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I first became aware that some of London’s finest Royal Parks lay host to a half marathon around the same time I started running in 2012. A couple of guys that I indirectly worked with were taking part and people seemed impressed by it so I wanted a piece of that action for myself. I used to fantasise about coming across a fictitious Royal Parks finish line that I had drawn up in my head. The motivation lead me to book my first half marathon, in the not quite as glamorous, town of Eastbourne in early 2013. Little did I know that one day, those fantasies that fuelled my runs back then, would culminate under slightly different circumstances 5 years later.
Fast forward to 2018, a deluge of water had since passed under my metaphorical bridges, my body had been been through the wringer and I was still chasing the PB of 1:27:40 that I set in 2013 in Eastbourne, so when I found out I had secured a ballot place at Royal Parks I knew this was going to be a perfect opportunity to go for it. I spent the summer doing some speed work and when I hit sub-40 at the British 10k in July, I knew my legs were returning to their glory days and that this dream may well come to fruition. Before there was even time to draw a breath, the summer had rolled out the door and October was on our doorstep begging to be let in.
My alarm rang at 6am on the morning of the 14th October, its chimes were redundant as I was already awake, overthinking the days events. I got up, got ready, and did what any self respecting runner would do, diagnosed myself with multiple ailments and loaded my excuses as to why today wouldn’t go to plan, I had the flu, food poisoning, my feet needed amputating, I had sleep deprivation, and also I had forgotten how to run. All in all, pretty standard pre-race antics from my brain.
I arrived in Green Park at a time that is irrelevant to this write up, the sun had barely got out of bed, and it was raining. I joined the march of hundreds of other sleepy runners as we made our way to the starting arena. I decided the theme tune to this race was going to be “This is the One” by the Stone Roses, so I played that, a lot, to get me in the mood for the big occasion. I got in the queue for baggage, and the heavens opened. If there’s one way you want to start a race, it’s getting absolutely soaked trying to remove your trainers in a queue full of people, perfect race prep. I handed my bag in, and then set about getting warm, regretting the day I decided wearing a vest in October was a great idea.
I found my race pen, it wasn’t hard to find, everything was colour coordinated, what I was surprised about is that I was in the very first wave of runners to set off. I did some professional looking warm ups, which i’m sure struck fear into the very core of my fellow runners and I was ready, this was it.
Katie Piper, from the world of mildly famous individuals started the race, she was giving nothing away about her previous evenings eviction from Strictly and I can only commend her for that. The klaxon sounded and we were off. I was feeling fairly good for the first few miles, the race took us out through Green Park, past Trafalgar Square and down to where Theresa May pretends she is running the country from. This was when the heavens decided was a good time to part their doors and chuck everything they had at us, which is strange behaviour considering how nice heaven is supposed to be, anyway, I digress. I didn’t mind the rain, it makes your actions feel more heroic and very cinematic. The intervals were ticking off nicely, I was on pace for a PB, a little faster than I had planned for, but I felt I could stick it out. After 5 miles puddle dodging our way around the city’s paved streets we headed back in the direction of those Royal Parks from which the race was named. I didn’t know it yet, but this was going to be my favourite mile of the race. It’s like a carnival as you enter Hyde Park, the charities are all placed here and luckily they had brought all their top cheerers with them, the noise was incredible. Members of the public lined the paths and it sent a wave of pure joy right down my vertebraes. I’m not sure if it was the come down after such a high, but at just before the 7th mile I could feel myself starting to flag a bit. Seeing loved ones, and members of the Instagram running scene out cheering provided me with short bursts of energy, but I was now starting to wonder if this is where the wheels were going to fall off.
I sipped on an energy gel and had a little word with myself, but nothing could shake the feeling. The course had gone from the euphoric party atomosphere to feeling like a park run. My pace was also starting to drop and I started to think about how this blog post would look if I wasn’t to hit my long awaited goal. The next few miles were just about trying to not let the race get away from me, and to cling on to that dream.
Mile 10 seem to take forever to show it’s face, but when it did it was warmly welcomed. Knowing I had 3 miles remaining did wonders for the mental battle I was having. I ticked it off and placed it nicely on the discard pile. Mile 11 and 12 found me convincing myself I was probably going to die, and then I was there, I was in the final mile.
There isn’t much blog worthy about the first part of the last mile, that is untill I reached the 800 metre marker. 800 meters feels so much further when you’ve been running for 80 odd minutes. I was still at war with the lazy part of my brain which was begging me to quit and walk. Then out of the corner of my eye I spotted a falling leaf, I reached out and grabbed it from of the air. Was it a sign from god? I doubt it, a message from a passed love one? Who knows, but it felt special. Leaf in hand I passed 400 metres, I could see it, the clock at the end, it seemed to be displaying numbers that were suprisingly less than 1 hour 27, I could not believe it. With 50 meters to go I broke into a sprint, I was going to do it. I was flipping going to make it. I was overcome with joy and from deep within me came a big ugly dry cry, it was over, I was home.
A sea of confused faces stared back me, I wanted to tell everyone what had happened, not just the in last 90 minutes, the last 5 years. 2051 days had gone by since I last ran that fast that far. In that time, 3 rounds of chemotherapy had poisoned me, 2 operations have left me scarred and I’ve endured endless blood test and countless scans. I wanted to prove to myself I could come back and be better than before just so I could write these 3 cathartic words...Fuck You Cancer. Life is fragile, Every start line is a gift, we should all be greatful that we are able to do what we do, and that our body allows us to go on these journeys. To be able to push ourselves to places we once dreamed of, is such a privilege, and we should always, always treasure that.
After 6 months of waiting our collective Gregorian calendar has finally rolled in to October, and in the running community it can only mean one thing, it’s time to get upset about being unsuccessful in the ballot. Fear not though, I have compiled a list of 5 alternative ideas to running 26.2 miles through this nations capital.
1. Punch a wall
So for the 15th year in a row you got rejected, have you tried writing London Marathon on a wall and proceeded to repeatly punch it? If the prospect of punching a wall is too much for you try screaming Richard Bransons name into a pillow instead. You’ll feel better in no time
2. Throw scorn at the successful
Look at them, posting their pictures of their magazines. A magazine which indicates they’re going to have to spend the cold winter mornings getting up early and giving up every episode of Sunday Brunch for the first 4 months of 2019. Grr, Really makes your blood boil doesn’t it!
3. Use the magazine in an unsavoury manor.
You don’t want that magazine kicking about the house as a reminder of just how much the random ballot gods dislike you. Maybe try lining a cat litter tray with it! No cat? Never mind, head down to your local sewer and chuck it in there, yeaaaah take that commiserations!
4. Write a passive aggressive blog about it
Use this moment to get some eyes on your vastly neglected blog! haven’t got one? Start one for this very moment. Nothing is more therapeutic than using words to vent your anger and there is no better time than now! Pro tip, spend so long sat on the loo thinking up ideas that your legs go dead, it really simulates that post marathon feeling.
5. Quit running
It’s bad for your knees anyway!
But really, a huge congratulations to all those who were successful. It might be the only marathon I’ve done but London is by far the best I’ve ran. I look forward to shouting your names from the sidelines next April! Enjoy the journey you’re about to embark on.
The British 10k
There’s no doubt about it, in 20 years time we are going to look back at 2018 as an absolute classic of a year. We’ve got political unrest, kids trapped in and rescued from caves, all out lawns have gone brown, and we’ve all got far too excited about England being in a World Cup.
Sunday 15th July was my chance to write myself into the sub 40 10k sporting history books (read : online results pages) at the Virgin Sports British 10k, So called because it’s put on by Virgin Sports, it’s located in Britain and you have to run approximately 10,000 metres to complete it. Genius naming if you ask me. Sub 40 was something I wasn’t sure I could achieve at the beginning of the year, but, coming so close at the Vitality 10k, I knew I had it in me, I just needed to find it.
Like every other race since April, this one was set to be flipping baking. Emails were sent with high importance, prior to the event, to ensure everyone was well hydrated and that they should slow down because of the conditions. So on the morning of the race, I stocked my body up with salty water, showered in factor 50 and headed towards the centre of town for the big jog.
I always enjoy heading to a race, the sense of occasion as you start to see other runners, in their various attires ,all with a square of paper safety pinned to their chests. I avoid all eye contact with fellow competitors so they have no way of working out my race plan and handing it back to me as they fly past me on route. I deposited my kit bag and headed in the general direction of the start with Emma (IG @lunch_and_lycra) with the Westminster100. The Westminster100 are/were 100 female and male runners who were running to mark the anniversary of 100 years of Women’s Suffrage. Photos were taken, announcements were made and, after a gentle warm up, it was time to start the race.
Game faces went on, the klaxon sounded, confetti filled the air and we were off. Despite the initial congestion of the start, mile 1 flew past and, like a poorly diluted Berrocca, I was feeling pretty damn strong. I knew the pace I needed to keep for a sub 40 and I was pretty close to it, this could be the one. We headed up Regent Street to one of the first of 6 turning points. “6!” I hear you cry, “that sounds like the course was designed by someone with a broken Spirograph” and you would be correct in assuming this was the case!
Mile 2 past without incident and, just after that, it won’t shock you to find out Mile 3 appeared. This is when I first started to regret my earlier pace, if only I’d followed the warning advice in that email and been a bit more sensible. The wheels were certainly starting to wobble, my running form started to take the shape of a poorly constructed car at a soapbox derby. There wasn’t much I could do now though apart from survive the following miles.
Fast forward a bit and it seemed to take an age for mile 5 to come round and when it did, it didn’t disappoint. It sucked even more than miles 3 and 4 and contained my least favourite bit of the race. A stroll across Westminster bridge on a nice sunny day sound idilic, but not when you’re running a poorly paced 10k in blistering conditions. It was the 5th time the course turned back on its self and I was less than amused now. This was it, I couldn’t do it, I was going to have to walk, is what the negative side of my brain kept saying. I almost adhered to its evil ways, I was so close to stopping, I was convinced I would have to, but I told myself if I could just finish this mile off I might just finish in under 40 minutes. I didn’t stop I kept going, and I’m so glad I did.
The finish line appeared like a mirage in the distance and the commentators voice became clearer and clearer. I broke into a sprint, so much for needing to walk. I’m always amazed at how much more the body has to give even when the head claims its running empty. I looked up and through my blurry eyes I could see the clock. It read 39 minutes and something. I sprinted even harder, I was going to do it! I let out some kind of roar as I crossed the line, I’m sure I even heard someone laugh at me, but there it was in all its glory, my finishing time 39:33.
I hovered around the medical staff for a bit because I felt shocking, gained my composure, handed Dame Kelly Holmes *CLANK* a bottle of water and headed to collect my medal. What a day, all this energy spent by 10am, it was time to go home and do absolutely nothing for the rest of the day.
I was super pleased to have run a sub-40 10k, it had been a personal goal that I had set myself at the beginning of the year, and to achieve it felt quite special. Times are what keep me motivated as a runner, they're certainly not the be-all and end-all of running, they're what I use to make sure Im constantly improving. We all have our reasons to be out there on race day. After the glory had past, my mind did start to wander, what am I capable of on a colder day? I'm looking forward to finding out.
If I had to provide you with a lists of shoes that really grind my gears, just below top placed crocs you would find flip-flops. As someone with self-diagnosed misophonia, the signature sound of the flipping and the flopping, like a slab of meat being slammed against a cold tiled bathroom floor then slowly being peeled off, goes right through me and makes my blood tepid. Given this, you can imagine my scepticism when I was gifted a pair of Oofos.
These, however, absolutely blew my mind as I tried them on. It was as if someone had taken every negative thought I’d had about this type of footwear, stuck it in a blender, then thrown it straight out of a window into the path of a marching band riding on the back of the worlds largest elephants. My world had changed. The sheer comfort of these is hard to comprehend, having only got a C in GCSE English I don’t think I have the arsenal of superlatives to communicate just how I felt as I slipped my feet into them.
The pair of Oofos I have are the Men’s (probably gender neutral) Ooriginal Sport Limited Edition London 2018s. These are easily identifiable because like the ASICS Gel Nimbus’s I reviewed, they have the word London emblazzened on them closely followed by the number 2018, this is could quite possibly be a year or perhaps a time, I’m thinking it’s probably year because the ‘London Nearly 20 Past 8 Editions’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. The cushion like soles are a lovely black and the bit that makes sure the stay attached to your foot is very inoffensive blue hue. Connecting these two coloured pieces of material is that signature flip flop toe divider. To some this is the stuff of nightmares, I fully understand that, there is no other shoe that feels it necessary to unnaturally wedge objects inbetween your toes. If you’re one of these people Oofos do have a range of sliders which would probably better suit your tastes.
After wearing the Oofos round my flat for a while, a process which made me fall a little bit in love with their comfort, I decided to take them for a spin down Waitrose where people looked down on me like I’d emptied their trolleys and jumped on their shopping. I wasn’t deterred though and this test run confirmed that these were going straight in my London Marathon kit bag!
Post marathon my feet were pretty weary after trudging round the capital of our country for 3.45 hours so when I got my kit bag back from the collection point I could not wait to take my shoes off. My mild plantar fasciitis was a little tender so slipping these on felt like a dream as my aching arches were cradled by them. The cooling breeze swhirled around my toes, a moment of pure post marathon ecstasy. I kept them on for the full duration of my journey as I slowly waddled home.
In the short period I’ve spend with these shoes I feel like our reltionshop is really starting to blossom. My compilation of footwear has really welcomed them with open arms. The continued love and support they provide is really helping my feet to stay less mad with me post runs, so much so I’ve almost forgiven them for being flip flops.