Just under four thousand people or so arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, East London this morning. The run is five miles long through the park and goes past all the venues that became so famous back in 2012. I had declared a probable finish time of 53 minutes on the entry form of which I was reasonably confident having run 53.30 locally last week. This put me in the green start group, the third of four.
After a mass warm up, we edged towards the start line in the shadow of the stadium. The start was handled very well with each group getting it's own send off with a short gap inbetween. The official starter was Sir Chris Hoy who was dutifully high-fiving everyone as they went past. The chip on my number, pinned to my shirt would provide my official time, but I hit the button on my Garmin anyway as I crossed the line. Every so far there was a 'band on the run', drum bands and one brass band for music on the move!
The race moved through the athletes village and then at about 2.5km did a full circuit around the outside of the Velodrome. At 3.5km, I passed the Copper Box arena for the first time before passing it again about 1km later as part of an out and back section. I hate those... All those people coming the other way on the other side of the road who have already done it, it doesn't help! It was more or less here that I saw the only casualty that I was aware of; a young girl laying on the floor surrounded by medics, clearly troubled by the heat. They'd warned us to hydrate well and the sun was now fully out. lots of people were walking now. Too many people went off way too fast and the most significant hill on the route was immediately ahead. I switched to 'mantra mode' and recited the words over and over again: "maintain the cadence, shorten the stride". This was hard work, but I synchronised my footsteps with my breathing and kept it going. I would not walk. I didn't walk.
The final section took me past the Aquatic Centre, these days without the extended grandstand wings that it had during the games. 500m to go and the PA systems started play a faux Steve Cram commentary with the sound of a roaring crowd. I felt the hairs rise on the back of neck and started to push. I crossed the line in 51.09, two minutes 20 better than I'd done this distance before. My family cheered me across the line and yes, Bailey, my Westie was there too.
Perhaps it was the heat, or possibly the unfamiliar territory, but I found the race very hard indeed. I've run further, but I've never felt so tired at the end of a run. No stadium finish this year due to the pear actions for next years Rugby world up, but the good news is that I get first dibs on a place next year when the finish line returns there.
A great way to spend a Sunday morning and a mother shiny medal to boot! I love this running business!!!