This year, I put my name in the hat for a few events, and two of them have been successful (so far). Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be allowed to run in the National Lottery Anniversary Run, finishing on the track in the Olympic stadium.
The joy of getting a ballot entry quickly turned to a gasp of “how much is this going to cost me” when I realised that it wasn’t going to be done in a day (Megabus on race day can work, but not recommended). We scaled down our plans, and only half the family made it to London, sight-seeing on the Saturday, running on Sunday.
With all of the local Hotels booked up, or costing a fortune, I turned to alternative means. Whilst I’d had an offer from the “Pink Lady” to sleep on her floor, I found a neat Website called AirBnB (www.airbnb.com) instead AirBnB allows people to rent out their spare rooms or houses. You put in your criteria, check out the photo of your potential host and read the reviews, then drop them a line waiting for a response. Bit like a dating website... I would imagine. Anyway, Natalie and Ben were very hospitable, and we had a happy one night stay with them.
On to the race. Every runner was provided with a blue “technical” T-Shirt to run in. I read the race instructions carefully – “you MUST wear your number to enter the Olympic Park, Please wear your blue shirt – imagine what a wonderful site to see all of the people running in together”. That’s it then, I’ll happily run with the sheep, but not as a sheep. The “Maroon and White” was to be flying high, with blue shirt in the bag in case of emergency (ie wear it or don’t run). In the end, 90% of people ran in blue – baaa!
Toeing the line were Paula Radcliffe and Victoria Pendleton, together with that well-respected athlete “Mel C” (who, incidentally has guns to give Richard Whitehead a run for his money). Sir Chris Hoy started the race and provided one of the early highlights, as people started running, then stopped in front of Sir Chris to take his photo or get an autograph or have their photo taken with him! This was all shown on a huge screen in front of the starting pens, as well as being relayed to a screen in the Olympic Stadium. Knowing that my lads were going to be watching, I seized the moment – I waited until almost all of my wave had gone before starting. As we moved forward, ever closer to the start line, I took a look behind me to see the next wave moving forward 10 feet each time, in a scene reminiscent of “Shaun of the Dead”). My time came, and I gave myself some space before running “like a madman” over the start time. This was a quote from the boys –they had just put the camera away, and there I was – creating a stadium cheer before I got anywhere near!
As for the race, Random’s not the word – more Bizarre. Truly the best run through a building site that I’d ever done. Started on gravel, then sand, then mud, followed by tarmac. There were “out and back”s aplenty to ensure that they could get five miles out of the derelict Olympic Village. A bit like the Scooby Doo fairground, everything was a shadow of last year’s glory. The course map (pictured below) resembled a small intestine. No spectators were allowed on the course, so we were simply “observed” by builders wearing hard-hats. They didn’t seem too interested in me, which was probably a good thing.
The course was, as expected, not built for PBs. Plenty of runners running side-by-side, taking up the whole of the available space. Runners stopping to take photos, even filming themselves as they ran along. This was quite bizarre, though one of the videos on YouTube is astonishingly good quality. At about half-way point, there was a giant “garden centre” style watering gantry - eight foot wide and fifteen foot long, with effective hoses providing a refreshing cool-down. Maybe this was the reason that the shirts were blue! White would have been more popular with the builders.
The official photographers were out in force, and unfortunately I chose to raise my arms for each one, making it look less like I ran and more like I was on the front row of a boy-band concert. I’m still deciding whether to invest the £27 to buy the pics, I’ll get back to you on that one.
The course was littered with music, “band on the run” it said on the map. Luckilly, Paul McCartney hadn’t been wheeled out again after last year’s performance – he was replaced by a few steel bands. The other musical accompaniments were a completely forgettable “Powersong” (don’t ask me what it was), and then “Chariots of Fire” just as we went into the Stadium.
A tantalising glimpse of the track appeared just before we descended underneath into the tunnel. Coming out of that tunnel, onto the track was amazing. The sun was shining, the crowd were shouting, and a chap was proposing to his girlfriend (which was shown on the big screen instead of the Lliswerry vest). I spent the first 100m waving up to where I thought the boys were sat (only to learn later that they had moved elsewhere to get a better view). The 200m mark came all too quickly and it felt time to sprint – I picked off my targets and bolted for the line – remembering to take it all in, enjoy the experience oh, and raise my arms for that all important finish line photo. Just over the line, Paula Radcliffe was being interviewed – I was stuck with how attractive she looked. I tried my best to catch her attention, but I failed.
All in all, a great time was had by all. If I could have done anything different, what would I have done?
- Asked more than one person to take my photo during the run and post it on the Lliswerry Facebook page (before running backwards to ensure that they took a good shot and spelt it correctly)
- Told the boys that I’d be holding back for the end of the wave for a start-line photo
- Stopped to phoned the boys just before entering the tunnel to say “get the camera ready”
- Checked the giant screen inside the stadium to ensure that I’d be on it
- Stopped and lined up at the 100m point to sprint like Bolt
- Shouted “love you Paula” when walking past after the line, probably getting into footage for “It’ll be alright on the night 37”. My grandchildren would have been so proud of me!
This type of race is pretty rare... thank goodness!
Many thanks again to the “Marathon Talk” podcast for making me aware of this race.