Six weeks ago, I sat down to write a race report on the Salomon Mamores VK. It’s something I’d intended to do ever since I completed the race in September – but, try as I might, it just wasn’t happening. And that got me thinking about why it is that I struggle so much with race reporting.
I struggle to find the discipline required tell the story of a race from beginning to end, without losing interest in my own narrative halfway through and wanting to hit fast forward.
But that’s only one part of the problem. The bigger part has nothing to do with patience and everything to do with what I’ve come to recog nise as ‘imposter syndrome’. According to the Guardian, that’s ‘the feeling that you’re a fraud, and any day now you’ll be exposed’; that you lack the expertise that others around you have – incidentally, it’s particularly common amongst women.
When I think of writing a race report, I struggle to shake off the sense that I’m unqualified to do so.
There’s a self-deprecating voice in my head that says, ‘well, yes, I was there – but I didn’t do very well’. Or, ‘I finished well enough but it was an easy course really’. It’s as though I rate myself somehow as an outsider, with the sense that if you really want to hear what it was like, you’d better ask someone more qualified to comment – somebody who trained better than I did; or who can provide more context than I can – someone whose opinion matters.
I’ve run a few races, for sure; from roads and tracks to high alpine trails, and from 10k to short ultras in some of (in my view) the most iconic locations in France, Scotland and England. Most of them I’ve loved and hated in turns, almost always culminating in that end-of-race big love that makes you want to hug every other runner in the finish chute and sign up for the next one straight away. But I’ve never yet walked away from any of them feeling that I’m well-qualified to write a real report on it.
There’s also the very pragmatic knowledge that I’m temperamentally unsuited to describing anything in detail. Through racing side-by-side for hours on end with my much-more-observant other half, Ryan Scott, I’ve discovered that huge swathes of the drama and action that would make a race report interesting, just pass me by. I may have been there in body, but my mind wanders endlessly and memories are usually so patchy and idiosyncratic that they seem unlikely to be of any practical use to anyone wanting to learn something about the course.
A bit like the aftermath of a dream, what stays with me is a series of vivid images, colours, sensations and emotions; a collection of stand-out moments, interactions, or faces from the crowd.
There’ll be an overwhelming sense of atmosphere or emotion – sometimes camaraderie; sometimes exultation; sometimes even inadequacy – but nothing that adds up to a coherent story of a number of hours spent on a trail. I can only tell you what it meant for me.
With that in mind, I’d like to have another go at sharing something about my experiences this year at the Salomon Mamores VK and the Pentlands Tough 10, but with this disclaimer: these will not be not race reports …