Rollercoaster Running Week

Last week I reported on my exertions at the Eton Manor 5K where the only positives were that a) I finished and b) the lovely running club that organised the race gave me a very tempting bottle of specially brewed beer as part of an unexpected finishers’ goody bag.

The only negative feedback I’d have given the race organisers was that it took something like 4 days to publish the results. However, when I finally discovered my time I wondered if they’d just felt a little awkward, wondering how to break it to me. For last Sunday it turns out that I did my slowest 5K. Ever. 2 seconds slower than the time I’d hurtled off around London’s Hyde Park in 2009, trying to keep up with the speedy boys and girls and nearly being put off running races for the rest of my life.

Last week there were mitigating circumstances. It was bloody hot and although I have recently been running 2-3 times a week, I’d been doing too many “junk miles” rather than following a plan.

So lesson learnt, I decided I should find a nice couple of 10Ks for late summer and follow a proper plan to return to the world of half marathons in the Autumn. There was just the small matter of the Olympic Park Anniversary Run the following Sunday I’d spent a huge sum of money signing up for several months earlier.

I felt even less prepared for this one – a haphazard 5 mile slow run on the Friday before with lots of hills, lots of water (and a cheeky glass of wine the night before), couscous instead of the usual pasta. I also had the new experience of running in the same race as Mrs Run Don’t Run, although fortunately she was in a different wave to me so there would be no need for mid-race Relate counselling should one of us have succeeded in pulling away to victory.

There are already lots of good accounts of this huge event by people who are better at quickly getting their thoughts together and published than I am. The consensus was that the course was a little underwhelming. A year after the London Olympics, there’s still a lot of clearing up and landscaping to do and I suspect we were routed through the parts of the Park where they still had the most work outstanding. There were complaints about overcrowded sections although I was never made to feel hemmed in. My main beef was the number of people who seemed to have signed up as an opportunity to take photos of their mates around the Olympic Park, not worrying about hindering the efforts of people like myself who thought they might have been issued with chip-timing for a reason.

Getting in touch with my Inner Usain

Getting in touch with my Inner Usain

As with last year’s run, whatever we felt about the first four miles was eclipsed as we were guided into a tunnel that hugged the edge of the stadium and were “treated” once again to the theme music from Chariots of Fire. A sudden turn to the right and suddenly we were in the stadium where all those unforgettable events had taken place just a year earlier. Most runners saw this as an opportunity to up their game in front of the few thousand spectators and regardless of how little was left in the tank managed to affect a sprint finish, particularly after they’d spotted the “100 metres to go” sign. That was apart from the couple who saw this as the perfect opportunity to stop and take a photo of themselves causing myself and a few other wannabe Usains to swerve to a halt and have to start their final effort from a sudden standstill.

So why was it a rollercoaster week? Well, not only did I run my slowest ever 5K, I also ran my fastest ever 5 miles, 10 seconds faster than my time in the Olympic Park in 2012, when I was in the middle of some diligent marathon preparation and when it was 10°C cooler. I clearly did something right between the 14th and 21st of July 2013, I just wish I knew what it was…

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Vicarious Runs #3 Olympic Park Run 31st March 2012

imageThe only time I ever won anything through the National Lottery was when my place came through for this pre London 2012 taster event. No dramatic quitting of job for me, no relocation to Tuscany, no “How I blew millions on unnecessary new running shoes” stories in the national press. This lottery win had no cash prize and was shared with 4999 other runners who all got an early chance to run around the Olympic Park in London’s Stratford, 3 miles away from my home.

It was the first time I’d received a commemorative t-shirt before completing a race, a nice red technical one since you’re asking. This was part of the organisers’ plot to make a big visual statement on the day – 5000 people all dressed in red, snaking around the 5 mile course. This led to a great feeling of being part of a temporary community, at an EVENT.

The majority of this race was a bit of a blur, not because of any zippy pace on my part at a distance I’d never sampled before. There was such a lot to see and hear – the jog around the Velodrome sticks in the mind and a different musical genre at every bend: samba, Bhangra, brass bands.

imageThe stand out moment was when we reached the stadium and were marshalled into a tunnel where for 100 metres or so we were bombarded with the music from Chariots of Fire before emerging into daylight to do three quarters of a lap of the athletics track. This provided me with an opportunity to put on a bit of a burst of “speed”. Here you can see the mixed grimace of determination and pain as I participated in a fascinating duel with Formula 1 commentator Natalie Pinkham (I had to Google her when I saw I’d been photographed next to someone with a “celeb” race number – usually she’s snapped alongside slightly more famous men…).

Cheered on by what will probably be the biggest ever crowd to see me finish a race, I crossed the line some 4 months earlier than Usain, Mo and Jessica.