26.04.20: The inaugural Local Village Marathon. A small, friendly event with stress-free journey to the start and no toilet queues. Featuring a surprise special guest to start you off on your way. This is a lap course (!), slightly undulating, with a mixture of road, good quality trail and grass underfoot. The lack of goodie bag was disappointing and the medal was quite obviously thrown together at the last minute. All in all, a fun event with great support. A real bargain to enter, lovely scenic views. Not sure it’s one to repeat, though.
(There follows some waffle about the run part, but the most important bit is right at the bottom, so do feel free to scroll straight down to that).
Saturday’s pre-run prep involved some cursory foam rolling, and ballsing up The Running Charity’s logo on a rectangle of old, orange race t-shirt. Then pasta and the final episodes of Ozark (v good) before heading off to get the traditional crap pre-marathon night’s sleep.
One massive plus of doing your own marathon is choosing when you start. I wanted to get as much under my belt as I could before it got warmer and busier (it’s a popular place for walkers around here) so I opted for 6:30am. By the time I’d finished fannying about and taking photos of the gorgeous, peaceful morning, it was more like 6:45am. But, who cares? This was going to be the most stress-free marathon ever.
I was doing some half-arsed warm up moves and waiting for my Garmin to get a signal, when an almighty clattering shattered the stillness. Opposite the ‘start line’ is a field with horses, goats, pigs and chickens. One of the horses was enthusiastically scratching its arse against a metal gate. The clanging was so noisy, it made me laugh out loud. The horse turned its baleful gaze on me. It didn’t look too bothered about waking up the entire street. I took that as my cue to set off.
First up was the Strava ‘art’ bit of the course. In an attempt to make the whole thing marginally less aimless, I’d studied a map of the local streets for a route that spelled out the letters ‘TRC’. So, I pottered off to do that bit first before it got busy with walkers and before my addled brain forgot which roads I was meant to be running down.
This early part of the route took me past teammate Alex’s house. I’d forewarned her that I’d be going past at some point early on. Sure enough, I looked up and there she was in the window. We both got very excited about this and she took a photo, before she cracked on with her busy family day and I trotted off with a big grin on my face.
‘Hiiiiiii Alex!’ and Strava ‘art’. It’s the thought that counts…
Then came the ‘laps around the block’ section of the course. Each lap was around 3 miles, and included a little stop at the aid station. On the second stop, neighbour Debbie stuck her head out of her window to ask how it was going. On the third (fourth?) stop, James came out to check in with me. He pointed behind me; I turned to see one of the goats trotting over to see what was going on. It’s not often you get to stroke an inquisitive goat during your marathon refuelling stops.
It was very relaxing not having to be bothered about pace. I was enjoying being able to get miles in the bag whilst it was still relatively cool and quiet. As the miles ticked by, I pictured their London Marathon equivalent. 6 miles: Cutty Sark. 10 miles: Rotherhithe. 15 miles: heading towards Canary Wharf. This year, the view was slightly different, as I watched two long-legged foals chase each other around a field.
I’d let my Valley Striders running and cycling teammates know my plans, just in case any of them were in the area on their Sunday morning run/ride. A familiar face and a socially distanced shout and a wave would be just the thing to give me a boost. I knew that Sue had planned her long run so that she could do just that. Knowing that I’d see her gave me something to focus on. Sure enough, there she was. It was so nice to see a familiar figure.
It was time to head up to the recreation ground (the ‘rec’). I’d saved this part until now, because it’s the easiest place to keep an appropriate distance from other people. I wanted to stay as relaxed as possible as it got busier and I got wearier. The plan was to do 26 laps; I’ve absolutely no idea how many it was in the end.
James joined me for what was quite possibly the dullest few miles he’s ever run. I’d entered the ‘zombie shuffle’ stage and my conversation was less than scintillating. It was lovely to have his company. He gave me encouragement and fetched my bottles out of the bush we’d concealed them in.
Then another boost, as clubmates Sam and Graham appeared. More encouragement, smiling and waving from an appropriate distance. Graham even took a little video of the zombie shuffle in action. I’m quite happy running on my own, but seeing them and Sue made me realise how much I’m missing running with my friends. I found out afterwards that another VS buddy Liz R had run over too, but we’d managed to miss each other.
It seemed to take forever for the miles to tick over (probably because, well, it did take forever…). We switched direction every so often for added excitement. A family out for their walk gave me some lovely encouragement. I’ve no idea who they were, but they were great. When I did my final lap of the rec, they even clapped politely.
Just under two miles left to go, back onto the trails and roads. My conversation level had slipped, if such a thing is possible, even lower (‘I’ve run past that pile of horse shit loads of times now!’). This was interspersed with a ropey rendition of the London Marathon signature tune. James must’ve been as ready for the finish as I was.
And then, there we were. The watch ticked over to 26.2 miles. I ran on a few more steps, just to make sure the Village Marathon course wasn’t going to end up measuring short. Flopping on the grass, I relished the thought that there were only a few stairs to crawl up to get to my recovery bath, chocolate and a cup of tea (the beer came later, I’m far too much of a lightweight to start drinking before midday…).
The most important bit, now: LOADS of thanks.
One of my aims was to let more people know about The Running Charity and what it does. Thank you to everyone who shared and retweeted last week’s blog post.
I really wasn’t expecting people to be able to donate much at the moment. The total is now £720, which is way more than I could have hoped for. People have been extraordinarily generous (some people anonymously, so I hope you read this). This amount will mean a lot to The Running Charity, especially at the moment, so a massive THANK YOU from me and from them.
I’ve had some overwhelmingly lovely comments and messages. They mean a lot, thank you very much for all of them.
There’s one thing I didn’t emphasise enough in last week’s blog post. Tom’s enthusiasm, energy and experience in working with young people have provided the perfect balance to my default shyness, diffidence and tendency to overthink. His support has been invaluable. I’ve been so grateful that he’s been part of it right from the start.
Everything over this past week has summed up what running means to me. Community, support, focus, goals, fun, mental health, connection, goats (oh, hang on… maybe not that last one). This is what we hope as many young people as possible can experience through The Running Charity. It’s still all there, albeit virtually for now, but won’t it be good when we can all run together again.
For more information on The Running Charity: http://www.therunningcharity.org
The Just Giving link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/liz-s-local-marathon-for-trc