A few months ago I embarked upon a little challenge, I signed up for a 10km run for The British Heart Foundation around the formidable Tower of London, to raise money in memory of my Uncle. Having been deemed a ‘runner’ at school, something my Uncle found most amusing considering I was not the slightest of builds, I found myself clambering up the Malvern Hills at speed, covered head to toe in mud, exclaiming that once I left school competitive running was behind me. I clearly underestimated my competitive streak at that moment in time.
As I began my training for the 10km race, I did some research into what was a ‘relatively good’ time for an average girl of my age, the time came out at around the 40mins mark – I balked, I was running 10km in around 49mins. The competitive streak resurrected its ugly self, I had a point to prove to my Uncle and with two months to go I calculated that that was ample time to get my 10km down to 40mins. Every week I pushed myself faster and over greater distances until lying in bed one morning a month before the race, my ankle was burning with pain – stress fractures in my ankle and tibia. The competitive streak was fuming.
We still decided to go ahead with me wearing a chronograph to time the race whether I hobbled my way around or whether I found my inner-wannabe Mo Farah. I decided to go with a piece that encapsulated endurance and hardship. The choice, Bell & Ross Desert Type Chronograph, a watch which represented Bell & Ross’s true military aviation roots, whilst being ideal to run in due to being easily readable and having a fabric strap.
With race day upon us, no pain in the ankle and the watch having safely landed on UK soil, it looked as though I was all set. How optimistic of me! The Desert Chronograph disappointingly never made it past UK customs. Nevertheless, we called in reinforcements, and the stunning Bell & Ross BR126 was on my desk at 14:00 ready for departure at 15:00. The BR126, although beautiful, felt rather bulky and cumbersome on my wrist at first, and I was dreading the thought of what state the leather strap would be in by the end of the race on my sweaty skin.
Standing at the start of the race in the sunken moat of the Tower of London with crowds of cheers encircling us from above, I felt rather out of place compared to my fellow runners. Digital countdown ahead, iPhones in every hand, earphones in, running apps poised to go, and myself – no earphones, no phone, just me and my wrist, with my finger hovering over the pusher to activate the chronograph function of the BR126. The competitive streak shaking at the ready, the bell rings and ‘click’, I compress the pusher, the gruelling experience begins. After 3km I check the watch and somewhere through my blurred running vision I see the chronograph dial, an airplane arrow, hovering somewhere over 12mins which indicated that I had definitely set off at quite a pace for myself, one which I was never going to keep up for 10km. I cooled off the pace into a steady rhythm until the beginning of kilometre 7. I took a more precise look at the watch to gauge myself and the airplane was pointing at 25mins, I could not believe it, 15mins to complete the last 3km and get home in a total of 40mins, my original target time was more than doable!
I upped the pace little by little each kilometre, checking the watch every lap to ensure I was keeping up with my target, until the final 50 metres around the turn to the finish line. There was no chance to check the watch at that stage, I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, with my finger again poised over the pusher to stop the chronograph function as I came over the line. As I staggered past, snatching the first water bottles within reach, I regained my balance and glanced at my wrist, the airplane was motionless, bang on 39 minutes. I am not sure whether sheer joy overcame me or whether it was disbelief, not only had I managed to reach the target time I was hoping at full fitness, I had finished it in an even faster time. Who was laughing now Uncle Charles?
No technology, no app telling me to ‘keep up the great work’, no music. Through it all, the coolness of the steal casing, the bulkiness that turned out to be as light as a feather and the leather strap that was the only part of me that didn’t feel drowned in sweat and sticking to my person, the BR126 was the perfect companion. I looked at it and everything that people say to you about the relationship you have with your watch was right, that race was to be a treasured memory. It may not have been the Desert Chronograph but I didn’t want to take the BR126 off and I point blank refused to reset the chronograph function, gazing at the airplane on 39 mins for the rest of the evening. I relished in it whilst I could until the following day when I proudly displayed my time to the Revolution team and a fellow member broke my heart somewhat when I handed him the watch. With a smile and a pat on the shoulder to tell me well done, ‘click’ he reset the chronograph function to zero.