WHERE: Windsor Great Park
WHEN: 4th July 2015
Running is always better with friends. You get to have a chat, distract each other and soak up encouragement when you're finding it tough. So when I was invited to complete one of four teams for the Runnymede Runners relay, I of course said yes.
It was easy to spot our collection of runners, we were some of the only ones not in club shirts at the small race. That didn't mean we weren't a good team, though. Lead by the brilliant Steph, we were organised, always on time to greet our returning runner and cheer on our outgoing teammate, and our HQ was stocked with all the best food.
As runners came and went from alternate long and short laps, it was lovely to slowly bake in the heat of the mid-day sun, whilst admiring the views and chatting to friends new and old. But being the fifth runner of six, was dangerous. I'd almost forgotten why I was there, until I was given my five-minute warning. I turned down another carrot stick from the picnic, grabbed my trail shoes and lined up to grab the baton.
I set off straight into a headwind, trying to weigh up if it was better to be cooler with the wind or to move forward easier without it. The hills on the trail course sucked up any energy that the heat hadn't yet sucked from me. I was running as part of a team but, in reality, I was doing my 5-point-something mile loop on my own. It felt tough and serious (but very friendly and encouraging) club runners were continually overtaking me.
Giving up or walking wasn't an option. I may have been on the course on my own but there were people relying on me to come back. So I poured a cup of water on myself at the half-way aid station and followed the advice of my teammates to "look left and right".
The beauty of Windsor Great Park didn't disappoint, especially running across the road that leads up to the castle on one side and a spectacular monument on the other. That kept me going until I could hear my team cheering me in. It would be exaggerating to say I sprinted to hand over the baton but there was certainly more of a spring in my step.
I have no idea how long we took to run our marathons. I don't know if we were first, fifth or last. What I do know is that support is important and it came in bucket loads from this lovely bunch!