WHAT: 10k road race
WHERE: Piccadilly, London
WHEN: 10th July 2016
From nowhere, my eyes filled with tears. Well, not nowhere, someone had said “you can do it, Sonia!” as their friend ran past and waved like crazy. That was enough to set me off.
Embarrassed, I quickly wiped my face… again (a few kilometres back, a steel band had danced around as they kept rhythm for the runners bouncing past which, of course, made me weep) and wondered if it was obvious that this was a case of “hayfever" rather than the slight mental instability I almost knew it was.
All along the British 10k course, I was given reason to get emotional. I’d arrived late and snuggled in with a later wave, mostly standing next to first-time and charity runners who’d made my lip wobble before we’d even shuffled to the start, after reading the dedications pinned to their backs.
It didn’t really take me by surprise. Big races – hell, even the small ones – make me so emotional. When you’re training, running feels like this lone activity in which you and the occasional friend partake. In a race, you’re suddenly surrounded by thousands of people doing the same thing that you also love doing. Some doing it fast, some doing it for the longest amount of time so far in their lives but all of them somehow in it together.
I initially cringed at the multiple switchbacks of this city race. Necessary, when you’re squeezing so many sets of trainers through the streets of London but potentially an energy sucker. Very quickly, I realised this was a brilliant thing! You could keep tabs on the people you started with, checking that these strangers I’d adopted into “team running” were doing OK.
It meant I could be a tourist in my own city – admiring the famous landmarks we ran past twice from different angles and taking advantage of the new viewpoint from the middle of a driver-less road.
Most brilliantly, the switchbacks meant that I could spot familiar faces. I may have started the race alone but I certainly wasn’t running solo. It was always a little boost to see a friend on the other side of the barriers waving back just as crazily as I was waving towards them.
As I said, we (the 12,000 of us) were a team and so that’s how we ran. So of course, when I caught up with two friends I’d already waved to, struggling in the muggy warmth with undertrained legs, I joined them – running the last couple of kilometres when they could, walking when they had to. Until we got a glorious glimpse of the finish arch.
Suddenly heavy legs became fresh. The pace quickened and we started to sprint – a race within a race! I looked back at two tired grimaces-turned beaming, medal-ed smiles. I swallowed yet more tears… That was “hayfever” too.
You can pre-register for the 2017 race now!
DISCLAIMER: Vitality kindly gave me a place to race for free