22 July 2013

London Calling

It seemed like another good idea at the time, and even with hindsight it doesn't seem bad: a five mile race in the Olympic Park, finishing in the Stadium, marking the firs anniversary of the Games and the reopeninig to the public of the park. It would provide family members with a chance to see inside the Stadium for the first time. What could possibly be wrong with that?
Well, to start with it was not a cheap privilege. Then Tor, who had drawn it to my attention, didn't get a place in the ballot (but Phil did, so when I got mine at least there were two members of the extended family taking part). There was the small matter of getting to the far side of London for 0930 on a Sunday morning (whatever happened to sleeping in? That must have been in a previous lifetime). Finally, there was a cold to contend with, one bad enough to wake me several times during the night, one which should have precluded running.
And there were 15,000 other people taking part, too, not all strangers but I had no idea who I might know. Had I known, and tried to make contact, it would not have worked because the cellular network could not handle all the traffic, anyway. But the chances of finding someone in that crowd - each runner had two guest passes - were vanishingly small, which made my encounter with a member of Didcot Runners whom I recognised from my recent three-race weekend rate high on the improbability index.
The race - it was a race, for those in the elite section - was hard work. It was started in waves, and Phil and I started together but he went off rather faster than me after we finally reached the start line, some five minutes after the official start time. My Garmin had been plugged in all night but had failed to charge, so I had to judge my pace, which is tricky in an obstacle race such as this. I have never overtaken so many others in a race, including some who had to pause on the ramp to the velodrome less than a mile in. There were runners listening to music rather than what was going on around them (though fewer with headphones than I had expected, perhaps because there were supposed to be bands around the course though I saw few: there was rather a lot of loud music of the supposedly uplifting rock genre which completely fails to communicate anything to me - I'd have benefited from something like the the piece from which I borrowed the title for this blog post, incongruously used as a theme song for the Games last year, proving perhaps that no-one pays attention to lyrics). There were runners two or more abreast, leaving no space to squeeze between them. There were constructions sites, and gaps where venues from last year had gone. In short, four-and-a-half miles of irritation with no real redeeming features.
Then we were in the Stadium building, running at first through its bowels, a concrete world reminiscent of the underside of the Dallas convention centre, and finally for the last 300m out into the daylight in that huge arena with cheering crowds and the springiest track I have ever run on. I crossed the line with a few seconds to go before the White wave's clock tripped over to 46 minutes - but it had taken over 5 minutes to reach teh start line, so my chip time is an astonishing 40:38, just 23 seconds slower than Didcot, where I really tried!

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