I was in the lead.
The cyclist pacing the race was my only focus.
My friend called “Come on, David.” This spurred me on.
I could hear runners’ steps and breathing.
I was running hard.
But I could not prevent myself from slowing. Two younger runners passed me then another older one two miles later. I watched them increase the gap until I could not see them. I was not able to respond with a surge.
I soon heard noises behind me. I checked for fifth place but he was some distance away. I had to navigate the route alone, with some signage absent or unclear.
I counteracted these race developments by steadying my pace and thinking of a new personal record. But the undulating course continued to sap the strength from my legs and I was forced to concentrate on maintaining my position. I pushed through the pain and hoped that one of the front runners would falter so I could overtake them.
This never happened.
Near the end I passed the winner walking home. He clapped and I raise a thumb to him.
I sprinted the last metres in the park to the end.
I finished in fourth position, one minute and twenty seconds behind my previous best.
As I sat on the grass watching other runners cross the line, third place greeted me and shook my hand. He said I was a strong runner. Fifth place did the same, but added that he was convinced he would overtake me. He never came close.
The problem is that I intended to win the 2016 Maldon Half Marathon.
This was based on my belief that the distance had produced my best performances and my ambition to win my first race as an adult.
I led for the first 0.7 miles (5.3% of the race). I had never led a road race before and it showed. I could not maintain the required speed.
It was my highest placed position in a road race. I will never forget the euphoria of leading, however short it was. More useful is that I tackled a challenging course and still performed respectably.
I remained competitive throughout the race despite harbouring a blocked nose and recovering from a sore throat. I also overcame a significant stitch during periods of the race.
The fact remains that I failed to achieve what I set out to do: to win a trophy by coming in the top three and achieve a new personal record. However, it was not through a lack of desire.
Instead I was ill-prepared for a race I had underestimated.