09 July 2008

Earth has not anything to show more fair

Wordsworth was not referring to the weather in 1802, but it probably wasn't anything like today's when he composed his sonnet on Westminster Bridge on September 3rd that year. Today the rain was coming down like stair rods, and registration for the Bridges Race was in the tunnel under the bridge. Others admired the bin liner I had procured from the general office before setting out for the race, and I was surprised to see that no-one else had adopted this traditional item of runners' attire.

I found myself being dispatched seven seconds ahead of Chris, who usually runs at about the same pace as me, but along the Embankment my legs felt weak and I could only manage a modest pace. Terry was in the distance ahead of me, and that's where he stayed. Faster runners started coming past, including a couple who got ahead just as we reached the challenging flight of steps up onto Vauxhall Bridge, so we pounded up the stairs together in a tight group.

Crossing the bridge, with groups of bedraggled casual runners coming in the opposite direction, a young man jokingly joined in and ran alongside one of the two who had just passed me before giving up. As I passed him I held out my raised hand and we "high fived" each other, which seemed so contrary to normal London practice - avoiding eye contact, never speaking, treating all strangers as dangerous, knife-carrying psychopaths - that it made me smile.

By the time I reach the end of Vauxhall Bridge I am usually making the most terrifying noise as I drag the reluctant air into my lungs and expel it again. The last couple of races I've done on this course I have given up trying not to do this, and finished the race hoarse: anyway, it serves to warn people in front that I am on my way, and today, running nearly silently, another competitor closed the gap between herself and a roadside tree just as I tried to squeeze through it.

I guess I was putting less into my racing today, based on the amount of noise I wasn't making, and Chris came past along Millbank, remarking that it had taken him a long time to wind in the seven seconds. I pointed out to him that the handicap was predicated on his achieving that at the finish line, so he was passing me very early. But I was able to tail him across Lambeth Bridge, making up ground as he slowed on the ascent (despite unusal cramp-like feelings in my foot) and catch and pass him along the final straight. As I passed Chris, another runner passed us both, but I caught him as well in my final sprint, and Julia, and Dennis, and evidently others too, because when Chris rued the fact that he had never been given such a high-numbered disc on finishing (30), I had been handed 22. It will be interesting to see what my time was, and how it compared with last month (noisy) and the relay the week before last (noisier).

At the finish, where those without bin liners did not hang about, two Community Support Officers (policemen-lite) were interested to know more about the event, so Dennis, who probably has more first-hand experience of it than almost anyone, was explaining it to them: they sounded as if they might be prepared to turn out next month.

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