After last time’s horrendous 20 miles, I spent a week in recovery, hiding under my bed and staring blankly at a scratch on my chest of drawers. Or at least I may as well have. We’re now in tapering mode, and everyone in my Facebook group has gone mad.
Allegedly, tapering is what you do to relax and restore your muscles to gleaming health in time for Stupid Run Race Day. Really, what happens is everyone starts FREAKING THE FUCK OUT.
- Phantom injuries
- “Will…will my legs stop knowing how to run?”
- Utter mortification at “only having done one 18-miler” in training.
- Guilt and repentance
- More guilt, coupled with self-loathing
- EATING ALL THE THINGS, followed by guilt
- Guilt/self-loathing at how much is being consumed despite the fact you’re running less
- Fear about race day: falling over, nerves, being the last one to finish
- Wasting away before you even get there
- Panic that your clothes will fall apart
Facebook is a total diva’s dressing room. Luckily, that Facebook group is also my Barometer of What Is Normal, so every time I go on there to ask a question like, oh I don’t know: “Why am I going to McDonald’s before dinner and when did I become a rampant hellbeast, oh God, don’t look at me, why are you looking at me?” chances are it will have been answered about five minutes before.
I had grand plans for tapering – gentle runs home, lovely baths, intensive running book reading – which all went to pot when I decided that I actually wanted to do the
Old Deer Parks Richmond half-marathon properly. This was Olly’s first half-marathon, and the first leg of my Stupid Run for Mind. I did not want to bugger it up by taking hours to run it as I did at the Marrowthon, so I just did one run home during the week, and otherwise let my legs knit themselves back into shape after the 20 miles.
I don’t think either of us expected to be nervous. Unfortunately we were somewhere on the spectrum between exam you haven’t studied enough for, and results of said exam. The platform at Clapham Junction looked like a terrible flashmob from Sweatshop, with endless lithe Swedish-looking types in warm-up gear.
We grabbed a coffee in Richmond, and wandered over to the park fretting about our legs falling off and everything else you worry about when you’re going to be running in public with other people. It was a vile morning: cool, grey and a bit drizzly, but the actual startline was well-organised with plenty of loos to panic in, and security on the bag store. That sounded very old. Oh screw it, I’m 31, I don’t want a disco, I just want somewhere my change of clothes won’t get robbed.
And then the run itself. For the first couple of miles we were bottlenecked by pavements, cars and traffic, and incredibly irritating girls who insisted on running right behind me and getting their feet under mine OH MY HEAVENS, STOP IT WE MIGHT DIE HERE. We ran beside rivers, along roads and past lovely places like Ham House where I swear I heard my mother’s voice floating past me saying “And this is where we used to take you and Nick when you were five.” At one gorgeous point running by the river, supporters appeared out of nowhere, and there were little children to high five, and people to grin at.
At seven miles I ran out of Graham Norton to listen to and switched to the Empire podcast, where I had the lovely surprise of Olly both being several miles ahead of me, and on the podcast. At nine miles, there were children whose parents had roped them into picking up water cups.
“Thank you!” I said to one, grinning my maniacal “smiling at people!” smile.
“‘You’re welcome,” said a boy, who immediately shouted like a professional, “Come on, pick it up, only three miles to go, you can do it!”
Sadly the boy was off by half a mile, but eventually, after high-fiving more children, I got to the last mile, which is always a bloody nightmare as by then you have no idea how far any distance is, and signs saying 400 metres may as well read SEVEN LEAGUES AND TEN.
I sprinted up to the finish line, and was so incapable of breathing properly, and so full of my traditional end of race confusion and panic, and SO ENRAGED by the fact that all there was to eat was bloody bananas that I burst into tears. And that was how I met Olly, and his friend Amy, at the finish line – with an upside down clown face.
Helen and H came to join us for lunch afterwards, but the weather was so rubbish that we sacked off our civilised plan to walk to Petersham Nurseries and went to Strada instead. Best decision we’ve made yet.
And if you’re interested, as you should be, Olly absolutely nailed his half.