When Angel met Edinburgh (again)

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The medal I have in my bag at my feet as I write to you on the plane home today almost didn’t happen. I decided a few weeks ago after not being able to train for this race that I would squeeze back into my catsuit like I did for my crew running the London marathon and cheer my heart out. My knee had been hurting since March and although I’ve tried to run since then, it hasn’t allowed me to. So there I was on Saturday about to pack my bag and head up to Edinburgh to have a blast cheering. No biggie, I have found that I enjoy it a great deal more than running.

Then Shameek who knew I had a place sent a text full of encouragement and I replied saying I wasn’t sure I would be running, he told me to enjoy the weekend regardless. So when Charlie sent a text with really uplifting words, my kit found itself into my case. While I said to myself I would make a final decision on the morning, it was pretty much a wrap.

The race itself was a mixture of things; I wasn’t going out with the expectations of others on my shoulders. Due to a lot of (positive) attention during recovery, the desire to run the race without fuss was paramount. I hadn’t trained etc. but I arrived at the start pen without any nerves which was a first. The first few miles as always if you’ve read any of my race reports are my worst and yesterday was no exception. I concentrated on the view as we headed toward the mountainous backdrop and the coastline further on, counting down the miles along the way. My attention was taken up for a while by watching a girl running just in front of us in sandals and I remember being a mixture of horrified, confused and mesmerised.

As each mile was checked off I do remember thinking “well THAT mile was longer than I’m used to”, but as the route was familiar territory I reminded myself that it was probably down to wanting to go and eat more than someone playing a cruel trick on us and shrugged it off. Somewhere between miles 6 and 7 I did start to feel a little tired, no real complaints and put it down to lack of sleep. Gran came into my thoughts a few times and I felt comfort. 9 miles in I felt the knee twinge and chanted to keep my mind off it and for hope that it would hold up.

The next mile and some change went okay although I did feel slower, until I was met with a sharp reminder at 11 and a half miles when my knee made itself known. Searing pain rushed up the IT band to my hip and I knew at that point it was going to be a fight to the finish.
I could only curse as I knew the moment I stopped, I would be returning back to London without a medal. I thought at the shame I’d feel and having to explain to friends and family why I hadn’t finished, so decided on concentrating on watching my feet and willing myself on step after step and not look out for mile markers or even the person in front of me. I think I was shuffling for a bit, but the thought of stopping made me move faster again. Darren who was by my side the whole race knew I was struggling and was amazing. I know that he had his own demons so it made it the more touching. He asked if I was okay and all I could manage was to tell him no through gritted teeth and we pushed on until Mile 13.

If you’ve been to Edinburgh you’ll know about the section between Mile 13 or 26 if you’re doing the full to the finish line – I believe that half marathoners end up running 13.2 as a result but never mind. You don’t see the finish line, so your delight at getting to the last mile marker is short lived. Despair sets in as you turn two bends before you see the branded barriers then a final turn before you see the finish line. It was only then that all the pain and the past six months felt worth every step I took until that point. My feet felt light and I looked over at Darren and took off, gun fingers popping off through the runners and across the line. After checking in with First Aid I had to sit and take in what we’d just done.

Every single person who has carried me up until this point, I thank you. Because of this I ran my race my way. While my mojo isn’t 100% back, I’m a half marathon closer than I was a couple of days ago.

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When Angel Owned the Night

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I started writing this with a weird sense of underachievement and disappointment. Why I hear you ask? First off, it doesn’t have anything to do with the race so much, but with myself.

I haven’t been able to train due to my knee playing up and this is after being unwell and (still) rebuilding myself after being unwell so that already put a damper on getting a PB. I had run with Ellie Goulding and Charlie Dark the week before as a pacer to the lovely ladies who would be taking part in the race, and much like the Tuesday before when I tried to run, my knee blew out after 3km. This had my fretting as to whether it would happen again on the day. I have never stopped or pulled out mid race, so this played on my mind a lot and I did all I could to ensure I was properly prepared and worked on looking after the knee. For the first time I was going into a race extremely underprepared and injured. Not clever.

But to the race itself. It was quite a walk to Victoria Park from either Mile End or Bethnal Green stations, we arrived from Mile End, I was fatigued from a day of yoga so wasn’t too happy on arrival. After queuing a lifetime for the toilet outside the Race Village we walked into a sea of colour (mainly from the mass of orange t-shirts) and found friends and fellow crew members before another long queue to check in our bags, there was a scramble to get bags in before catching the end of the warm-up and proceeding to the Start. The village was very well laid out with tents and bean bags, but with three thousand runners and press etc. it was overwhelming at times.

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(Photo courtesy of Venetia)

Nervous talk, laughter and Run Dem Crew away chants filled the area before we finally set off.
Now this is where things got hairy. Three thousand women running in a fairly narrow path which was then cordoned off in half is nothing short of crazy in such a large park. For the first two kilometres it was pretty much a very slow jog and trying not to trip or be tripped up. The music every couple of kilometres definitely meant a great vibe (big up Josey Rebelle and Lynda Phoenix holding it down). Thankfully the first five/six kilometres weren’t too bad especially with friends from Run Dem Crew there on official cheer duty. I’m not a big fan of the first few miles when I run and it went without any drama and Daniel who paced me round was amazing, keeping a check on the time with gentle nudges from time to time. It was agreed that we would see how the first half went regards to my knee and a plan of action after.

As my knee held up, Daniel gently picked up the pace and before I knew it we were passing the Crew again at eight kilometres, the adrenaline kicked in as I saluted my way through and started to feel ill. The rush swept through my body and my legs started to feel gelatinous. I got my head down and I was at nine kilometres but felt as if I couldn’t breathe properly and realised I didn’t have enough for the last thousand metres. I’m guessing Daniel realised this as well as he said “you’ve got this”. He took my water and just spoke to me and although I didn’t reply, I was grateful. The 500m marker felt like miles away, I walked the same way to get to the start, and running it seemed so much further. I still think it wasn’t 500m away, by the time we got to 200m to go I was ready to throw myself on the floor and have a tantrum. Why was I still running, why was I even running?! Daniel had told me when we got to this point I should assess how I felt and if I had it in me, to sprint and finish strong. At this point I questioned whoever invented running and wanted to clothesline them. But as I approached 100m to go, I looked over at Daniel and started sprinting.

I’m sorry, what?!

I darted around people and sprinted through the finish line. I won’t mention running through and going to the barrier as I though I was going to pass out/vomit/die.
Then came the overwhelming sense of emotion having realised how far I had come since February. I didn’t get a PB on this occasion, but I proved to myself that I will eventually get one with more rehabilitation and training. Then there’s Charlotte who hasn’t run a race in ages and my sister who told Charlie a year ago at my medal ceremony she doesn’t run … ran her first race. Proud.

I don’t have enough words right now for Daniel. From my hospital bed to crossing the finish line you were and always have been so supportive and I’m grateful to you for helping me achieve this milestone to getting better. Not to mention Darren, Baz and Cory (BANG).

Special thanks to Greg & Chloe at Nike and the lovely Niran and Tahirah at Awesomeness Central.

With a dodgy knee, no training and gentle pushing from a running buddy the night got owned on May 18th.

And there will be many more of those to come if I have anything to do with it.

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When Angel met Gunnersbury

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Another random race, random location. Corey who leads Run Dem Crew West and Darren signed up and after Harvel and the fun we had on that excursion, I had to be a part of that action.

So after waking up at the asscrack of dawn on a Sunday, I got ready and met Corey and we made our way to Acton Town meeting some of the others from the crew along the way.

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Thankfully there was reception as it was apparent from the moment we made our way from the tube station, that there would be no signs. Anywhere.

Arrived in plenty of time, got our race numbers promptly and decided to change/go to the loo etc. With limited direction we eventually found the toilets. Dirty and far away from the start.

Back to base and after checking bags and a chat we were lead to the middle of the field where we had a group stretch and then started a few minutes after 11 with no visible start line. As there wasn’t a clock to show the time or anything we checked or watches/phones. Winging it dot com. I had already decided to take this as a Sunday race, with a tee and medal. Shrug it off dot com.

As we started (when the dude shouted “go” a la school) we all set off from the middle of the field to the edge and onto the pathway which led around the park. As usual it was about taking time, and it was my job to rein in a certain person who shall remain nameless (Corey, it was Corey)  from running too fast as we both had the British 10k the following Sunday.

It was apparent after a while too that Darren was going to take his time as the recurring ankle reared its ugly head.  With no real mile markers (spray paint on the floor, I mean c’mon man) we ran around and I barked at Corey ever so often to remind him to tek time.  I do take a few miles to get into the groove so I just kept on until that happened. By that time we had gone round once and things seemed to be going okay, water at the designated station and energy drinks in cups. We had a chat with a few people as we ran including a lovely lady from my end of town. I talked to her about RDC West and then let Corey do his thing. Second lap I got excited as the site stated two laps round the park. I quickly got told by the very man I was supposed to slow down … to slow down as we had one more blasted lap to go. Kiss My Teeth. I was hungry now.

Having slowed down a fair bit, Corey and the lady I recruited to RDC West with her partner took up their pace a little leaving Darren and I to take our time round. A fair few people around the park giving encouraging applause and words of encouragement as they were out in the park with their kids or dogs. Have to say despite any form of markings apart from marshalls pointing out the way Gunnersbury isn’t a bad park at all.

Speaking to Darren to encourage him for a little while I made sure I checked on anyone walking to make sure they were good. For me, those moments where you want to give up are often averted by the right thing said at the right time. Grumpy bag didn’t quite appreciate me asking if she was okay, nevermind innit. I expect if she weren’t so grumpy she’d have friends running with her offering encouragement. *blows a raspberry*

It was that time for the final corner, I put in a sprint for the last 300m and then waited for Darren to cross the line.

On reflection, it was a very nice course in terms of the park and was glad to be running en masse again with some of the RDC/RDC West folk, but mate I was not impressed with no lack of a clock at the start/finish line. Having someone should GO! and have a woman with a stopwatch record your time (which I’d like to point out a fortnight later I am STILL none the wiser) aint cool.

Verdict:

*How do people coming to the park from the station know how to get to the aformentioned park? Telepathy? And I don’t mean the jungle rave, either …

*No markers, spray paint on the floor? We aint in Hackney. At least laminated cards on a tree or something? No? Okay then.

*Tee was okay, although an option for smaller people would be nice.

*Medal … next!

Would rather pay a bit more money for that. Harvel was for around the same money and THEY managed to have all of this for a five-mile cross country race.

Take note, organisers. If you do, I may reach back.
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