Friday, 2 March 2012

Pride comes before it all

I had the worst run of my life, and it’s taken me over a week to write about it. 
Previously, the ‘worst run of my life’ was a 16km Leppin Auckland Off Road series run, that I did on a whim. I say on a whim, but actually I was signed up to the whole series in 2007. Egged on by a friend, I completed a succession of short distance bush runs, through the most beautiful countryside I had ever seen, and learned to love mud, but not hills.

Where's the finish line?

The Leppin series was set up with three distances, short which was a 4-6km run, mid wich was 12-16km and long, which from memory was marathon distance. After a few short distance events, my chickismo got the better of me. Suddenly I was doing ‘mid distance’. On all these runs there was a ‘tail-end-Charlie’, whose job it was to make sure that all the runners completed the course, and that he was the last in. 

Spot the English Girl

10km into the ‘mid distance’, the tail-end-Charlie overtook me. I spent an hour stumbling around in the bush, going over repeatedly on my ankle, feeling sick from the too-strong Powerade in my Camelbak, and having an anti-epiphany. There’d be some elegance in this story if I could write about crossing the finish line, but it, and the last 3km markers and directional arrows, had been taken down before I made it back, and I was collected a few hundred metres from the finish line by concerned friends. So I stumbled over what was once the finish line, a line in the sand, on what I still consider one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. My friends had drunk all the beer. My ankle recovered faster than my pride, and the event became known as ‘the day you thought you could run in the bush’.

Next left, or right

So that’s my gold standard of a ‘bad run’. And last week I bested it. 
A good friend works in the House of Lords. Wouldn’t it be magnificent, I thought, to run along the river, passing London’s glorious landmarks, and meet her at the Lord’s for some light post-run refreshment. 
First day of Spring

Despite seemingly perpetual ‘first day of Spring’ weather of late, my planned run coincided with the greyest, wettest day last week. I made the error of crossing the river to Southside too early, and then discovered that the Thames path along great screeds of South West London is being repaired, in patches, with abysmal sign posting. There can be few things more demoralising than running in drizzle with a buggy, only to find sudden blockades, and arrows pointing me back to non-river backing suburbia. Had I ever wanted to intimately know the backstreets of Putney, Barnes, Fulham and Hammersmith, this would have been my moment in time. Snug in the buggy, under blankets and secured by a raincover, Baby B slept soundly. 
Now you see you don't

I was wet, cold, lost, miserable and chaffed. The vistas I’d hoped for were elusive. Everything was hazy and blurred and there were several times I ran in such big pointless loops, I wondered if it would be better to get the bus home and admit defeat.
In the end, we did make it to parliament. Quite how a drenched running woman with a sleeping baby can look like a security risk is beyond me, but after being scrutinised, scanned and snapped, I changed into a dress and heels (nappy bags are fabulous for so much more than nappies). Was it worth it? Probably not, but I’ve learned a few lessons:
  1. Don’t cross bridges on a whim, follow the map
  2. Getting cold and wet is horrible, but foreseeable. Take a change of clothes other than an evening dress and heels. 
  3. If you’re going a long way along the Thames in the rain, the best place to be is in a buggy with a raincover.
  4. Turning up at our awe inspiring Houses of Parliament chaffed, wet and in running gear is every bit as embarrassing as the finish line being dismantled before getting there.
  5. Nothing ventured...
Over these past few days, I’ve rediscovered the short, fast dash. Necessity more than anything, but I tell myself it is all miles on my cliched clock. 

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