Way back at the end of 2011 I entered a ballot for a race that billed itself as being a 'once in a lifetime event,' and was fortunate enough to get a place in the the The National Lottery Olympic Park Run. The experience of running around the emerging Olympic Park with 5,500 other runners was amazing. It did resemble a building site in some areas, but it was a hustling, bustling building site that was full of promise.
A few months ago I got an email or saw a Facebook status (I can't remember which!) that advertised the National Lottery Anniversary Olympic Park Run. A similar run, 5 miles, finishing in the stadium, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of the 2012 Olympic Games. This time it wasn't a ballot for places, this time there were 10,000 places up for grabs on a first come first served basis with a price tag of £27 (compared to last year's entry price of £15). That's quite a lot for a 5 mile race, but the experience from last March was so amazing that I signed up and got Husbando to sign up too - he'd not managed to get a ballot place last year.
We travelled up on the train, when we boarded at Woking we joined a throng of runners that I know and a party atmosphere ensued!
This year, of course, we knew what the stadium would be like, there wasn't the novelty factor that we had experienced last time when we first walked into the stadium. We had 'been there, done that and bought several souvenir t-shirts' over the course of several visits to the Olympics ask Paralympics. It was a shock to see how much has been dismantled as we walked to the stadium. The airport style x-ray security machines were gone and, despite dire warnings to arrive 2 hours before the start of the race, we got through security pretty quickly. The stadium itself was as imposing as ever, the aquatics centre was still there, but with loads of scaffolding, the Orbit was in place but with a huge pile of rubble in front of it. The boys were most disappointed to dissever that the MacDonalds had vanished!
We settled the boys in their seats and Husando and I made our way to the start. After a week or two of really hot weather it was overcast this morning. We waited at the start area, half heartedly took part, along with 12,500 other runners (2,500 extra places had been released as a ballot) in a mass warm up, and after a short delay Sir Chris Hoy sounded the claxon and there first wave set out. We were in the second wave, so we had to wait a little longer - watching the big screen to see if we could spot people we knew! We saw several people stop just after the start, mobile 'phones at the ready to grab a photo of themselves with Sir Chris!
Soon it was our turn to cross the line. I was raring to go. The early stages of the route were very narrow with lots of twists and turns, so there was little chance to get into a good pace. We ran on every kind of surface: tarmac, grass, sand, gravel! There were lots of runners wearing headphones who seemed to have absolutely no awareness of what was going on around them. As soon as we started to run we realised that it was actually still rather warm!
It was an odd run. Constantly looking for space to run into, wondering where Husbando was - we were running together, but it was hard to keep track of him as most people were wearing their blue t-shirts, keeping one eye on the uneven surface underfoot while trying to work out where we were in the park and what had been demolished! We crossed the first mile marker in 8mins 31 secs - so at that point we mentally kissed a PB goodbye. We just couldn't get a good run of speed, so thought we would just enjoy ourselves.
At three miles we were on an out and back section and we saw a dinosaur running back towards us. Husbando decided that he was going to 'take the dinosaur.' I thought this was ambitious, but hey - at this point I was just about hanging on, going through a mid race lull with a foot that was giving me a bit of bother (my 'good' foot which was worrying!) As we got to the 4 mile marker the 'Asthma dinosaur' was in our sights and we passed him very soon afterwards. How he managed to run in that costume in today's heat is beyond me - it was hot enough running in a tshirt!
The end was now, if not in sight, but within contemplation. I picked up the pace. I kept thinking that Husbando was ahead of me so speeding up, when actually he was behind me! The tunnel into the stadium was a sweaty sauna - music blaring out and a 'last lap' bell ringing as we approached the track.
And here we were, back on that track. Husbando said 'Let's run on the outside so the boys can see us and get photos.' I was doing some running maths (always a bit dodgy) and figured that there was, miraculously, a chance that I could better my time from last year, so wanted to run on the inside. I compromised and ran in the middle while Husbando ran nearer the outside. We'd talked about crossing the line hand in hand, but when Husbando took my hand about 60m from the finish I am ashamed to say I shook him off. There were vital seconds at stake and I couldn't run holding hands - I said 'Too soon!' and fully intended to grab his hand again as we crossed the line. I didn't quite manage it, but we did cross the line together. And I did get a PB! By five whole seconds!
Paula Radcliffe was still at the finish line, shaking hands and signing autographs, there were also paralympians forming a sort of honour guard that we passed through on our way out of the stadium. A nice, chunky medal and a goody bag were very welcome, as was the breeze when we left the stadium!
Photos will follow soon. We had to dash back, have a quick shower and change before going down to Cowdray Park to watch the finals of the polo! What a day! The team we were supporting won, lots of champagne was consumed and a jolly good time was had by all!