On March 31st last year the National Lottery Olympic Park run took place. Although I had been ‘running’ for a number of years it didn’t even cross my mind to enter it. I had previously done one half marathon, in under 2 hours, and used to go out running 3 or 4 times a week but I didn’t have any real aims except to keep reasonably fit. Was I really a runner then?
Towards the end of last year my thoughtful daughter pointed me towards #stepup and I took the bait, pledging to run a marathon in my 65th year. I now had an aim for my ‘running’. At about the same time I discovered Parkruns and have been an almost ever present at my local one, Riddlesdown, ever since. I entered and ran half marathons in Jerusalem, Marseille, Orpington and have others on my calender. I ran a 10k a few weeks ago in a time I would not have considered possible last year (thanks to my encouraging daughter). And of course I have the Amsterdam marathon waiting for me in October.
Last weekend was the Anniversary 5 mile run in the Olympic Park. When entries were available I was eagerly on line and was successful. I was doing it on my own, there was no pressure but just the thought of running into and finishing on the track that so many inspiring athletes had done last summer was enough.
I could have taken it easy, strolled round and enjoyed the sights. But no, I wanted to run it. And I did. 1178 runners might have been in front of me, but 10,059 were behind me and I was 8th in my 60-64 age category. And Victoria Pendleton did only beat me by less than 2 miniutes
It was after on the way home, after a burger and a couple of pints ciders that I thought to myself; “now I am a runner”.
After playing away at the Cambridge Parkrun on Saturday, and then dashing still sweaty and in running gear to a 10am meeting of mostly aging Physics examiners in the Cambridge Arms Hotel, I decided on the drive home that the exam marking could wait and I would join my daughter in the RunThrough Wimbledon Common 10k next day.
Although I wasn’t expecting to actually run with her, my 10k target, for a distance I have never run in an official race before, was sub 50 min and she has a PB of 41:51. But she insisted she would run with me, and ‘encourage’ me to get as close to my target as possible. It soon became obvious that the race wasn’t just a walk in the park, undulating well describes the course, with over 200m of climbs over the whole course. Cat let me make the pace, and it was steady as we completed the first 5k in 26:01. My wife and elder son were waiting for us at the 6k mark and after their encouragement we picked up the pace and actually touched 16k/h over a short stretch.
The oft expressed view of the benefits having a partner to run with was really proved to me during the last 4k. On a couple of occasions I am certain I would slowed noticeably if it hadn’t been for Cat’s friendly goading. I hadn’t been keeping a careful eye on our time, but looked when the finishing line came into view and was amazed to see we were well inside my target and we finished in 49:06 with a 3 minute negative split and the 2nd 5k in a time only a few seconds outside my Parkrun PB.
And you know you have pushed yourself to the end when you almost wretch when you stop!
Last year I, together with daughter Cat and son-in-law Jon, ran half of the Croydon Ultra (i.e. 15 miles, 24k). The conditions were appalling, with torrential rain meaning we were running through streams along pavements. Certainly 15 miles were enough.
This year we all entered it again. Cat and Jon were going for the full 30 while I was aiming for more than 20 miles, using it as more preparation for my 1st marathon. I did not want to do 42.2k (or more) as I want to save that distance in an official run until the big day in October. The conditions could not have been more different from last year (well of course they could, we could have been running in knee deep snow). It was in the mid-20s C when we started out (early, at 8.30 just to try to miss some of the hottest part of the day) and climbed to at least 30°C during the 2nd half of the course.
The route was two 15 mile loops, starting in Lloyd Park and heading south through well shaded woodland tracks until the first watering point at The White Bear; with plenty of liquids, food , gels and food (never thought I’d be enjoying Nachos in the middle of a run). Then it was back on mainly footpaths to the start/finish. We did manage to miss a couple of turnings (although a lot of the course was marked with arrows on the ground, at one key point it wasn’t…which meant we ended up doing 28k instead of 24k for the first half of the course.
The 2nd half took us up north towards Catford mostly on well signed pavements or cycle tracks. Cat and Jon had quite rightly left me behind, and I decided how far I wanted to go before turning back. My calculations were amazingly precise, and when I ran over the ‘finishing line I kept going for a further 5m until my GPS Kalenji clicked over to 40.00k; that did provide some amusement for the few spectators. So, under conditions that I hope not to experience in Amsterdam, I have achieved a distance which I know will allow me to complete 42.2k, unless anything untoward happens. Have I also proved that footwear isn’t as important as we think it is. For this run I wore an old pair, that I almost discarded 6 months ago and now use just for Parkruns. They have been through the washing machine twice and have real signs of wear. They served me perfectly well on this run, and I also used them for 7 Parkuns, 35k, on the South London longest parkrun 2 weeks earlier.
Cat and Jon arrived soon after, both having successfully completed their first Ultra actually running nearer 33 miles rather than the 30 expected, an amazing achievement for both of them under such extreme conditions.
And we were in time to shower and watch the other amazing achievement of the day with Andy Murray’s win all of the more coincidental as earlier in the year Cat and Jon meet him at Wimbledon the day after the lost in the Australian Open final.
Just last week I was sorting out some old T shirts, and one was an ‘original’ yellow Razorlight, bought in 2004 at the first gig I took my then 14 year old son to (supported by the excellent but massively unrecognized Dogs). Little did I know that a few days later one of the songs we heard that night would come true.
It all started so well. The deluge of the night before, that soaked me on the way to stay with Cat and Jon had cleared. We were in plenty of time to get the train from Paddington to Marlow, with a whole host of other runners, and arrived well before the 10.00am start, despite us and most of the people on the train following the leading group in totally the wrong direction after leaving the station.
Warnings about the route was that it wasn’t one where you such expect a PB. There were a few obstacles to be negotiated, gates, steps over bridge, roads to cross and single file tracks in places. However I decided that as my PB wasn’t particularly outstanding and I had a target for a half marathon time this year, I would go for it. Even more importantly, I had a personal pacer, my daughter Cat, who who reigned in her own 1:30 pace to help me. And she did a brilliant job, slowing me down after the logjam of the first half mile had cleared, but moving in front after 5 miles or so to keep me on the required pace.
It was all going so well until at about 8 miles the specter of Johnny Borrell appeared (only metaphorically). My left foot hit the ground too hard, maybe I had just lost concentration, and the title became true. Right knee, elbow and hand met the ground and I was sprawling. The following runners helped me up, Cat realised what had happened and came back to me. I started running again but it was immediately different and difficult. The fall shouldn’t have had that much effect on me, but it did. I completely lost my rhythm, both physically and mentally. No matter how much Cat tried to encouraging then bully me, it didn’t work. Soon my pace had dropped below what was needed and the psychological effect of that was massive. I let Cat get away from me, and thankfully she went on to run her own race. I made it to the end, still in a respectable time under 2 hours, to be greeted by Cat and Jon. They were sympathetic, and know, as I do, there will be another opportunity soon enough.
We made our way into Windsor, past ‘police do not cross’ tape. At the first of these we could see a knife under the arches and at the second a tent with people in forensic covering. Google quickly told us of a stabbing/murder the evening before. We spent a couple of hours drinking cider in the shade of Windsor Castle, playing an interesting ‘game’ I could look back and imagine what the scene would have been like 50 years ago; of course everything about the scene would have been totally unrecognizable from today. But in another 50 years time, when Cat and Jon could possibility be sitting in the same spot, what really big differences would there be. Would it actually be possible to tell the there was a difference between 2013 and 2063. What you be the really big differences? The run, the Purple Patch Down Tow Up Flow half marathon, could not come more highly recommended.
A really interesting route, incredibly well marshaled and a brilliant medal! Thank you.