I ran a funny little race today. And I had a lovely time.
We got back from a very successful trip to Japan on Friday, where we had been so that Mr. Duff could tick another major off the list by running the Tokyo marathon. More on that soon.
In my infinite optimism I had decided it would be totally fine to book a half marathon for two days after we got back, and jet lag be damned. I wasn’t planning to race it, just pootle round either at marathon pace if I felt good or training pace if I didn’t.
Actually the jet lag was weirdly helpful in a way; in order to get to the wet field in Wimbledon where the race started in good time I had to get up at 5:30am (buses from our house on a Sunday are woeful – when too early or too late are your options, unfortunately too early wins). I woke up at about half 4, so the early start wasn’t a struggle. It did also occur to me that this was excellent marathon day prep, since getting up at stupid o’clock and waiting several hours before the actual race starts will be the order of the day!
Anyway, the race itself was fairly standard. A small, local race along pavements and open roads, two laps, pleasant marshals – so far so normal. The reason I had a lovely time was because the horrible weather when we arrived allowed that most precious of things in the running world to come out in full force – runner’s camaraderie.
Without resorting to swear words, it was chuffing freezing and absolutely sheeting it down this morning. At the last second I’d chucked a waterproof in my bag but hadn’t thought about layers I could actually run in. I got off the bus with another intrepid lunatic in lycra, a very nice girl called Emily who was running her first ever half marathon and was also preparing for London in April. Together we wandered to the start area, roundly laughing at ourselves for being out in the pouring rain on a Sunday morning, with the wind blowing a hoolie, all for the pleasure of running 13 miles around suburban south west London.
Between getting there and the race starting, we were advised that we should wander into Wimbledon village a bit to get some shelter as the race village, perfectly reasonably, had not thought it would be necessary to provide a Wizard of Oz style typhoon proof safe room for the runners. A small, wet bunch of us wandered a few minutes outside of the park and decided to take shelter beside some onions and newspapers at a local corner shop.
Really, this was just hilarious. We were all standing there, soaked, shivering, refusing to remove any layers and reminding ourselves that we do this FOR FUN. Just so funny – I whipped out my phone to take a selfie of this race day ridiculousness and no-one minded, even though all of these people were complete strangers to me and each other. We all banded together, connected by this wonderful thing that is running and by how daft we were for being out so early in the rain, and talked happily about what we were training for and what times we were going to run. Emily got a lot of little cheers for it being her first half and everyone was super excited for her.
It being before brunch time on a Sunday in a posh area of south west London, not many people were about. But one chap heading in to get his paper told us he admired our ‘determination’ to run despite the rain. We thought this was probably a euphemism of some sort. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; runners are weird.
There were other little things which carried on this theme of comradeship; the jovial history lesson when I picked up my best race number ever (1066 and all that!); lots of banter at the start line (‘are you running in just a t-shirt? In this? Are you mad?’ – although I got the last laugh half an hour later when it warmed up); a mutual eyebrow raise and quick ‘morning’ between me and a runner from West4, one of our neighbouring clubs; Emily being happy to let me tag along with her and us keeping each other going up a killer hill (twice, damn laps!) despite not knowing each other at all before the race; runners who had already finished cheering us to the final mile, including one who helped us find the way when the arrows were a bit unclear; providing tissues to a frozen fellow runner whose nose had run almost as fast as her feet after the start line deluge.
The running community is such an amazing thing. Community is absolutely the right word. I see this at every race, everywhere (again, more on that when we get to what went down in Japan!).
Today’s combination of blitz spirit because of the weather added to the usual high levels of camaraderie between fellow runners and made the whole thing really enjoyable. My watch distance was off, the jet lag and flight dehydration sapped my strength, and that bloody hill finished off the last of my pace on the second time around.
But who cares? We did it and we had fun while we were at it. And that’s the most important thing.
That and the rather excellent bling.
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