25 March 2007

Reading Half Marathon

Every year I vow not to take part again in this, the second-largest half marathon in the UK (some 14000 runners), and every year I am seduced by its proximity and the fact that it's just about an essential element in anyone's racing calendar. Not that I am racing just now - far from it.

I thought the IDK was going to stop me running it at all for a while - indeed, when I awoke at 5.30 this morning I quickly talked myself out of running it, then got up and checked the weather forecast which promised sunny intervals for Reading, so I checked the train times and realised I had to hurry. At the Madejski Stadium, home of Reading Football Club and the start and finish of the half-M, where I arrived as the instructions insisted I should at 8.30 (this for a 10.05 start) to hang around in the freezing cold (no sunny intervals!) with little to do except walk around, stretch, and postpone the removal of my outer garments until the last possible moment. Naturally, everyone else tried to do the same, with the result that the bag drop became gridlocked and the start was delayed.

I set off to jog to the start and the knee complained so much that I actually turned round to head back to the bag drop and thence the station, but coming the other way was a clubmate from Abingdon - I didn't recognise her, but it seemed like some sort of omen, so I joined up with her and ascertained that we had similar modest goals for the day (Liz aiming for about 1 hour 50, me aiming to complete the course, necessarily at a gentle pace).

About five miles into the race, our conversation reached the subject of jobs. "I'm a teacher", she told me. "Have you heard of Headington School?" I answered warily in the affirmative. "As a parent?" Again, I said yes. Then of course she wanted to know who my daughter is, and when I told her she told me Mel was wonderful. I confirmed that I hadn't met my new running mate the preceding Friday evening, parents' evening (that would have been just too embarassing a senior moment) and we spent the next hour or so helping each other to the finish (1 hour 58 something).

Liz kindly offered me a lift home, but when I phoned to announce that I was on my way it seemed that hostilities had broken out among the girls and had continued most of the morning. "Then tell Mel that I'm bringing one of her teachers to sort her out", I said to Hilary. In fact, it seems that Liz's admiration for Mel is reciprocated, so the encounter was entirely amicable.

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