Wow! Today had it all. Joy, adulation, shock, cake, nurses, a Dame and an impending lovers tiff! And it’s only 10.30am.
I was a little apprehensive arriving for my first ever Park Run, but I shouldn’t have been. There were plenty of virgins amongst the field of 641!! And I can honestly say that the human (and canine) running community are almost as lovely and supportive as you virtual lot. If you haven’t done Park Run…DO Park Run. It’s like they secretly slip you performance-enhancing drugs at the start line.
Today, my local Park Run had a special event, celebrating 70 years of the NHS and thanking everyone who works for that special organisation, and it was optionally a medical themed fancy dress, though I opted to stick with my usual Nikes, running bra, spandex pants and mirrored shades. Dogs are also welcome at Park Run, but they have never met my Border Collie, ASBO, so he was left at home.
Well, if it wasn’t drugs, the sight of lots of athletic ladies in nurse’s uniforms ahead of me meant I was in danger of setting off like a greyhound after a rabbit. But with the wise words of Oldfloss and Laura in my ear, I controlled myself and when Dame Kelly rang the starting bell, I marched into battle at a brisk walk for the standard 5 minutes. Just as instructed.
With the manic ramblings of a Russel Brand podcast in my ear to keep me distracted, it was soon time to set off for the first rep of 8 minutes. This is about the time the trouble started – I was going along really nicely, the large crowd in front (obviously I opted to start right at the back) keeping me from going too quickly, and all of sudden Laura told me that 8 minutes was over. What? We’ve only just got going.
I’m so sorry Oldfloss, but I was just physically unable to stop – I’d have hindered the runners behind and that didn’t seem fair. “I’ll just go to the end of the break – that’ll be 12 minutes. Then I’ll walk.”
After 12 minutes, the initial pains and panting were long gone and I was in a good rhythm, the colourful fancy dress and the applause of the marshal’s encouraged me on, so I thought, well just go slow and steady and try to get to the end of the next 8 minutes. I did!!! 20 minutes clocked!!
Then something really bonkers happened. Inexplicable. Counter to the laws of physics and the universe. I kept going.
I do love Oldfloss a little bit and she had warned me against this, just as my wife had warned me against catching up with any of the rabbits. 5 minute warm down. “I can’t be that far from the end now – perhaps I’ll just see if I can jog gently to the end of the warm down. There will be plenty of walking left to do afterwards to cool down. 25 minutes done.
Well, hell with it! I can almost see the finish. The elite athletes had finished, had a shower, changed had a cup of tea and walked back onto the course to cheer on us old wheezers at the back…and it felt good! “I’m going to bloody finish now” – sorry Oldfloss, I realise this is reckless, the IC is hiding just behind the finish line, and our fledgeling virtual romance is in the balance. Do I risk our relationship for just 5 more minutes of running? Hell Yeah! Dame Kelly is clapping me now, I feel incredible. I strove on passing a child being pushed in a buggy by a runner Mum – this is something that Ovett, Coe, Cram & Farah have rarely had to contend with - the kid looked terrified going at pace past the lake, like his first trip to Alton Towers!
And the finish line was in sight. Crazed by the depleted oxygen…“Push on. Push on. Not far now. Finish it!”
And I did!!
Pats on the back, a finishing token and a large lungful of air and it was all over. 5k done. I simply can’t believe it. I’m in shock. Total shock. And happy. I feel GREAT. I feel bloody GREAT! I swear I could NEVER have done this running my usual solitary route. The energy from being a part of something is incalculable. If you haven’t done Park Run…DO Park Run.
Nice touch at the end. Free cakes for all in return for a thank you note to someone special in the NHS. Hundreds of notes of thanks were pinned to a huge board for various nurses, doctors, paramedics, wards, hospitals, etc. for all manner of help given. I made sure I wrote a very heartfelt message too. My son was born with downs syndrome and congenital heart failure. At 6 months old he survived 8 hours open heart surgery at the Evelina Children’s Hospital. THANK YOU to those guys for saving his life. I probably would have done this note even if they hadn’t offered a cupcake in return.
So how did I get on in the end?
Tonbridge parkrun results for event #234. Your time was 00:37:34.
With 5 minutes of walking at the start, I make that 32:34 MINUTES RUNNING!
Sorry again Oldfloss, but I just COULDN’T stop! Hope you can forgive me
Right, off for a hot bath, a smug grin and a celebratory beer and a fag*.
*NB - For those of you from North America, please be assured that I am referencing the British usage of the word ‘fag.’ Although it’s fair to say that having a homosexual in the bath with me, would likely be less harmful to my health than a cigarette. Until my wife caught us.
Good luck this week all -