Ministry of Silly Hats

Quick Disclaimer: Yep, I know I’ve gone quiet on you all again lately. And I know this piece refers to something that happened in December…I’m hoping you’re all kind enough to bear with me and let me start again like there’s been no gap…! 

15th December 2018 – Eagles Christmas Party

I’m a big fan of silly hats. Especially at Christmas. Earlier in the week I’d shared a gallery of several silly hats I’d bought for the work Christmas drinks (my favourite was the turkey, incidentally) and that morning I’d rooted my much cherished silly red ski hat out for it’s annual outing to the Santa Run. Love a good silly hat.

And here was another silly hat being waved about in front of our faces – four in fact; four golden crowns for the four lucky winners of the club ballot places for the London marathon.

For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m on about; running clubs in the UK are allocated a certain number of places for the London Marathon each year. I think it’s something like one place per 200 members, so we’re very fortunate as a big club and we are offered four each year. The club operates a system where you can earn points through the year for racing and volunteering. If you get over a certain number of points you can put your name in for a place, and then it’s settled with names out of a hat at the Christmas party. This year me and ten others were in the draw, so the odds were decent but definitely not guaranteed.

The committee had gone all out this year to ramp up the tension of the ballot draw with a frankly terrifying X Factor style chair line up, complete with a tense heartbeat soundtrack. I felt weirdly nervous, although looking at the top drawer bunch of people I was standing up there with I thought I’d have been happy with any of them getting the places, so the outcome could only be positive whatever happened.

Hayley won the first place; excellent, super pleased for her. Then Massimo, and Chairman Carlo – that’s nice, the two people with maximum points have each got in. Good for them.

Last one. Dave, the glamorous assistant to our MC Mr. Linney, started dancing about in front of us waving the final silly hat.

It’s been a week of silly hats, I thought. Maybe there’s something in that. Maybe, just maybe, there’s one more silly hat coming my way…

And then my name was read out and the crown went on my head and it was happening, I got the final place.

Still slightly in shock and in the glare of the disco lights, we were asked what getting a club pace meant to us. I fluffed it a bit but I’m not sure anyone was really listening much (shame, Abi’s speech in Italian standing in for Massimo sounded pretty articulate to me!).

I joined the Eagles in 2015, after Mr. Duff and I decided we were definitely staying in Ealing and bought our house. I wanted to make some local friends and be a bit more involved in the community. And goodness me, didn’t that happen!

Something club related happens every day for me. Whether it’s just chatting to one of the many mates and genuinely close friends I’ve made in the Eagles, planning a track session, emailing with the coaching team or answering a quick ex-committee related question about the Santa Run or something on the website.

That’s not even to mention the running; since I joined the club I have run 4 marathons, taken 45 minutes off my marathon time and half an hour off my half marathon time. I’ve taken part in three editions of the multi day Green Belt Relay, raced the mile a handful of times and have a medal rack so full it’s in danger of bringing the dining room wall down. I’ve been all over the world and run races in Japan, New York, California and various places in Europe.

Quite simply this running club has changed my life, and I’m not the same person as I was before I joined.

I mean, I’ve got less hair for one thing (it’s more aerodynamic, I’m sure…).

So why, if I’ve been doing all this running and racing anyway, did I want to put my name in the hat for a club London ballot place?

Well, although I have learned and improved a lot over the last few year (and the last few marathons!) and I don’t think I’m slow by any means, I’m not exactly lightning fast either. I’m not likely to qualify for a GFA place or a championship place, or to represent the club at something like the prestigious Welsh Castles Relay, or covering us with glory at a track race. And I know the club is proud of all of us and our individual achievements, however speedy or however steady. All I’m saying is that when I was looking at whether to enter or not I knew in my heart of hearts that it would be very special to represent the club in a sort of official capacity, and that I would be thrilled to be lucky enough to get one of the ballot places because I have nothing but love for the Eagles and what the club stands for.

I am thrilled. I’m absolutely delighted. There’s a very long way to go before we get to the big day, and the old advice to not wish for something more than you work for it is very much on my mind. But the thought of racing London in club colours makes me so proud already that come race day I’m not sure what I’ll do with myself.

But there’s a long way to go between now and then. With a 4:10 under my belt from Richmond the pressure’s there to try for the predictable next big target. I have no idea if I can do it. But I’m very excited to try.

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