July 18, 2016
Recently on Facebook I keep being reminded of things I was doing 4 years ago…which for me was a whole heap of London 2012 related activity, bringing back fantastic memories of a magical time in East London.
Now you might be thinking that I am over egging it a bit with that description…but for me the summer of 2012 was an absolute blinder, so much expectation, so much excitement and the opportunity to welcome the world to my little bit of East London.
My involvement in the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics is what originally got me into sport, at first through volunteering and then to satisfy my curiosity of “I wonder if I could…” leading to some of the most incredible experiences of mass participation sports.
So its hardly surprising that I found myself getting a little emotional on the way to the Newham 10K run in the Olympic Park. Cycling from my home which is about 5 minutes away from the stadium through the well established parklands, past the aquatic centre where I swim most weeks, in what at 8.30 am was already extremely hot weather, I took note of just how lucky I am to have this all on my doorstep.
I have done a race in the Olympic Park every year for the past 6 years, sometimes running through nothing more than a building site, and 3 times now I have finished an event in the iconic Olympic Stadium…this event seemed kind of different now though because of course the stadium is now home to West Ham United…my local football team, and as I looked around the crowds who were already congregating on the south lawn I spotted a whole heap of claret and blue attire in homage.
It was incredibly hot, and my race prep over the last few days has been a little lacking.
I wasn’t worried about my fitness, but I was a little worried about my hydration and fuelling. I felt a little weak and I hadn’t even got going yet. I picked up my race number from the information stand, all very well organised I must admit, bumped into my friend Natalie and then set about finding the rest of the Too Fat to Run Clubhouse ladies…we had a team of about 10 that I knew of attending.
But could I bleeding find them?
I had pre arranged a meet and greet with Olympic Runner Christine Ohuruogu, we met previously at an awards ceremony a few months back and had a bit of a giggle about how our home town of Stratford had changed, and the rivalry that there was between the two secondary schools we went to, so it was nice to grab a few words with her and get a picture. I read something on her Facebook feed a few days ago about how much being selected for Rio means to her, and I could see just how excited she was to be at this event today, high fiving runners as the first couple of waves went off.
In fact Christine had started the first ever run I did back in 2006 so prior to her success in Bejing, it was a community fit club 3K event in Beckton Park….and I almost dies on the way round, partly as this was the first ever running thing I had attempted (and with no training) but also because some little kid shouted “Run Fatty Run” (you can read about it here)
But there was none of that on the course today, just cheers of encouragement and lots of friendly faces.
The vibe in the holding pens was great, there was a brilliant warm up and lots of banter over the PA getting people excited to start. I went off with the Green wave, being mindful not to overdo it with my pace. But it was hard not to just run at the same speed as everyone around me. At around the 1K mark I bumped into a lady I used to work with at Newham Council…I think we only ever bump into each other at this event ha ha, she has told me in the past that I had inspired her to take up running and she yelled “Thank you for everything you do for us Julie” and I got a bit chocked up.
I tried to compose myself as we hit the first hill. I knew straight off there was no way I could tackle the hills running in this heat, so I marched up them along with a lot of other folks. My Walking is Part of the Race Plan Vest was a great choice this morning….because I sure needed to walk….and lots!!
Just before the 4K mark I spotted Henna…one of the speedier members of the clubhouse, and she bounded towards me for a huge sweaty hug. It was just the boost I needed and I managed to jog on for a little longer, past the trendy new restaurants alongside the canal…where I spotted Craigie Lee another clubhouse member…not running, but on a break from a bike ride it seemed.
Despite just being a 10K…spotting some familiar faces around the course really helped me get round. At the first water stop I had gulped down 3 small bottles and still felt thirsty, and by the 5K mark I was feeling a little dizzy. Not good.
I slowed the pace right down and slowly walked through the shower station to try and cool myself down.
Now we were in the North Park, and I spotted a wonderful volunteer I worked with in my last job in Redbridge…Janet, who is now a VERY active Olympic Park Volunteer…she gave me a much needed hug and screamed loads of encouragement and that kept me going through to the road cycle circuit of the velodrome. What an incredible route this event is, no wonder people travel from so far to take place…and despite the fact this is my local park and where I often train by myself…the wonder of the sites is not lost on me.
Around the 7K mark my lower back began to hurt…this was a result of Thursdays cross fit session, and a short pause to stretch eased it up a bit…lots of runners asked me if I was OK as they saw me on the side of the road…it really is a friendly race…I just think everyone is so in awe of the park and chuffed to be taking part…its a little hard to be grumpy.
There were runners of ALL abilities represented here. Runners proudly wearing their race shirts from the previous years events. Runners raising money for charity. Runners using this race to promote good causes. A young black runner with a placard saying #BlackLivesMatter being particularly poignant.
At a time where the world seems to be so at war with itself, I feel so lucky to be involved in a sport which brings people together like it does. And grateful that I was brought up in an area where diversity is celebrated not feared. Events like this are so much more than just a running event…I think they change you as a person, I really do. They show the human spirit at its best. Giving you hope some how.
The last couple of miles to the stadium were tough. The coolness of the stadium underpass was a welcome break from the heat, but I missed the sound system playing chariots of fire which had been there in previous years.
I bumped into a friend I know through running, Nikki in the last section, and we had a good old chat as we made our way round the warm up track outside the stadium and then under again to get into the last 400 meters of the event…I don’t know how we managed it but we did, we managed to run at a steady pace the whole way through to the finish line. I possibly would have had to walk if we weren’t running together so THANKS Nikki xx
The stadium finish is just superb…looking around at all the families cheering on their loved ones…these memories will last a lifetime. This race means so much to so many people….this race is 100% what the legacy of London 2012 is all about.
I would like to say a massive thank you to Great Run and the London Borough of Newham for hosting the event, and for all the wonderful volunteers who provided support, and I also want to make a bit of an apology to any of my Too Fat to Run Clubhouse ladies who I missed at the event…I felt a little unwell after collecting my goodie bag, and simply had to get home and cool down…I know you did us proud, especially Marina who walked the whole course in an amazing effort xxxx
See you all again in 2017??