Ordinarily I subscribe to the Greta Garbo school of running, but the last three weeks have been very weird and sociable. Not the running club – for an assortment of reasons (“I’ve got a screening” “It’s a bit cold” “I’ll go when I’ve got better” “There’s a – a thing, somewhere”) I never did go back and now choir’s started up again so my Tuesdays are done for.
A couple of weeks ago my friend Sara, of Life Death Top Tips fame, asked if I wanted to go on a long run as she’d got massively bored of trolling round the streets of Streatham on her own. We roped in another Domestic Sluttery friend, Frances, and headed off in the direction of Vauxhall and Chelsea. As is evident, I have yet to master taking a picture while running without getting your fingers all over it.
The last time I did anything with those two was an incredibly drizzly Race For Life round St Paul’s which they polished off in about 25 minutes while I huffed around wondering why rain has to happen on a weekend. This time I managed a whole mile and a half of chat before retreating into my headphones while they carried on chatting FOR THE NEXT NINE MILES.
Despite this demonstration of utter fitness witchcraft, we all had a lovely time and Sara had brought some special sports jelly beans (exactly the same as usual ones but with added sport) which she kept in a sneaky ninja kit bag thing on her right shoe. Afterwards we did a cool down in the park next to my house, which was remarkably similar to getting a coffee and lying on the grass on our backs going “Coo, look at the sky, there’s not a cloud to be seen,” before going to the flat for showers and an enormous feast of pasta, bread and lime cordial.
Much less chatty but no less sociable was the London Zoo Stampede, a 10k which took in a bit of the zoo and then three laps of Regents Park. I went with Helen and Olly, because apparently that’s a thing you do with friends when you’re over 30 and have absolutely no interest in raving. Just like at the Olympics run, Olly was convinced that he is actually Team GB, rather than just wearing a sweatshirt. Helen was practically a brand ambassador for Sweaty Betty and sailed round her first 10k. And I tried my new running jacket and managed to get the worst photographer in the world to take a picture of us on my phone.
Compared to the chaos of the British 10k everything was so well-organised. There weren’t any queues, and most importantly we got free entry to the zoo afterwards and I got to add another souvenir penny to my wallet. Except me, I was not organised. Despite having kept my race numbers and tag in the same drawer for two months I’d managed to lose them – no problem, the Zoo got me more.
The run was just perfect. Perfect because the minute we crossed the start line we all split up and went along at our own pace without having to work out how to make your mouth smile when you are concentrating on putting one leg in front of the other. And perfect because afterwards we got to have a lovely walk round the zoo while eating our goodie bags (Helen had to put her crisps away at one point because the monkeys had already nicked a packet off another runner and eaten them all), ooh and aah at Butterfly Paradise, get a good Camden coffee, a free smoothie from the insanity emporium that is Whole Foods, and then go to Byron for lunch.
I started the year thinking that running was basically something I would do on my own with support from Katy Perry albums. It’s been such a joy to go and do these things with my friends. At least, once the pain of the last kilometer, which is always the worst bloody kilometer in the entire world, is done and the extensive eating of foods can begin.
I hadn’t done a race since July, and I finally get why doing long and short runs during half-marathon training is A Thing; it’s not just to torture you, allegedly. This time round, I overtook people. I could keep up with people in lycra! And I actually ran, instead of just jogging in case I ran out of energy half-way round. My average pace was higher than I’d ever done it before and I managed the whole thing in under an hour, which was what I’d idly hoped for, but not really expected. Obviously, the minute I’d passed the finish line and saw everyone else merrily stretching and clutching their medals, I got all teary and had to surreptitiously wipe my face on my t-shirt, but given that pretty much anything vaguely inspiring makes me go salty, that’s hardly a surprise.
I felt jolly proud of us. We rocked. And bloody hell, the pickles at Byron are outstanding.
Time til The Bloody Great Run: 20 days. You can sponsor me here if you like.