Monday, 18 June 2012

The Hairy Helmet, a Lung Bursting Hill and a Thunderstorm

So Friday saw me running the much awaited Hairy Helmet Relay - teams of 4 each running 3.58 km round a local park with free beer and a barbecue thrown in. What better way to spend a Friday evening in June?
I'll be honest, I chose this for my first race purely because of the name. It had nothing to do with the free beer but that did make it easier to recruit three other people into my team. I also felt that I could run 2 (and a bit) miles without walking  even with the formidable hill at the start, and that was good enough for me for a first outing.  I had looked up last year's results and saw there were around five teams slower than we would be so I was quite happy with that.
It had rained all day so we knew it was going to be a soggy affair and we were right! At least we would be running on paved paths, I thought, but no! In their wisdom, the organisers had decided the paths might be too slippery so they had re-routed most of the course onto the grass. They had also thoughtfully erected a gazebo under which runners could shelter from the elements. A good plan but with one small flaw - there were 380 runners and the gazebo was only 10 x 30ft in size. We got rather up close and personal I can tell you. In that time, between registration and the start of the race, there was something niggling me but I couldn't quite work out what. Five minutes before the race started, there was a fanfare of thunder and the heavens opened. My husband, Ian, and two of my daughters, Zoe and Freya, were huddled together clutching soggy burgers and trying to look enthusiastic from outside the shelter. I felt so guilty.
 The first leg runners gathered at the start, the klaxon sounded and they were off along with Linda, the first of my team mates. And then I realised what had been niggling me - 94 people all dressed in club vests sprinted past us followed some 20m behind by a rather sheepish looking Linda jogging along and waving to the cheering crowd. Where were the other fun runners? Where were the other joggers who would be slower than us?! There were none!! Of course there weren't - only real runners and complete lunatics go out running in the pouring rain on a Friday night! Last year it had been a lovely sunny evening. Oh dear, this was going to be embarrassing.
In around 15 minutes the first of the runners returned to tag their next team-mate. By 20 minutes the rest were all back. Linda appeared 4 minutes later to hand over to Chris who then shot off like a hare, not wanting to look like a jogger before she turned the corner out of sight. Inevitably, she had to walk some of the course and was overtaken by a mass of testosterone sprinting past on their third leg. I waited patiently. and with a knot in my stomach. At least I didn't have to go last. Chris returned and made a dash for the beer tent to recover as I set off.
I had resolved to be true to myself and I jogged at a steady pace from the start. I got into a rhythm of sorts and felt ok.  Most leg 4 runners soon burned past me and I was left in peace to face the hill alone. My lungs were burning and my poor heart banged hard against my ribs but I made it up without walking. I was really pleased with myself but I wasn't prepared for the next bit at all. 378 runners had scaled this hill before me and at the top I found myself on a wide sea of mud stretching ahead back down the hill. I must have looked a sight, all legs and arms, like Bambi desperately trying to stay upright as I skated down the slope.
The marshal was trying hard not to laugh and I was trying harder not to fall. At the bottom of the hill there was 1km to go and I was feeling very sorry for myself. I was very close to walking back when I saw my children shouting and cheering me on. Freya was comically waving a fish slice shouting, "Go on, Dennis!" ( from the film Run Fat Boy Run). They were soaked through and I though how very lucky am I to have such a wonderful family who are always there to support me. I kicked a little harder and somehow got round to the finish line in 26 mins without walking. I was very generously cheered in and Helen, the last of my team-mates set off on her lap. Two of the club runners started to run with her and kept her company all the way round the course, which was lovely of them. We were very definitely last by some 17 minutes. 
Ian had contented himself drinking the free beer even though it was somewhat watered down and, in the end, the atmosphere was fun and I think everyone had quite enjoyed the evening.
What I have learnt is:

  •  I have a very long way to go before I can call myself a runner
  • My family are fantastic and the most precious thing in my life
  • I'm scared of running downhill in the mud
  • It hasn't put me off
Finally, sorry I haven't blogged for a while but watch this space.

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