Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Pre race jitters

Feb 19th 2012 - 6am to 0915am

Pre race:
Despite a cheesy American movie all about drumming (oh yes) I didn't sleep. I end up coughing a lot of the night and my new mobile which I had set to silent kept humming and buzzing with good luck messages from around the world (alright, mum, dad and a few nightbird friends) The 6am alarm clock came round too soon and I moved around doing Monty Python's ministry of silly walks as dynamic stretching to get my heart rate up as my low blood pressure has been making me dizzy on early morning runs.

The taxi driver arrived 15 minutes early but refused to wait ten minutes. Nothing like starting a long day by shouting down the intercom. He made everything better by not knowing where to go, ignoring the sat nav in hilarious fashion, crossing the Thames three times and finally asking if I was an athlete as we pulled up to the sports ground at Grove Park, a part of London that most people don't know existed. To be honest, I'm still not sure it does.

There were a lot of people in lycra looking all professional and talking to each other. So what makes people look intimidating on the start line? 1) they don't look terrified. 2) they know someone. I find both these things amazing; that you could calmly stare the unknown in the face and that you would know someone else that was as bonkers as you.

There was some lass who I am going to assume was a little bubbly on adrenalin. She looked very friendly but kept talking very loudly about how she was a 100 miler talking at the start, to the registration and by the start line, she was shrill.

At registration I got a handy fold out A3 map from the google map of the route (ie some corners cut in the drawing). When we were all asked to raise our hands to show our map on the start line, it was a sea of hands. When asked to keep our hands up if we intended to use it, all hands went down. We're an honest lot if nothing else.

I found that someone else had taken my race number (the lovely 88) with my name also printed on it. I'd have really liked my race name on my bib as a souvenir but it was not to be - and I ended up with a blank with 259 on it.

The start was delayed till 0915 so we huddled against the radiators in the women's change rooms watching the to-be winner, a super muscly skinny girl, doing dynamic leg stretches that would have crippled most people and was soon to knock someone's head off as they walked out the toilet door.

We all eyed each other nervously, looking for signs of ourselves in the other. Two girls with identical massive back packs (perhaps training for Marathon des Sables?) paired up. Two women eating bananas exchanged smiles. I looked for someone who looked so edgy they might soil themselves but that was no-one to be found. I had my eye on an elderly lady who looked sensible that I might want to run with, but I lost her in the start scrum. An Asian lady also looked like a friendly candidate, but when I went out into the cold air to warm up, she had a few people she already knew. I jogged around some goal posts nervously, dazzled by the blue sky and sun, before Rory called us for a quick briefing ("if you talk to someone, you're likely to get lost") and we were off.

The SRO reported that someone at this stage had the mentals and said they were not going to do it, simply were not going to do it. But the description (men in stripy rainbow knee socks) matched someone I ran with at Richmond Park so hats off to you sir for getting over the start line.

Starting was surreal because as soon as we left the sports ground we were in suburban Grove Park, a place, as I said, that only people who live there no where it is. The arrival of 260 odd runners, literally stopped traffic. We dodged the cars, the streets ours - we were off for 50km of fun around the Capital Ring...

to be continued


  1. well run for your first ultra. It was a great day out. Hope you have recovered well and that see you at an event soon

  2. Thanks UltraBobban! I think I have a lot to learn about trails and hills before I tackle something like that again! But as each day passes the memory gets more positive than painful so never say never...