Saturday, 30 July 2011

No good deed goes unpunished

On Friday, I volunteered to marshal for my running club. It was hosting a 5k race in Hyde Park and my role involved standing in a fluorescent bin liner, ensuring that all the runners were heading in the right direction. I find these events incredibly moving. In fact, watching people of all ages and abilities really push themselves makes me teary-eyed. Thankfully, I had my sunglasses to hide behind. Nobody wants to hit 4k and find a weeping marshal. Suffice to say, I was happy to retire to the cafe for a post-run lemonade and a large blueberry muffin.

But little did I know I was about to be ambushed. My friend had decided to sign up for a Saturday hill running session. This has never ever appealed to me and when she and the coach of said session asked if I'd like to join, I was emphatic in my refusal. However, somehow - and I'm still not sure how this happened - by the end of my blueberry muffin, we'd arranged a time to meet. I suspect some form of Derren Brown mind-trick was employed.

So, early on Saturday morning, when I would usually be in bed - reading the papers and listening to the radio - I was instead on Hampstead Heath. And it was lovely. The sun was out, fellow 'athletes' were exercising, and looking down over London you got an air of possibility and perspective that gave the moment a slightly reflective quality.

That was before we embarked on 2 hours of sprinting up and down hills, bleep tests and haring about like chickens with our heads cut off. I can genuinely say I have never been so worn out in my life.

I think the last time I properly sprinted was back in 1985 when I inadvertently entered every event on sports day. Yesterday, it was a revelation to discover that running really really fast is really good fun. Even if it left me unable to breathe. Or speak. This was just as well as coach had forbidden me from saying anything negative about myself. The punishment would be press-ups for me and my fellow hill runners (both of them). As a result, I was pretty much mute for the rest of the session.

But I survived. And was even able to muster the energy to go swimming at the ladies' bathing pond later on in the day. Though my heavy limbs did mean I had to spend a little more time than usual clinging onto the slimy safety rings.

(Stats: Difficult to measure. Apparently we ran 4.5 miles in total, but that was in bursts of varying lengths. If we go by aching limbs, the pace was Usain Bolt-esque)

(Pic: Blue skies on the heath.)

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