I mentioned in my post about Lovebox Festival that I stayed in London afterwards to prepare for a run the next day. That run was the National Lottery Anniversary Run – five miles around Olympic Park and then into the Olympic Stadium. I signed up a few months ago with my friend Nicole. Back then I was running most days and comfortably running 10ks at the weekend (or at least I did a few times!). Then I went to Greece for a week, then France for three weeks, and before I knew it I hadn’t run for almost six weeks, and when I tried again it was hard. This was about three weeks before the run on Sunday, and as much as I tried I couldn’t run more than two or three miles without feeling exhausted and getting sore legs. I started running every day to try and increase my stamina and did even more damage to my legs – before I knew it I was getting pain resonating through my shins and calves just by walking up stairs. I decided to have a break of a few days before the run itself to try and repair the damage, but it’s fair to say I was pretty nervous as I walked into Olympic Park on Sunday, having not run since the Tuesday and not managed much more than half the distance I was running at the event for a couple of months.
I’ve never run at an organised event before, and the run on the Tuesday before (with a few colleagues from work) was the first time I’d even run with other people. I didn’t know what to expect at all; would I be able to run the whole distance, would there be other people stopping to walk, would I be constantly overtaken, would I be able to keep pace with Nicole – and so on.
We lined up nervously at the start point – I glugged so much water in preparation that I started to really urgently need the loo (TMI?), which was pretty worrying as I knew I wouldn’t get to go for about an hour! The run was organised in stages, with the fastest runners going first. Seeing them all sprinting off the starting line made me even more nervous – most of the people there seemed like professional runners, looking very fit and with all the right running gear (we saw lots of running club vests and people running for charity). My stomach growled loudly as we moved towards the starting line. There’d been no shops open to get breakfast and I’d assumed there’d be somewhere to buy a banana or something small in the Park – not so, it was all burgers and ice cream (not top of my wants list at 9am when I’m about to run five miles).
Sir Chris Hoy was at the starting line waving everyone on, and we watched the second wave of runners waving and smiling at the cameras. Then it was our turn to go – waving as we ran past and grinning at the cameras, hoping Tom would be able to see us on the big video screens from his seat back in the Stadium (he didn’t!)
photo courtesy of national lottery
At 10.18 am we were off, jogging into an area inside Olympic Park and round the outskirts of the stadium. I had my Garmin GPS watch on and noticed rather frustratingly that we were running a very slow pace at the beginning – the sheer volume of people made it impossible to go at much of a pace and some of the areas of the track were so narrow we had to revert to a slow on the spot run! Luckily this was only in the first mile and the pace picked up a little after that. Nicole and I found a comfortable pace and happily jogged along. As we rounded the first corner there was a hill and we wondered why people were shouting and cheering – then we spotted lines and lines of men who’d obviously made the same mistake as me and were all stood peeing into the bushes. Nice!
The next few miles went by in a bit of a blur. Along the route there were things to see such as Caribbean bands in tents playing music or stewards cheering you on or giving out water. Some people were stopping to take photographs of the stadium or the views across London but I’d decided from the start that I didn’t care what time I got as long as I ran the whole way and so we trucked on. The hills were the hardest, I really had to dig deep to keep running up some of the hills, especially when I got a stitch and was finding regular breathing hard.
Then we reached the four mile marker and everything seemed immediately better. Knowing we were a maximum of about eleven minutes from running into the stadium was pretty motivating. We then ran into an underground part of the stadium underneath the seating where huge speakers conveyed the sounds of the crowd in the stadium, along with playing Chariots of Fire. I had to laugh when we ran into the underground section and there was a collective groan as everyone’s GPS watches konked out! I took this photo when we arrived at 8.30am, by the time we ran in all of the seats were packed and the roar of the crowd was immense.
With all of the excitement of running into the Olympic Stadium, Nicole and I had just enough energy left for a sprint finish, and legged it to the finish line, grinning and laughing as we ran. It was such an amazing feeling.
When we walked back to the stadium entrance to come and find Tom, I noticed him peering with great concentration at the running track. He hadn’t seen us run in and was still hoping to spot us! I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t see us at the start or the finish but in his defence it was hard trying to spot individuals in the sea of blue t-shirts and vests.
However, when I checked my camera afterwards he had managed to spot Victoria Pendleton running into the stadium…
… and Mel C being interviewed post run….
In our goodie bags we all had medals amongst some other snacks and a bottle of water. I will treasure mine as a memory of the first event/organised run I’ve ever done. And, we didn’t walk any of it! At the end of it our time was 53 minutes, which isn’t too bad considering the volume of people and narrow tracks made it hard to keep up a good pace at some points.
Here is a very sweaty but chuffed me posing post-race. I can’t say it’s the best photo of me that’s ever been taken, but hey, I just ran five miles in 23 degree heat, give me a break yeah? 🙂
Compared to people who can run half-marathons and marathons I know five miles doesn’t sound like much but it’s definitely a personal milestone for me and one I’m really proud of. I only started running near the end of last year after about 12 years of not doing any sport at all so I’m pleased with how far I’ve come in that time and it feels great to have a hobby that I enjoy that also keeps me active and fit. I know running isn’t for everyone (and I never thought it would be for me!) but it really is a great feeling being able to see that progress. I know that running into the Olympic Stadium to the sound of Chariots of Fire is a memory I will cherish for a long time to come.
Do you run? Have you ever been to an organised run or run a race or marathon?