fear of the inevitable. Due to the limited space we weaved between runners that were not keeping pace. My heart rate kept increasing.
I knew my body could manage the hard effort. The possibility of falling back and allowing the other runner to pull away continued to test my concentration.
Then the finish line came into view. I chose to sprint the last metres, my trademark ending.
But I did not feel elated as I often do after a race.
I knew before the starting horn sounded that to get the best out of the race I had to use another runner to pace me. This strategy showed my inexperience and lack of training preparations. I felt I was running close to my maximum and my partner runner offered me a physical reminder of my desire to push my limits.
The race taught me that mental strength and confidence is vital to keep insecurities from negatively affecting performance. The final stretch proved I had more to give. But the loyalty that my partner runner had shown me made me question whether I should have beaten him.
After the race we shook hands. He said he could not have run the race as quick as he did without me. I thanked him for his influence on my race.
The runner was a man over fifty.
He inspired me with his performance. He was proof that, regardless of age, running can bring the best out of everyone. Running a road race is about competition but on this occasion it felt more important that I made a personal connection with another runner.