July 20, 2014
For those of you that have been reading this blog for a while you will know that I live in Stratford, East London…the very same Stratford which hosted much of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics a few years back.
Stratford is a cool place to live.
But it hasn’t always been so, and the Stratford I knew growing up is now lost to years of regeneration and a completely new vibe, much of which has come about because of the games. I think it has changed for the good, with just enough of the old to retain its east end grit and enough new to make it feel vibrant and exciting.
So you would be right in thinking that I am in the “games were a success” camp, but of course I have a bit of a vested interest in this because for about 8 years I worked on various aspects of the games and I was in fact inspired to run as a direct result of the games coming to my neck of the woods. Read my post Run Fatty Run to find out how
Today I lined up with thousands of other runners in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium, with me I had a friend who I’ve recently got into running, my sister who had only ever done one race before (last years olympic park run), her friend who was racing for the very first time and a lady from my running club who I had never met before today.
This was the third year this race has been held, 2011 I ran in the stadium before the athletes had been on the track, my sister joined me the following year, inspired by watching me run in such as iconic venue. Today though there was no stadium finish as work is still underway to transform the stadium for West Ham United.
It was humid waiting in the pens, but the atmosphere was carnival like. It want long before we crossed the start line with Olympian Chris Hoy high fiving as many runners as his hands could manage.
Now baring in mind I run in this park regularly (well it is my local park) you might think I would be all blasé about it, but not at all. I remember what was here before the games arrived, I know how hard people worked to make the games happen, and how much the memories of the games still mean to so many people.
This race felt different to most of the races I do, ok granted I was at the back but it felt like the super focussed club runners had stayed away and in their place were hundreds of new runners, normal everyday people challenging themselves around this challenging course.
I lost my sister early on as she struggled with the heat and a lack of training, my mate Natalie sped up ahead, her weekly track sessions paying off but it was nice running my own race…I had forgotten my Garmin so I had no idea of time, I just pressed on.
Thoughts of walking came into my mind, it was hot after all and many runners were walking by mile 1, just taking in the views, but I wanted to run the whole way if I could, even the hills of which there were many. Mile 3 brought water and the realisation that I was over half way.
My thoughts turned to time. Would I be close to my two previous times of 58. and 1.05 or would the heat get the better of me?
In the last mile we ran along the river lea to the sounds of Chariots of Fire mixed with the commentary to Mo Farah winning gold in 2012…and yes I did get a lump in my throat.
With 400 meters to go the commentator told us we were still on for finishing in under an hour, but I knew it would be tight.
I took a deep breath and headed across the bridge baring right around the final bend towards the finish line. I felt so strong still which is unusual for me, and with a massive grin on my face I powered across the line.
What a race.
In the lead up to the London 2012 there was a lot of talk about this thing called legacy, what would we be left behind, how would it change us, would it be worth all that expense?
Yes the stadiums and the other venues are spectacular, and the parklands beautiful and used by thousands of people each week, but the true legacy of that awesome summer of sport is the everyday people that have been inspired to take up sport, or the volunteers who continue to give their time and energy. They sign up to these events because they want to be a part of this continuing story, part of the history of the games.
My sister Jennie who is generally uninspired by the games continues to be drawn in, committing to the race, excited to take part with her two sons cheering her on. Perhaps next year she might even get round to doing some training lol, mind you it couldn’t have been that bad, she did manage a smile at the end.
London 2012 made us all look on in awe at the Olympic and Paralympic athletes in their prime and the spectacle that the UK so successfully hosted, but it also planted an “I wonder if” mentality, and a seed of “if they can, I reckon I could too” That is the London 2012 legacy that has been left and I believe that enthusiasm and excitement to be involved is not going anywhere fast.
Today was an awesome race and I simply can’t wait for 2015 to do it all over again.