So this basically sums up how I felt about doing Royal Parks on Sunday.
This was at 12 miles at the Mind cheering point when I was high fiving everything that moved. It was an AMAZING day. Amazing. I realise that saying “amazing” and “running 13.1 miles” together requires a complete absence of logic, but I was just so thrilled during the run that I didn’t really notice. I ran the whole distance, all the time, except for three seconds when I stopped at Lancaster Gate to take a picture of a woman holding a sign which made me scream with laughter.
I really thought the run was going to be terrible. On Tuesday I woke up with a fever, aching like a creaky chair and with the “Signs you know if you have influenza” poster on the wall of my nervously H&S-aware office winking at me when I crawled in. This was utterly rubbish timing, although – bright side – I hit my fundraising target the same morning, so hey-ho.
Obviously I reacted to my ailment in a calm and reasoned manner.
Oh wait, I mean of course I bloody didn’t. Perhaps in a parallel universe where I am not me. What I actually did was send a panicky email entitled “Noooooooo” to my friends, ask the (brilliant) Mind running group for advice, go to Waitrose and spend THIRTEEN BLOODY QUID on a bottle of Echinacea drops and then start solemnly mainlining that along with ibuprofen and Tropicana chasers.
I didn’t do either of my three-mile Tuesday and Thursday runs, and generally felt awful. On Saturday, I went for a 15 minute joglet first thing and felt even more worried. What if I forgot how to run? What if people laughed at me? What if my legs fell off like when you try and put a Barbie in a birthday cake for a small child?
At one point these slipped so much they spelled out Ian
It was possible that I was worrying about nothing, so instead I spent a gorgeous day eating lovely food and drinking wine in good company, and then carbing up in the evening and pinning on my letters because I don’t own an iron and hadn’t got around to borrowing one. I’d also forgotten to get a Fudge bar to eat mid-race – nutritionally sound, that’s me – so I ended up packing some chocolate truffles I had left over from a lunch party into a Minstrels packet and stuffing them in my pocket along with my ibuprofen.
The morning of the race was utterly stunning. The blue and white sky over Camberwell looked just like my running vest, only with fewer poorly-applied safety pins. It was also extraordinarily early. Nobody should be drinking coffee and eating scrambled eggs on toast at half past six on a Sunday.
Hyde Park was glowing and gorgeous, filled with the promise of a sunny day to come. This was helpful as I’d completely failed to find the hoodie I’d got with the National Geographic subscription I’d bought for my brother last Christmas, and had no choice but to go to the start in my vest and shorts.
The area with all the charity tents reminded me enormously of Reading festival. The vomiting people with spacey gazes would come after the race. The massive queues for the loos started almost immediately. Just like sixth form!
Mind had laid on a magnificent second breakfast spread, but unfortunately had put so many bananas in my way that it was all I could do to weave around the sides and eat some Skittles before sitting down and reading a freebie copy of the Telegraph (God I love Stella) until it stopped being so cold, and I could dump my bag and head off to the start line.
(Enormous bonus from the Telegraph: a catalogue. I adore a catalogue. )
I usually find group warm-ups a bit weird when you’ve got butterflies, but Royal Parks’ was brisk, sensible and fun, and distracted me from my sense of “Oh my God, WHAT am I doing here.”
And there were lots of teams and happy people to make me smile, so that was fine.
Anyway, we all set off at about half nine, and after a mile spent in a phalanx with a Pikachu and the 2h30 pacer, I felt my nerves calm down a bit, and headed off at my own pace. AMAZING views. Brilliant things to pass.
This was at about mile two, when I was still thinking this was a really strange things to be doing on a Sunday. We headed off down the Embankment, and at miles three and four we started getting cheers and waves from the crowd which was lovely. I took a bottle of water and hung onto it for the next five miles. When we went into the Mall, there were LOADS of people, and I got really carried away and jumped into the air doing a stupid pose for one of the photographers, because someone else did it and I was so overexcited I couldn’t not.
The cheering started in earnest then, and soon I was swept up enough to get confused and start cheering back. At one point I screamed “I LOVE YOUR COAT” at a lady on a bicycle. To be fair, it was a really great coat.
What was so lovely is that people shout your name, which is enormously confusing at first until you remember that’s why you’ve got it on the front of your shirt. At six miles, I took candy from a baby, or rather a jelly baby from a small girl holding a plate. I hope she was offering them or that really is quite awkward. At seven, when there weren’t any crowds, I got a bit bored. At eight, I had a Monty Bojangles truffle and perked up a bit, and then oh my GOD the interminable slide between eight to ten. Those miles went on for at least six, not helped by the fact that we saw the sign for 10 just after we’d done seven which got our hopes up a lot.
But oh, those wonderful people cheering. It really made you feel great, not in a “Hey, dude, total champ” way but just in a way that people getting massively overexcited does. I had another truffle at 10 miles.
It wasn’t particularly hot, but I passed quite a few people being treated by St John’s, or stretching out at the side of the road, or indeed in wheelchairs or actual stretchers. By mile 12, loads of people were walking and in the final 500m before the finish line, someone was having CPR, so I hope to God that everyone ended up alright.
The last two miles I’d had enough. My right shoe felt too small, everyone at 11 miles at shouted “ONE MILE TO GO” which turned out to be an enormous lie, and so by the time I got over the finish line in 2h21m17s I was far too busy thinking “Literally what was I thinking about applying for a marathon, that was a really long way” to do my usual bursting into tears.
I think, maybe, another reason for not getting all emosh, other than the fact I think I’d sweated all the liquids out of my body, is because finishing Royal Parks marks the end of all my running goals for the year. All I wanted to do was to do this, to prove that I could, before winter comes along and spoils everything. And now I don’t think I want that at all – I want to do more, preferably with friends this time because while running on your own is great and the best, going home afterwards is a stonking anti climax.
But I finished it, I did it, and I am utterly thrilled. At the start of the year I thought doing 6k was an unfeasible ask. I achieved something I never, ever thought I could. I can’t remember the last time I did that.
FUCK YEAH, RUNNING! And fuck yeah Alexandra Heminsley and your totally inspiring book!
This isn’t a nice filter, but rather the sweat from my having carried my phone all the way round. Mmm, delicious.
I am totally converted to sweatbands.