As forecast, Sunday turned out to be a very warm day. At the Red ‘Good for Age’ start there was no need for pre-run bin bags as the sun was rising in a cloudless sky above us. Having assumed I would be alone to sink or swim, I was bemused to spot a certain Mr Upson chatting away in the same waiting area…apparently having just decided to plod around the course after all following his lurgy induced lay-off from running.
The hooter sounded and we were off. Even with the mass start pressing from behind, the run off felt quite cooperative and calm, if a little fast. The first few miles of the course meandered through leafly residential streets, already lined with spectators. With each mile the crowds became deeper and more noisy, with music punching out from loud speakers and kids lurching for high fives.
The rhythm was rapid but comfortable and my head was in a good place, in spite of the nagging awareness of thirst from the get-go and a slight stiffness in my quads. Fortunately, with water stations at each mile, and Lucozade stations peppered throughout the course, it was possible to quench the thirst…and I found myself reaching for bottles at each mile.
After a sharp turn we were on Tower Bridge, the steady incline ignored in the face of the thick shouting crowds on both sides. I squeezed in behind two tall, lanky Spaniards who were having a great time waving their arms to the spectators to raise roars of noise. I couldn’t help but smile.
Mile 13, half way, I spotted my sister…another wee boost. Then was suddenly aware of a sharp pain around my knee. What the XXXX? Quickly, my mind distintegrated into various catastrophic explanations and fantasies. I had to work hard to keep going, the pain intensified with each turn, the sun was by now beating down and there was no shade from it. I took a gel. Revolting. I took some water. I kept going. This was the bad patch. The noise was oppressive, my thirst insatiable, my feet occasionally stumbled. I spotted another friend. I tried to smile.
Mile 20, count down begins. I visualised my 10K Kelvin/Canal loop. I’ll be finished within an hour. I couldn’t calculate the times, did I acutally pass mile 19 or not? Dig in. More water.
The embankment, now strewn with bodies writhing with cramp or slumped in exhaustion. The road was wider, so the encouragement more managable. I wore my name on my vest; the shouts were personal but I could no longer lift my head to respond. Just keep churning it out. This is what you’re good at. I passed many. I passed one of the lanky Spaniards. I waved for a cheer from the British Red Cross stand. I spotted my sister. One ickle pickle mile to go. I’d done it. One more corner. How fantastic. Sprint(ly) finish- I overtook a few anyway.
It’s amazing that the moment you stop running, your body appears to break down and even the walk up to get the chip taken off feels impossible. Then there’s moments of confusion – to vomit, collapse or drink? Words don’t come out but there’s a cracking sense of relief and empathy with all the flopped bodies around.
Well done to Chris (3 hours 4 minutes) and Graham (3 hours and 9 minutes) on both whooping my ass (3 hours and 12 minutes)…and especially to Chris for running after his lengthy period of illness.
I’d like to thank everyone in the club for the messages of support and for your generous sponsorship. They certainly made it harder to drop out.